From the page to the play stage

By: Anthony Spak

Two OU students are preparing an original play that will see life on stage this September on campus. Titled “FEED,” the play is based off of a novel of the same name by M.T. Anderson but has been adapted for the stage by playwright and OU student Garrett Markgraf. The Oakland Post spoke with director and musical theatre major Anna Marck about the pair’s upcoming project.

1. What is the premise of “FEED?” I saw the Twitter video but I’m wondering if you had anything else to add.

Feed tells the story of Titus and Violet, two teenagers living in a future society where devices called “feeds” are implanted into the human brain. The feed works as an advanced technological system that gives the user any type of virtual reality they want: television, social media, entertainment, news, shopping, video games, and much, much, much, much more. Feeds are a way of life in the future in the same way that cell phones are a way of life now. But the feed takes it to the next level by literally getting inside of your head. The show not only explores the battles we face in maintaining our own identity against the suppressive nature of technology, we see the trials and tribulations of teenage love through Titus and Violet’s eyes. The show is funny, it’s dramatic, it’s scary, it’s sad, it’s profound; it really hits on the whole spectrum of human emotions.

2. Is this the first time you’ve directed a play? If not, what else have you directed before? 

I have directed many different scenes, musical numbers, and a few one-acts in high school and college. A few years back, I even directed a short music video for a competition. But this is the first time I have directed a full-length play. 

3. How did you and (playwright) Garrett Markgraf meet? Have you worked together before?

The two of us are in the musical theatre program here at OU. The theatre program is such a family that at this point, Garrett and I are like siblings. We have worked together a lot, both in shows and in classes. We actually have an amazing working relationship because we can be completely honest with each other at all times. You don’t always get that. 

4.  On the play’s $2,500 Kickstarter goal:

At this point in time, 20 people have pledged over $1,200 (almost half of our goal). We are getting more and more people pledging every day! It’s amazing. The support that we have had from people in the community who are interested in the project and just want to help us share our story is unreal. I feel very lucky. Our deadline is July 19, 2015.

Kickstarter made sense for us because it is an easy-to-use platform that most people have heard of. It’s easy to share via email and Facebook and we loved that we could give “rewards” to our backers—things like two reserved seats to the show for donations of $25 or more. One of my favorite rewards that we have is a hand-drawn rendering of the set of Feed, by our lighting designer, Jason Maracani, who is quite a talented artist.

5. What is the LAB Theater?

The Lab Theatre is a black box theatre in Varner Hall on the first floor. It seats about 65-70 people. 

6. Where does the cast practice and how often?

The cast will begin rehearsing at the beginning of August in The LAB and we will rehearse M-Th for about 3-4 hours per day. We will only rehearse for a few weeks, then the show opens September 4. We have just four performances September 4 at 8 p.m., September 5 at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m., and September 6 at 2 p.m.. The show will be a part of Opening Weekend activities and it’s free admission so we are hoping to draw a crowd from new OU students as well as our more consistent theatre patrons.

7. Other than collecting money, what are some of the struggles of putting on a play?

There is so much that goes into putting on a play from the costumes, makeup, sound, lights to the tempo at which an actor enters the stage. All of it is hugely important to the message that the audience takes away. It’s very detail-oriented work. As the director, I am always asking myself, “Is this choice contributing to telling the story the way we want to tell it?” And if it’s not, we try something different.

I often think of theatre like an iceberg. 90% of all of the hard work and effort from rehearsals is under the surface and the audience only sees the 10% above the water… But hopefully, if you’ve put your time in and really done the work, that 10% that they see is amazing. 

This particular play offers a whole new set of struggles because it has never been seen before. Most shows take years to write and months of previews with lots of changes and editing along the way. We do not have that luxury. So along with all of the normal challenges of putting on a play, we are constantly improvising and making brand new discoveries and choices. We are essentially blazing a completely unblazed trail, which is scary, but also extremely rewarding.

8. Are you involved in the Department of Music, Theater and Dance? Is the play attached to MTD?

Yes. Everyone involved in the production from the cast to the designers are Oakland theatre students. The play is attached to MTD, but no one is taking class or getting credit. And no one is getting paid. All of us are simply doing the show because we are passionate about the story and want audiences to see this work. 

9. What do you hope the audience will take away from “FEED” after seeing it on stage?

There are many different messages of the show and I think each audience member will bring their own experience and take away something different. But I hope that everyone thinks about their own relationship with technology after watching the show. In no way is Feed a sermon to get people to stop using their cell phones. Heck no! But it does draw a line and ask us to think about “Where does the technology stop and where do I begin?”

For more information on “FEED” visit: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1848722701/feed