Improv Troupe Kicks Off New Season of Fun
An excess of improvisational actors has inspired a fundraiser.
The First Friday Improv Series, to be launched this week and repeated the first Friday of every month at First Church Fellowship Hall at 7 p.m., is a production of The MAD* (Music, Arts and Drama) Factory, a local nonprofit organization.
“Linda [Michalak, Executive Director of MAD*] and I were sitting around and thought, ‘Well, we have a lot of instructors for our improv classes,’” Program Director Jean Hiebert recalled.
Now those extra teachers will be putting on an improv theater show for the whole family.
When they’re not raising money for the program, the teachers — including Oberlin College students — spend their time on the real focus of The MAD* Factory: teaching children how to improvise.
Although The MAD* Factory started in 1990 as a summer program for kids in the town of Oberlin, it has since expanded to provide year-round classes to children ages three to nineteen throughout Lorain County.
“MAD* seeks to use the arts to create a different perspective on learning for students who have had difficulty in traditional classroom settings,” the program’s website declares. “Care is taken to provide ethnic and gender role models.”
Since the first summer program’s attendance of ninety students, The MAD* Factory has involved over 2,000 children. Almost 75 percent of them have received full scholarships.
Classes meet in the evening and range this fall from a Film Festival course to courses in American Folktales or Puppets. Past shows have included Once Upon a Mattress and Wiley and the Hairy Man.
Hiebert hopes the First Friday Improv Series will “get our word out and raise some money” for future productions and endeavors.
Although the first show will only showcase MAD* instructors, the December 13 final performance for MAD* improv classes will incorporate a mixture of the students and their teachers into the production.
“It would be great if college students came to the show,” Hiebert said, “since there are definitely college students in [the program].”
She asserted, “We like to make it accessible to everyone.” That includes not only the children of Lorain County, but also their families, community members and students.
A recent Oberlin alumna herself, Hiebert added, “You can go your whole time at [Oberlin] not knowing we exist, but once you find out about The MAD* Factory, you can spend your whole time here.”