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The Drake Performance Center houses the theatre department at OSU. Courtesy of OSU.

Ohio State Theatre’s Lab Series continues

An Ohio State student imagines a world where theater has as much support as Buckeye football.

Abigail Johnson, a third-year in theater, is set to present a stage reading of her play, “Friday Night Lights, Camera, Action,” as part of OSU’s Department of Theatre’s Lab Series on Tuesday.

Johnson said she was inspired when walking by Ohio Stadium during a game. A friend wondered what it would be like if theater received the same support as the football team.

Johnson described her work as a play within a play. The work is set in an alternate universe in which theater is as popular as football. The characters watch a play focused on the question ‘What does it mean to be an adult?’, a question she said she still struggles to answer.

The Lab is a series of student-run productions developed with help from the theater department. Students apply for a spot, and while they receive support from faculty, the shows are primarily their own, with freedom to experiment artistically.

Johnson said she found working with the lab helpful, especially after receiving feedback on her script from associate professor Jennifer Schlueter, who founded and coordinates the lab.

“(Schlueter) is a wonderful playwright,” Johnson said. “I was excited to send her something of mine. I wanted her feedback. It’s an exciting opportunity to to have a first attempt looked at by someone who knows what they’re doing.”

This year is the second year the Lab Series is primarily run by undergraduate students, after previously being run by graduate students. The department transitioned to undergraduates to give the students a feeling of working with their peers.

Students Zachry Bailey, a fifth-year in theatre, and Constance Hester, a fourth-year in theatre, are the production managers for the Lab Series, and work alongside Schlueter.

Both Bailey and Hester described their jobs as helping students manage their time and their work, meeting with them every couple of days to check on their progress.

“I focus on the really nitty-gritty things,” Hester said. “I meet with anyone doing a show. I help with the technical aspects of their show, find props and set pieces. I make sure they’re on task with rehearsal schedule and all that. Help oversee production, make sure everything runs smoothly.”

Hester herself will present a play later this year. She plans to produce a staged reading of A.R. Gurney’s “Love Letters.” She had previously directed a 10-minute short play during her first year before becoming a production manager.

Bailey emphasized the flexibility students have when putting together shows for the yearly series.

“It is producing truly whatever someone wants to do,” he said. “It can be a solo show, a 90-minute piece with ten cast members, if they want to direct or act they can. We can put it up.”

Johnson looks to explore different areas of theater through participating in the Lab Series.  

“Lab allows students to expand in a lot of areas,” Johnson said. “Part of why I love theatre is that I wanted to try so many different parts of theatre. I wanted to try directing and Lab let me try writing a script.”

This season, the Lab series will celebrate its five-year anniversary. The season will include six productions, including Johnson and Hester’s pieces.

“Friday Night Lights, Camera, Action” is set to be performed at 7 p.m. on Sept. 13 in the New Works Lab in The Drake Performance and Event Center. Admission is free.  

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