Ground Floor Theatre Company to debut first production with staged readings

Emily Chaiet, Reporter

One year after its founding, Ground Floor Theatre Company will debut its first production in the form of two student-directed staged readings. The group aims to create an all-inclusive environment for actors and directors to develop their skills, executive director Jon Mathias said.

“It’s kind of surreal to think that we made this happen,” said the Weinberg junior, who founded the company with Communication junior Danny Bar-Lavi. “We started (it) to provide people who may not otherwise get an opportunity to be able to get experience and exposure in a theater community that’s really competitive and sometimes even toxic.”

The event aims to showcase process-oriented theater, Mathias said. During the readings, actors are allowed to have their scripts with them on stage, which gives them the opportunity to focus on just acting rather than memorizing lines, he said.

The readings, which will be held in the Jones Residential College Great Room on Friday, will feature two plays. “And They Dance Real Slow in Jackson,” directed by Communication sophomore Kelsey Phalen, centers on a young girl crippled at birth with polio. “Women in Heat,” directed by Weinberg junior Taylor Beck, is a one act play about a threesome.

“One of the things we’ve been saying recently is we’re not showing you a finished product,” Mathias said. “We’re showing you a finished process of, ‘this is what we look like at the end of a rehearsal process and this is the actor’s growth.’”

In addition to supporting actors, Mathias said the company also reached out to students who would not normally think about directing plays. He said both Phalen and Beck had never directed prior to the readings. Phalen said she would not have been comfortable directing a play outside of Ground Floor.

“They definitely took a chance on me and believed in me,” Phalen said. “That’s allowed me to grow a lot more, because breaking into the theater scene at school is definitely really scary.”

The company aims to be an inclusive environment for all races and genders, Mathias said. Ground Floor casted every actor who auditioned this season, and the company employs gender open casting, allowing for flexibility with assigning roles, he said.

Communication junior Nina Jayashankar, Ground Floor’s diversity and inclusion chair, said it’s important for theater groups to reach out to communities of color on campus.

“The hope is that us working with a more diverse group of individuals will in turn also sort of feed more diverse individuals into the theater community at large,” said Jayashankar, who is also the company’s artistic director. “By working on improving that within our small group, we’re making a step towards making that improvement at Northwestern in the theater community at large.”

Ground Floor is planning on putting on another show in the spring, and is currently applying for official student group status.

“At the end of the day, it’s about meeting whatever need there is in the Northwestern community for people who want to perform,” Mathias said.

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