New UCSB Experimental Theater Company Showcases Self Expression


Bailee Abell
Staff Writer

“You don’t need to be a theatre major to be a part of this company,” reads the Mask and Beaker Experimental Theater Company (MAB) Facebook page. MAB is a group that strives to promote self expression and an inclusive environment for people from diverse backgrounds to grow creatively. Nabra Nelson, along with Sophia Brackenridge, approached members of various departments on campus when starting MAB during the fall 2013 quarter.

“I wanted to give more opportunities to students. [It provides] my own and others’ ideas a space for discussion as well as getting up on our feet,” said Nelson, a third-year theater major.

“I am very drawn to experimental theater because it allows for anything to happen,” she continued. “One of the reasons why I like it so much relates to why I enjoy modern art–you’re not really sure what it is…it’s thought-provoking. Like modern art, it starts with collaboration and discussion, and thinking outside the box.” Nelson is also the stage manager and producer of “Stuffed!,” MAB’s first and most recent show.

Written by University of California, Santa Barbara alumni Ian Paul Messersmith and Eric Marcus Higinbotham, “Stuffed!” incorporates social commentary and comedic expression to bring various issues to light in a non-intense way. The show premiered on Saturday, April 5, at 2 p.m., with additional shows that evening at 8 p.m. and the following day at 2 p.m.

“’Stuffed!’ is not about one thing. It’s a very, very short attention span comedy that carries social commentary much in the same frame as South Park, but not explicitly so [satirical],” said Alec Killoran, a third-year English major.

Killoran became involved with MAB soon after its founding in the fall. He was later cast in “Stuffed!” and began rehearsal in early January. Having little experience with theater (“My last show was in the 6th grade”), Killoran was surprised when he found out he had made the case, and discovered a newfound love for experimental theater.

“It’s incredibly fast-paced and very strange…a scene will happen, and the audience will have just seen that scene, but the moment they start thinking about it, a new scene will begin. It does not let you contemplate what is going on [during the show],” said Killoran.

Both Nelson and Messersmith describe “Stuffed!” in a similar manner, saying that its namesake is derived from the idea that after eating a huge meal, you think, “Wow, I’m stuffed!”.

“I hope that they walk away with a different perspective,” said Messersmith. “[We are using] the power of humor through theater to bring about social and political change.”

In addition to “Stuffed!,” Messersmith is also working on another show, entitled “Into the Headlights,” set to premier toward the end of spring quarter.

MAB welcomes people from all walks of life, from English majors like Killoran to engineers and politicians. The group will be holding workshops throughout the rest of spring quarter. Find them on Facebook for more information.