A bit of theatrics

Photo by Sydney Fairbanks / The Jambar

By Sydney Fairbanks / The Jambar

The Music Theater Student Organization brings the dramatics to Youngstown State University’s campus.

Mal Ehrhart, a junior musical theater major and president of the MTSO, said the organization supports theater students by hosting events.

“We are promoting student theater life on campus through supporting students, hosting receptions, having theater-based events on campus and celebrating what theater can be here at YSU,” Ehrhart said.

MTSO has been at YSU since December 2023 and the club meets at 4:15 p.m. every Thursday in the Green Room of Bliss Hall. 

Adam Howard, the musical theater faculty coordinator at YSU, brought the idea to Ehrhart to start a chapter at YSU. The first chapter of MTSO was initiated by his wife, Lisa Howard, at Kent State University. 

Ehrhart said the Theater Department has a low faculty count and needs the support that the MTSO offers.

“We’re not necessarily receiving the direct support that we used to on campus, and I think it’s important that there’s a group of people within the department that understands what is going on in the department, what we currently need and that we can supply that to the students,” Ehrhart said.

Chloe Downey, a junior musical theater major and MTSO producing director, said the organization hopes to bring more opportunities to both theater and non-theater majors. 

“We’re not just promoting musical theater, too. It’s all types of theater, all types of acting, directing, playwriting — could be anything. We’ll have a bunch of different workshops together, even resume building,” Downey said. “We would provide events for not only theater majors but for anyone around campus.”

The organization hosted Improv at The Hub in Kilcawley Center on Feb. 9, where anyone was welcome to participate in improv acting games and challenges. Downey said the event helped students go outside of their comfort zones.

“[Improv at The Hub] was really cool. We had multiple [non-theater] majors, some people who had never done any theater before just come up and do something for fun,” Downey said.

MTSO also promotes University Theatre events. During the opening night of “It’s a Small World (Or the Robot Play)” on Feb. 16, MTSO hosted a Keurig raffle and an after-show reception for the cast and crew.

The club plans to host an opening night reception for University Theatre’s April show, “Once Upon A Mattress.” 

According to Ehrhart, the club hopes to host a Theatre Department trip for students to experience theater outside of YSU. Ehrhart said the trip would be paid for partly or fully by the organization.

“[A trip] to a regional city nearby that has a good theater network so that our department could directly network with professional performers and be exposed to different kinds of performances,” Ehrhart said.

The MTSO has received its funding through hosting bake sales, raffles and a GoFundMe. Downey said most of the organization’s funds go into its events.

“We had a couple generous donors that were able to help us and that money went into getting the supplies for the bake sale,” Downey said. “It’s kinda a constant loop of just making money to put on more events.”

While it’s not official, Ehrhart said the club has discussed putting on student written plays, musicals and cabarets.

“There’s talks about … us hosting a 10 minute play festival in late April or early May,” Ehrhart said. “Students that have written short plays, we can host them, they can put them on in a space, and then we will provide food, lighting, potentially costumes, potentially scenery for them to put on their plays.”

Ehrhart said the club is looking to implement more officers.

“I know that there’s a lot of people that want to be more directly involved in what we do, which is exciting,” Ehrhart said.

To get involved in MTSO, students can attend events, which are posted on the club’s Instagram @mtso_ysu_theatre.