A seat at the empty table

Original play examines issue of food insecurity among college students

Imagine being responsible for putting together a script for a stage production completely from scratch.  What would you write about? What topic would you cover? Genre?

Who would you want to work with you? These are vital questions you would have to ask yourself if you were put in the position to piece together a production.  

Autumn Shiley is directing Madison College’s second fall production entitled “The Empty Table.” The show will feature a matinee showing and even a tentative opportunity to talk with the cast members and director following the Nov. 15 showing. The script was composed entirely from scratch by several of the cast members as well as interviews from staff, students, faculty and members of the community.

“I’m really ambitious and I was given this opportunity late last spring semester.  Basically, over the summer I started the research process. I started reading as much as I could and learning more about food insecurity issues, which is basically what the play is about,” Shiley said.

Shiley gives credit for the timing of this play to Student Senate for creating the awareness on campus about the problems associated with student hunger. Shiley also references Moises Kaufman’s Moment Work: Tectonic Theater Project’s Process of Devising Theater as an inspiration in helping create the script.  

“I started asking my students what they are dealing with and they could remain anonymous.  The things that they’re dealing with are very real. A lot of times as faculty we tend to for get and I never want to forget,” she said.

Shiley took on this project as a personal mission to get word out about the struggles that students face not only on campus but outside in their communities as well.

During the interview, Shiley often emphasized the need to opening up if you are in the unfortunate position, seeking out resources and helping others if you are fortunate enough not to be in these struggles.  

The scripts main characters are all based on students at Madison College, ranging from the Student Senate president to the president of Phi Theta Kappa. These students have risen from food insecurity and homelessness to become leaders in their community. Shiley uses them as live examples of the possibilities of overcoming struggles to be successful and achieve what you want by reaching out for help.

 “There’s a family angle for sure.  How supporting your family while going to college can be difficult. There’s an angle that has to do with coming out and being forced out of your home,” Shiley said. 

Shiley mentioned several other angles the show approaches, but you’ll have to attend the production to dive more into the other areas they cover.

There will be a food drive during the run of the show so make sure to bring in any non-perishable or canned goods food items. The food items collected will go to the food pantry on campus and the river food pantry.

Shiley will also make information available about resources that students can access to help eliminate the problem of hunger for everybody at a table set up in front of the studio theater.