Cleveland-based playwrights and performers Mike Geither and Amy Schwabauer visited the MFA Dramatic Writing Program from Sept. 28-29. They held workshops with the writers on tabletop theater, or “junk theater,” by Schwabauer’s definition.

Tabletop theater is a form of intimate theater, creating plays with puppets and performing them on tabletops. The puppets and sets that Geither and Schwabauer use are created out of children’s toys, household items, thrift store items and other “junk.”

“I knew I always wanted to make intimate theater and wanted to explore new ways of doing it,” Schwabauer said, when asked how she came to this approach to storytelling.

Over the course of the two-day workshop, the writers were tasked with creating short tabletop theater pieces out of suitcases of junk and prompts given by Geither and Schwabauer.

After the first day, Geither and Schwabauer performed their touring tabletop adventure, The Events of the Warren County Fair as Observed by a Young Astronaut,  at the home of  Head of the School of Drama Peter Cooke. Cooke, the dramatic writers, Professor Rob Handel, and other invited guests were in attendance.

After the show, Geither, an associate professor of English at Cleveland State University who also heads up the Northeast Ohio MFA in Creative Writing, discussed the development of their show.

“[Schwabauer and I] wrote it together and then sent it to our director in Toronto, and from there it was workshopping the piece for about a year,” he said.

“The writing came first,” said Schwabauer, one of Geither’s former students, “We let the story guide us, then added the puppets and sets to suit the needs of the piece.”

The pair continue to perform their table top piece in people’s homes nearly every weekend.

At the end of the workshop, Geither asked students what they had learned from this form of storytelling.

“It allowed me to get out of my head and enjoy using my body to create and write plays,” said a student.

Written by Sowmya Ashokkumar