“Reefer Madness” from Kennesaw State’s Department of Theatre & Performance Studies

KENNESAW, Ga. | Jan 30, 2024

Tongue-in-cheek look at the hysteria caused when clean-cut kids fall prey to marijuana

NEW! Sunday 8 p.m. show added to this sold-out run; get your tickets while they last. 

Kennesaw State University’s Department of Theatre and Performance Studies (TPS) will present the raucous musical comedy Reefer Madness in the Onyx Theater Feb. 13-18. Tickets are $10-$12 and are available online or by calling Patron Services at 470-578-6650.

image of four people surrounded by pot smoke
"Reefer Madness" runs Feb. 13-18 at the Onyx Theater.

Blast from the Past
Inspired by the original 1936 film of the same name, Reefer Madness follows clean-cut kids on a downward spiral filled with evil jazz music, sex, and violence. It’s the perfect performance for patrons who want to laugh a lot and feel good when they leave the theater; it’s also still relevant as many states are still wrestling with marijuana legalization issues today. 

A Campy Parody
Directed by KSU Theatre professor Timothy Ellis with dramaturgy led by Prof. Tom Fish, Reefer Madness is a fun, campy piece that is also one of Ellis’ favorite musicals. “We are basically making fun of reality through parody, a pastiche,” says Ellis. “It’s a great exploration of a style of musical theater that is very campy, with a lot of allusion to old film noir.” 

Spanning Eras 
The music spans a wide range of eras, from the Golden Age to contemporary. Ellis says, “Almost every character has their own style of music when they sing or dance. It’s a fun ride.” Student Maisy Winn, who plays Mary, is a junior concentrating in Musical Theatre, and she has also enjoyed the diverse music. She initially thought the music would only be silly and fun, but it’s actually “complex and beautiful if you take the time to sit and listen. It touches on a lot of different eras of music in the theatre. Getting to explore all those different sounds through the rehearsal process has been a real treat!” 

Costume design and sketches by Jordan Jaked Carrier. 

Prof. Fish’ dramaturgy students got a treat, too, when they rediscovered the original film while doing their research. “When the students rediscovered the original film, it was hysterical,” Fish says. The original 1936 film is a morality/propaganda film about the dangers of marijuana. In the 1930s, “marijuana was feared more than heroin. There was a lot of fearmongering…and this concept of moral panic easily gave way to widespread fear,” explains Fish. He notes that fearmongering can apply to almost anything, including issues like immigration or politics. 

Ellis adds that when you “watch the absurdity of the story and realize that what you see in this musical [actually] happens every day—that people or governments are trying to control other people’s choices through fear—well, there’s an absurdity behind it.” 

Moral Panic
Søren Tucker, a junior with a Musical Theatre concentration who plays the Lecturer, hopes that patrons will leave the theater striving to avoid the “moral panic” seen in the show. He says, “While we exaggerate the fears of Americans in the 1930s, not much has changed in the sense that certain ideas and individuals are still being used to fearmonger. At the end of the show, the Lecturer says, ‘when danger’s near, exploit their fear.’ Modern America is reflected in the show, and I hope audience members don’t fall victim to the same sort of moral panic.” 

Silly Fun
Winn agrees that one may engage with Reefer Madness on several levels. “If a person wants to lean in and engage, they can take the time to really think about propaganda and moral panic. And, if a person needs a break from how hard the world is right now, they can come in and enjoy the silly visuals, the comedy, and the stunning music. The show offers something that everyone can take away.” 

A Warning 
Tickets for Reefer Madness are available online or by calling 470-578-6650. But heed this warning: this highly political satire will go straight to your head and leave you wanting more. To learn more about the Department of Theatre and Performance Studies, please visit TheatreKSU.com

--Kathie Beckett

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