Since 1999, the MAD* Factory Theatre Co. has transformed lives throughout Lorain County by sharing the magic that Music, Art and Drama make. Thanks to a $15,000 grant awarded by the Lorain County Commissioners, the nonprofit will be able to continue its mission of empowering and inspiring people of all ages through Music, Art and Drama. The funds were made available through the American Rescue Plan Act dollars the county received.

 “This grant means so much to us,” says MAD* Factory Theatre Co. executive director Amber Michalak. “Like so many organizations, we had to cancel performances and after-school activities due to the pandemic. Although we’re getting back to normal, peoples’ budgets remain tight and are affected by the high cost of necessities that include gas and food. The American Rescue Plan dollars we received will be added to our general operating fund.”

Michalak and MAD* Factory Theatre Co. program director Nina Fisher touch their community in a number of ways. Their offerings are designed to nurture diversity, equity, inclusion and mutual respect; build confidence and self-esteem; instill artistic excellence; and build community partnerships. 

Initiatives on stage and off include community productions at the MAD* Factory’s black-box theater on the organization’s campus located at 2655 Broadway Ave. in Lorain; and improv classes at its headquarters in Oberlin’s New Union Center for the Arts. Michalak and Fisher also lead after-school drama clubs and conduct summer camps for children ages 5 through 8.

“This past year was so traumatic for everyone,” Michalak says. “Nina and I are dedicated to presenting ways people of all ages can have an outlet for any kind of emotion they feel, including those they don’t know how to articulate. That’s particularly true in school, where students are struggling mentally and emotionally to get back on track. I give teachers more respect than ever because they’re going through the experience with them.”

The MAD* Factory troupe also works with LIFE: A Dementia Friendly Foundation in Lorain County to present programs at Memory Cafes in local churches, which are part of a worldwide movement to help those diagnosed with dementia or brain disorders and their caregivers. 

“Many patients struggling with dementia are afraid to say anything because they’re afraid they’d be perceived as being incorrect,” Michalak says. “But our shows are fun for everyone because we invite participants to reminisce, and we make sure there’s no wrong answer. One of the caregivers in attendance told me our presentations have helped the relationship she has with her husband, who suffers from memory loss. Instead of getting mad, she tries to make a game out of their interactions, which lightens things up at home.” 

In September, MAD* partnered with the Mental Health, Addiction and Recovery Services (MHARS) Board of Lorain County to create a mural outside the theater’s Lorain location to raise awareness and reduce the stigma of suicide and educate the public about ways to prevent it. The brilliant rainbow-colored fresco bears the phrase, “We’re So Glad You’re Here,” in English and Spanish, as well as the phone number for the MHARS hotline so it can be easily accessed by those needing help.

“Our goal is to have people who come to our shows, or those just walking down the street, take a photo in front of the mural,” Michalak says. “It’s a positive way to embrace and send a message to everyone who sees it.”