Q&A with “Reefer Madness: The Musical” Director Jason Smith

Are you ready for an edgy, fun, adult-themed musical right before Halloween? The Lawrence Arts Center has just the ticket! Reefer Madness: The Musical! runs October 25 – 27 and Director Jason Smith believes this is just the thought-provoking entertainment you need in your life. Amidst his hectic rehearsal schedule of artistically corralling dancing brownies and zombies (yes, you heard that right – there will be dancing brownies AND zombies), Smith was kind enough to answer a few questions about this not-to-missed production.
“This show is an absolute ‘trip’ for the audience- leaving them with catchy tunes, wonderful dance, beautiful visuals, hysterical characters, and maybe even a message or two.”
– Jason Smith, Director
Jason Smith, Director

1) What is your background in theatre?

I have a BFA in Theatre Arts from Emporia State University and an MFA in Theatre Performance from the University of Arkansas. I am a Lawrence native and started doing Theatre in middle school and that passion continued on into high school and beyond. I worked with Ric Averill when I was younger doing Summer Youth Theatre and working on a few Seem-to-be-Players projects. Now I have the pleasure to work with him again as he is the Musical Director of “Reefer Madness.” I found theatre to be so submersible, so collaborative and expressive growing up. It is the only art form that appeals to all of your senses with performance, music, dance, lighting, scenery all rolled up in one expansive package.

2) How is this play inspired by the 1930s film?

The musical does two things: it pokes fun at the absurdity of the original film and it also warns the audience of the dangers of what we are told is “the truth.” It is putting our culture under a microscope by showing what can happen when people are led by fear without taking the time to ask the proper questions; a culture that would rather someone else think for them, trusting that what they say is the unquestionable truth.


3) What is unique about this particular Lawrence production?

This production is a collection of artistry from Lawrence actors, musicians, and artists. The show takes a clear stance of what is going on in this word today by holding up a mirror to it. What is real? What is “fake news”? Who can we trust to give us a clear picture of what is going on in the world? What is a danger to our society and our well-being? It is up to us to decide, and this show tells us why.

4) What does the title Reefer Madness mean to you?

The title breaks down in two parts: the first, “reefer,” is a reflection of what is going on in our country today. This drug that was touted as a “menace” and as “evil” for so many years, so much so that is was banned in 1937, has a spotlight shining on it in 2018. We are learning more about it, and we are clearing out some of the facts from the fiction. Both through education and the media, we as a society are discovering the truth of this drug, and I think the message of this show will give the audience a perspective of how we can push that forward. I had a friend of mine who is involved in Bleeding Kansas Advocates and Kansans for Hemp come in to talk to the cast about marijuana. I wanted to make sure that we were educated as a cast to what is going on right now politically. Having him come in to talk allowed us to think more, create more, and give the audience richer content through our collective education.
The second part of the title, “madness,” defines the total absurdity of this show. It was written to examine the hypocrisy of “truth,” but the show is hysterical. You will experience total madness in this comedy: murder, orgies, drug use, religion, and politics. The show stars two all-American teens, zombies, a dancing brownie, Jesus, the Devil, Uncle Sam, and FDR. This show is an absolute “trip” for the audience, leaving them with catchy tunes, wonderful dance, beautiful visuals, hysterical characters, and maybe even a message or two.