In our second arts senior spotlight, the Anchor is investigating theatre at Hope College. Madison Meeron, a theatre major from Oxford, Michigan, shared her experiences from the last four years at Hope and different opportunities she has explored as well as her plans for the future.
How did you decide to be a theatre major? Have you always known or did it surprise you?
I’ve always been super interested in theatre, ever since I was really little. I would always act out skits in my basement with my friends. My gram and my dad would always play role playing games with me, like doctor, teacher kind of stuff. I was always acting and playing different characters. I always thought that pursuing theatre in higher level education wouldn’t be the best move, so I came to Hope thinking I wanted to do pre-med. Because I wanted to, you know, be financially stable. So I took a general chemistry course my freshman year and cried all of the time. It was just hard. I did well in the course, but I knew that wasn’t for me –– I need creative outlets. I was always planning on minoring in theatre, but once I took that chemistry class and hated it, I decided to major in theatre my freshman year.
There are a lot of different aspects of theatre. Where do you fit into that? Performing, writing, directing?
I like a lot of things. I’m really happy to be in a B.A. program. Growing up, I liked acting and I thought that’s all I wanted to do. But then I came to Hope College and realized there is so much more to theatre, and I got involved with the different elements of it just to see what I liked… and I liked a lot of it. I’ve mostly done performance, and I’ve been in a main stage show every semester except my first one. I really like writing, and I’ve taken playwriting class and used those skills to write an audio drama for a different class. I also had the opportunity to assistant sound design “The Thanksgiving Play” last semester, and I enjoyed it a lot. Since that show was done virtually, I helped with some of the video editing stuff because I’m also interested in that. So, I am able to blend a lot of my interests together. When I did the assistant sound designing, I basically found certain sounds to underscore moments of the play and also operated the cues, meaning I would hit a button to make a sound happen. I found out that I really enjoy doing that, so this semester I am fully sound designing (not just assisting) a student’s senior project. I have also taken directing courses, so I direct sometimes too.
How has senior year been with COVID?
I’ve been fortunate to still be able to be in productions even with our given circumstances. I was in “Twelfth Night” last semester which was done outdoors, fully masked and socially distanced. I really enjoyed being in that production, even with the different way we had to approach the show. I liked performing outside; it brought out its own challenges because the outdoors is unpredictable, but it was still nice to be able to perform. This semester, I am in the musical “Ordinary Days,” which is really fun, and that is happening in the main theatre with a very small cast, and we are all wearing masks. So, yes, it’s different, but I am really grateful to have performance opportunities. A lot of people say that if there isn’t a live audience it’s not theatre, but I don’t know. I think that when times change you just have to adapt and evolve with the times. I’ve seen a lot of really creative and innovative work come out of these COVID times that wouldn’t have been done in the same way otherwise. Like “The Thanksgiving Play” for example. If it wasn’t live streamed, the video interludes wouldn’t have happened in that show. I got to help make those and wouldn’t have had that opportunity if the show was done in its normal way. Yes, there are new challenges because of the times, but I would also say that because of them, I have opportunities that I wouldn’t have had otherwise.
What are your highlights of your time at Hope?
I would definitely say just being involved with the Theatre Department. It’s a very tight knit group of people, so I’ve just created a lot of really close connections with a lot of the faculty as well as the students. Those are connections that I think will stay with me after I graduate. I have had a lot of opportunities at Hope that I don’t think I would have had if I attended a bigger school or a program that was a B.F.A. I would only be doing acting if I attended a B.F.A program, but I’ve really been exposed to so many elements of theatre here. I’ve also been really fortunate with my casting opportunities, and I’ve gotten to be in a wide range of productions. All of them have been an absolute blast. My freshman year, some Hope alumni did a production for their senior capstone project. After they performed it, they wanted to do some rewrites, re-cast it and take it on tour. I didn’t know any of these students — they graduated the year before my freshman year — so they were all older. But I decided to audition for the show anyway and I was cast. So I actually went on tour the summer after my freshman year with a play that Hope alumni wrote. That was a cool experience that I probably wouldn’t have had if I didn’t attend Hope College, and those people became some of my greatest friends. I think, in general, Hope College is a really great community for networking, and I have made a lot of great connections that really stuck with me.
What is your favorite production you’ve done? Written or performed?
There’s so many! My sophomore year I was in a production called “Crooked,” and I was 19 and playing a middle aged mother. My hair was pretty long and they had me cut my hair to a pixie cut, so that was interesting. It was a big change, but I was down with it, I was like “anything for the art.” The girl who played my daughter’s name is Emi Herman (’22), she’s awesome. Now in my senior year, I’m in “Ordinary Days,” and the women in that show are double cast, and I am sharing the role with Emi. That’s kind of fun; it’s like coming full circle. “Crooked” just had really beautiful writing and a strong story. I also really loved being in the show “Cry It Out.” That was really fun. I worked with one of my best friends, Kelsey Davis (’21), and a girl who graduated named Olivia Lehnertz (’19), and she’s just really really talented. We played best friends in the show, and that was really fun, and I feel like I learned a lot from being on stage with her. It just felt so natural, and there was this one moment in the show when we hugged goodbye because my character is going back to work after being on maternity leave. It was our last show, and she was graduating and my character was hugging her goodbye, but I, Madison, was also hugging her goodbye. There is this really beautiful thing that happens when you’re acting in a show and your reality meshes with the reality of the play, and it just becomes one, if that makes sense. I just really love it when that happens. It was really sad because I was hugging her goodbye, but it was so beautiful and real.
What are your favorite classes you’ve taken or would recommend to other students?
I think that everybody should take an acting class, regardless of what acting class it is. I think that you learn a lot about yourself when you are playing different characters, because you have to figure out what it is in your own life that connects you with your character. I just think it is an incredibly reflective art form and I have really learned a lot about myself in all of the theatre classes I’ve taken. I would also say that playwriting is a really great class. I really like writing creative nonfiction, and it is very similar to acting, just pulling elements of yourself into your work. I feel like through acting, as well as writing, I have really been able to reflect on things that have happened to me –– some good things, some not so good things –– and it has been almost like exposure therapy. Like the more you reflect and the more you analyze things that have happened, the easier they become to talk about and deal with. That’s another thing that I really love about theatre. I would say probably playwriting and acting classes are really great classes that people should look into.
What would you recommend for non-majors?
The good thing about Hope is that you don’t have to be a major or minor to get involved. Something I would recommend are the 10 minute plays and one act plays every year from students in Directing 1 and 2. Anybody can audition, and you don’t have to be a theatre major or minor or anything. I would recommend those for people who might not feel ready for the commitment of a full production but maybe want to dip their toes in the water. There is even an acting for the non-major class, too.
Who do you look to for inspiration?
There are several people. I’ve found faculty at Hope to be incredibly helpful and very supportive. I’ve gone to them with theatre related issues and questions, and they’ve also been very supportive in terms of things completely outside the realm of theatre. But outside of the faculty, my grandma is somebody I really look up to because we would act out the “Wizard of Oz” when I was really little, from beginning to end. I was always Dorothy, and she played all of the other characters. And then, very recently, I started working for this company called Tiny Broadway, where I do virtual theatre playdates with kids over Zoom. I actually started acting out a one woman version of the “Wizard of Oz” for kids. I came up with the whole idea for the company, but I wouldn’t have even thought about it if it weren’t for my grandma. She’s somebody that I really look up to and I feel like she just really helped me get into performance in general. My dad and I would have little skits that we would do, so I was acting and playing for a very long time. So I give credit to my grandma and my dad.
What are your long term career plans or your dream job? Where do you see yourself?
I would love to perform on a big stage –– like being on Broadway would be great –– but that’s not really happening right now because of COVID. Eventually, I would like to obtain my Masters in Fine Arts and maybe continue to teach at a higher level, potentially college theatre. I just really like collaborating and working with people. I worked at a daycare over the summer, and I found that I really love children –– same with the Tiny Broadway classes I’ve been doing with little kids. They are so fun and innocent and they have such a wonder in their minds. I think that there isn’t a better place for kids to explore their imagination and storytelling than the world of theatre, and I would love to be a resource and an outlet for kids to be able to do that.
Any immediate plans right after graduating?
I plan to move to Chicago. I do have a potential job offer –– not official yet –– teaching theatre K-12 for a virtual character school that’s in Michigan. So I would be teaching kindergarteners all the way through 12th graders part- time. I am very interested in educational theatre and I’ve been doing some of that with the Zoom playdates. Kids are so fun to work with. The tentative plan will be working from home and teaching theatre to kids online. There really isn’t a better time to be working from home. I’m hoping that will go through, and I will be teaching.
What advice do you have for underclassmen theatre majors, or people considering a major?
If you want to be involved, you can be. There’s opportunities at Hope College that you likely wouldn’t have at a bigger school. At a lot of other schools you have to be a major to be involved at all. And I would say just really capitalize on the fact that that isn’t the case here. And whether it is acting, directing or sound design, scenic design, lighting design, costume design –– there is a place for you. Really look for those opportunities. Also, if you are not getting the opportunities that you necessarily want, you can make them for yourself. If you weren’t cast in a production and want to do one, the faculty will support you doing your own thing and putting on a show yourself. Reach out to me or any of the faculty in the department. They are all really helpful and responsive, so if you want to be involved, you can be.