by Meredith Egan ’16, Humanities student, STEAM aficionado, theatre rat, and all-around great NDP girl
My vision of what high school would be for me had included field hockey for a long time. However, breaking my ankle at a field hockey goalie camp two weeks before team tryouts changed all that. With seemingly nothing to do that fall, I was unsure of where to go to spend my free time. I then received an email about tech crew opportunities for our musical, Into the Woods. I was so much not a “theatre person” at the time that I was pretty convinced the show was going to be people singing about trees for three hours. Despite my hesitation, I decided to give it a shot, and was assigned as the second spot light operator for the production. Into the Woods ended up being one of the biggest turning points in my life. Not only was I amazed by watching the production come to life, the show also gave me a sense of accomplishment that I had never found anywhere. It was not being able to shine onstage, but backstage, that broke me out of my shell, and helped me realize I could be a leader in my community.
Even though I did all of the NDP shows and one show at my former middle school, I soon began spending time with the Children’s Playhouse of Maryland, a non-profit community theatre for youth performers ages 18 and under. Since my freshman year, I have now done over 20 productions at numerous venues. Sophomore Summer I attended a Theater Leadership program that had me living at Fordham University and exploring Broadway. Technical design and production became my intended college major, and with the support of our drama director, Ms. Maggie Ward, and my art teacher, Ms. Anne Walker, I attended Carnegie Mellon University’s Pre-College program for Drama for six weeks this past summer.
After loading up my dad’s van with far too many things for my dorm room, I headed off to Pittsburgh, feeling equally excited and nervous about what I was in for. The drama building itself was insane! It is three stories tall and has every possible technical device. Spaces include the main stage theatre, two black box theatres, a costume shop, sound studio, light lab, a scene shop, and much more. There were 18 students in the program for Design, and we had classes in Lighting Design, Stage/Production Management, Sound Design, Drafting, Basic Design, Scenic Engineering, Technical Production, Dramatic Literature and Stagecraft. We were busy. We studied seven plays in six weeks, including The Bacchae and Mother Courage, in Dramatic Literature. As much as I love production, I found myself fascinated by dramaturgy because it drew on my classroom experiences in Humanities.
Each day was a new experience. In Scenic Engineering class we did the marshmallow challenge, which involves teams racing to build the largest free-standing tower with 20 spaghetti noodles, a yard of tape, and a yard of string, that successfully holds a marshmallow on top. We did this in class in the morning, but in the afternoon went outside to find we had to do the same challenge, but with actual wood, tape, string, and a bag of marshmallows. After racing again, we decided to combine all of our wood to make a structure that was ultimately almost 25 feet tall.
I would be lying if I said that it wasn’t all a bit overwhelming at first, but getting to work with people my age and discovering new things about theatre made everything fun. The whole experience was thought-provoking. I not only was I informed about how to improve my craft, but I also learned about myself, my passion and the kind of art I want to create. My time at Carnegie Mellon this summer, combined with what I have learned with my NDP sisters, have taught me that the collaborative process of making art not only serves to entertain, but also to unify the cast, crew and audience in a deeper understanding of the human experience. It is a partnership of many hearts and minds that creates the true spectacle that is live theatre. Theater is truly my passion and can’t wait to do more of it!