Madison Middleton is a sophomore at School for Tomorrow. She’s participated with Highwood Theatre since 2011, most recently appearing in August: Osage County as Ivy. Other notable Highwood roles include William Cartwright/Chairman (The Mystery of Edwin Drood), Catherine (Proof), Johanna (Sweeney Todd), and Applegate/Ensemble (Damn Yankees). She has also performed with TheatreLab and Young Artists of America. The Requiem , her first produced play, opens at Highwood Theatre on September 18. She invites you to contact her here.
Why are you a playwright?
Theatre is the most dynamic form of art. It gives us the ability to explore the deepest crevices of human nature. All the things that perplex us, that make us emotional, that we don’t understand, theatre takes it and literally puts it under a spotlight. Its capability to help us form raw, true connections is profound. And its potential for diversity proves that there really is nothing like it. And all of it, every single moment of theatre, is completely temporary.
What type of theatre most excites you?
I’m someone who values very realistic human portrayals. But if a creative team can somehow capture the intensity and chemistry between people in a compelling, abstract way, then that’s what’s going to excite me most. I’ve seen a few shows with that philosophy, and I still have their ticket stubs.
What starts a play moving in your imagination?
I attended this year’s Baltimore ArtScape, and I came across this booth that was run by a woman named Catherine Yard. And she was selling these fantastic, leather masks depicting all sorts of creatures: birds, faeries, goblins, pigs even! I was completely floored; the next day I bought one. This particular mask was somewhat bat-like with very, very long ears that shot up into the sky. And I told Catherine thank you for bringing these creations into the world and that I would try my hardest to do this character justice. And she looked at me and with a wave of her hand, said, “Bring it to life!”
When I got home, I strapped this creature onto my face and started to develop her gait. Through her movements, I could begin to imagine where she comes from, who she loves, what she loves, and how she fits into her society. Immediately, the cogs started to turn, and I had to write.
Do you have a favorite writing place?
I’m someone who believes that the physical presence of art and books radiate with energy. The walls of my room are adorned with paintings and drawings, my shelves with sculptures and books. A gigantic cage sits next to one of these shelves, homing my pet rat, Calliope. Outside my window grows a magnificent dogwood tree (which blossoms pink in the spring). I open this window so I can hear the forest sounds as I write in my bed. My dog, Jack, curls up on a pillow. The light hangs in the air like mist.
WOMEN’S VOICES THEATER FESTIVAL
Sept 18 – 27, 2015
The Highwood Theatre
914 Silver Spring Avenue, Suite 102,
Silver Spring, MD 20904
Details and Tickets
How did you choose this play to debut at the Festival?
The Requiem was originally a screenplay I wrote for school. I ‘finished’ it right on the cusp of summer, so I went into my break still overflowing with creative pride. Though, I never imagined I would work on it again. But when I met with Kevin and Matt to discuss Highwood’s student participation in the Women’s Voices Theater Festival, it suddenly struck me that my piece could be a promising project for us to pursue. In our previous season, Highwood explored the stigma surrounding mental illness, specifically through our production of August: Osage County. I knew that we wanted to continue this critical and important work, so I said, “I might have something, actually. We’ve talked about drug addiction, depression, anxiety… but what about memory loss? Alzheimer’s?”
What female playwrights have influenced your writing and how?
Although I’m still fairly new to the playwright world, I nevertheless feel kind of ashamed for not being able to answer this question. So far I don’t have any female playwrights that have influenced me, but if we broaden the question to female authors, then my answer is limitless. I celebrate vulnerability in people, so when a writer can truly expose themselves through their work I can’t help but be inspired. The following authors have undoubtedly influenced me: Helen MacDonald, Marina Keegan, Maggie Nelson, Erin Morgenstern, Helene Wecker, JK Rowling, and Natalie Goldberg.
What’s missing from theatre today?
That’s a difficult question. The first thing that popped into my mind was the huge absence of non-binary, gender-queer, and/or non-cisgender characters in theatre. But I know that someone, somewhere is pumping out plays filled with delightful non-cis characters. It’s not missing, it’s just not mainstream. I would like to see it become mainstream.
What are you working on now?
I am currently working on a piece that features grotesque, mystical creatures that dwell in the forest.
Answer this: “If I weren’t a playwright, I would be … “
If I weren’t a playwright, I would continue to learn as much as I possibly could. I’m so young. I’m still a student. I live right outside of DC. There is so much for me to discover, and I have so many resources to do so. I love writing plays, but I also love being in them, or directing them! I love drawing, painting, sculpting! I love music! I love film! I love literature! Right now I just want to learn more about my passions. I want to cultivate them. I just want to have fun with them.
Anything you would like to add?
I can hardly process my excitement for this festival, and I will never be able to express my gratitude. So privileged and lucky am I to be able to do my work with this kind of publicity and support. And to be part of this extraordinary, important event, it truly is one of the most phenomenal experiences of my life.