Name: Meredith Mackey
Major: Learning and Organizational Change
Hometown: Commerce, Michigan
Left: Meredith Mackey with R&J Director Sophia Sinsheimer.
How did you get involved with this production?
Last April, I petitioned to produce for multiple different theatre boards and was selected by WAVE to produce their Fall show. This project did not become R&J until after I was lucky enough to find Sophia Sinsheimer as my director and talk to her about this idea of a project she had been working on for a while by that point. Fast forward 7 months, and we opened R&J last weekend on campus. I’m beyond grateful that Sophia came to me with this idea and that WAVE was trusting enough to run with it, because I truly can’t imagine this campus and my life without R&J at this point.
R&J represents the queer community in the nontraditional setting of classical Shakespeare. What does it mean to you to to help represent these voices through your work?
The most incredible thing about R&J in my mind is that it generates space for queer voices in a text that previously hadn’t. Romeo and Juliet had always felt like a story about two whiny teenagers who couldn’t get over a crush, but when we queer the narrative, it turns into a story of desperation, a tale of how we can find and cling to love when we know it can be taken away from us at any moment. It makes this a story that is so relevant and so relatable. On this campus, especially in light of recent events, it is so incredibly important for people to find things they can connect to and feel safe within, and I think R&J created that space for a lot of people. Regardless of your feelings about Shakespeare or theatre, I think we can all agree that creating art that speaks to and for the community is something profoundly powerful. I am incredibly humbled and honored to be even a small piece of this team that is creating that space for so many.
R&J features beat/slam poetry of students at Northwestern. What excites you about connecting the voices of Northwestern students to such an innovative piece?
The spoken word poetry within the text really modernizes the piece in a way that nothing else in the show is able to. It puts the feelings of these characters into their rawest forms and allows that sensation to wash over the audience in a spine-chilling way. When we first connected with our poets, Claire Glubiak, Pauline Moll, & Mimi Reininga, we collectively came to the realization that the poetry in this piece should be an extension of the text rather than an addition to it. Through the spoken word, we envelop the audience in these characters and allow them to step outside of Shakespeare’s linguistically challenging sphere and into one where the rhythm of the text and the flow of the poetry conveys exactly the message they may need to hear.
In light of the recent election, what do you think is the potential impact of R&J and shows like it on our country’s narrative? Do you think art that represents alternative points of view has the power to promote change?
I’ve echoed this throughout the entire process of R&J, and I think it’s even more important to hear now – my favorite thing about this play is that it has the ability to create an incredible space for mourning alongside celebration. Even more than that, I so strongly believe that art is a vessel to spark change as much as it is a vessel to facilitate healing. Originally, these types of statements were conceived mostly in reference to the violence against the queer community this summer in Orlando, but in the light of the recent election, they could not hold more true for this nation as a whole. R&J, by its mere existence, has the ability to open up channels for dialogue and acceptance in the community. As a team, we’ve facilitated these conversations by partnering with organizations like Rainbow and Slam Society, but we want to stress that these dialogues cannot stop now that the curtain has fell on R&J’s time in Shanley, and cannot stop here on Northwestern’s campus. The results of this election have created a terrifyingly unsafe and unwelcome environment for many people in this country. As artists, what we can do to change the narrative is open ourselves up, and open up our pieces of art to create spaces full of safety and love. We can use our art to speak out about things we believe in, to work through emotions we feel deeply, to change the minds of our specific audiences. Even if we cannot change the results of Tuesday night’s election, we need to work to change the world in which this election resonates. R&J’s presence in my life has been so incredibly positive, especially this week, and the team is working on a way to extend that presence past the run of our show and on to campus as a whole in the weeks to come.
From Left: Pauline Moll, poet, Sophia Sinsheimer, director/adapter/poet, Mimi Reininga, poet, Meredith Mackey, producer, & Claire Glubiak, poet.
When did you know you wanted to be involved in theatre?
Oh gosh…this is kind of a multi-faceted answer. I was an actor when I was a little kid – I started performing when I was 12 years old, and I continued with that until my senior year of high school. Somewhere around the age of 16 was when I realized that I really wanted to be involved in areas of theatre outside being on stage, and that’s when I became a stage manager, and most recently, a producer. I find being on the other side of the table is incredibly rewarding, and I think that being on this campus as a theatre administrator makes me feel like the work I’m doing is impacting campus in a profound and visible way.
What’s your favorite class you’ve taken at Northwestern and why?
My favorite class I’ve taken here is Intro to Organizational Theory and Practice. I’m a total nerd when it comes to organizational structures and change management, and taking this class while producing this show helped me immensely in formulating my vision of this production team.