Meghan Bortle, Delton junior, is certainly setting the stage here at Albion College. During the student workshops this past week Bortle not only starred in a production, but also wrote and stage-managed her own play titled Miami. Bortle is undoubtedly allowing herself to shine as she prepares for her final year at Albion, and The Pleiad had the pleasure of discussing the bright moments she has experienced with the theatre family here at Albion College.
The Pleiad: What is it like to be a part of the theatre program here at Albion College?
Bortle: For the time I have been here, I have accomplished so much more than students at larger universities accomplished. Sure, while Albion doesn’t have the weight behind the name that Michigan State University does, I had the opportunity to write a show and have it preformed. I bet not a single one of State undergrads can say that for their school.
How has your journey from a first-year to a junior affected your ability in the theatre?
When I came to the department, I had way too big an ego for the talent I had. I was the lead girl in just about every high school production, but my first role at Albion only had a single line. And then I wasn’t cast at all for the rest of my freshman year. I was still active in the department, but I definitely didn’t make my mark. But between the summer of [first-year] and sophomore year, I practiced and studied and spent every moment preparing for the show we would be doing the next semester, Hedda Gabler. I didn’t get the role, but I did get casted. It was a foot in the door. This department is highly competitive, so I would say that that is the moment that changed everything. My most defining role, I believe, was Mistress Ford in Shakespeare’s Merry Wives of Windsor. It was like everything I’ve worked so hard for finally was paying off. Because that’s the thing about theatre, either you keep working constantly or someone else gets your role.
Can you tell us a little about the play that you single-handedly wrote?
It was a show that captured a moment of two peoples’ lives. It essentially was meant to show a slice of the current youth’s culture, particularly the one I see far too much: young people who find themselves stuck between a rock and a hard place and are just too complacent to do anything about it. It’s about drug use, laziness, toxic relationships and, like I said before, complacency.
What was your inspiration for the play?
Max Brosnahan-Lusk [Berkley junior and director of the play] is actually my boyfriend, and when he said he wanted to direct a brand new show, I jumped at the chance to be able to write again. I actually came to Albion as a creative writing major, which quickly changed, but it was a creative medium I missed greatly. He and I sat down, and he told me what he wanted to say to an audience and I wrote probably about 15-20 shows, 10 or so of which that have the same basic plot line of the show that actually went on, all with different people and places and circumstances, but the same goals. In the end, we just chose the one that worked the best for the message we wanted to get across.
How did it feel to write, stage manage and star in the student workshop?
Writing, stage managing and starring in a show was probably one of the stupidest decisions I’ve ever made. I identify as an actor, so of course I love acting, and I also want to spend more time in other areas of the theatre, so I didn’t mind stage managing. The problem came from the outside. A lot of people fail to realize this isn’t an extracurricular anymore like it is in high school. This is me preparing for a life in the theatre. That also means I have hours and hours of rehearsal a day and many people get put out when I have to put my other duties on the back burner. But I have to, because this is my life.
What will you miss most about the theatre program here at Albion College?
Professor Robert Starko. Hands down. He is the chair of our department and one of the most brilliant men I have ever met. He is so smart and knowledgeable and willing to work with students until the very bitter end. His dedication to teaching this art is simply astounding, and he’ll spend hundreds of extra hours just trying to get a single concept into our heads. Everything I know, I’ve learned from him.
What do you feel you take away most from Albion College?
The sheer number of things I have been entrusted with. Each role is a responsibility. Each management position is a responsibility and the huge responsibility of writing a show? I’m so lucky.
What are your plans upon graduation?
I want to work professionally for a couple years and then go to grad school. I want to become an acting coach. But it’s hard to say with this business. Maybe I’ll get famous in those few years between now and grad school, and then I wouldn’t need to go. Basically, I’ll go wherever the wind takes me.
Photo courtesy of Meghan Bortle