The Theater at Monmouth's new producing artistic director is on board (pun intended — she got here just in time to direct the fall's train-based romp "On the Twentieth Century"). And busy, despite being the so-called off-season. And mostly, happy to be back in Maine with her family. She's worked in Missouri, California, Illinois, New York, D.C. and Maine — for the Portland Stage Co. during the '90s — but said early in her life she wanted to settle in New England. Today she talks about community, her favorite job, her favorite plays and working with Captain Jack Sparrow . . . if she had to.
Name: Dawn McAndrews
Grew up where? Larchmont, N.Y.
Now live: Harpswell
Wish you could someday live . . .: We have dreams of wintering in Joshua Tree (California), but really I think I am living where I've always wanted to be.
You've spent all of your adult career in the theater, in one capacity or another. What is it about theater? I've been very lucky that I have been able to work in my chosen profession my entire career. I guess the simplest answer is I like to tell stories — both visually and orally. Theater combines all other art forms and is immediate and communal. Theater is present in the classroom, in the courtroom, in the place of worship, in the halls of government. And everyone has a story to tell.
You've held many positions, including actress, artistic director, educator, writer, producer, director and more. Which hat do you like wearing the most? The one common theme in all those roles is building community. I like to work with other people in service to the community. But if you press me, I guess the hat I enjoy wearing the most is mom.
We heard through the grapevine that you were once quite the actress. Award winning even. Why isn't that front and center on your resume, Meryl? Well, I decided very early in my career that I wasn't so fond of rejection and that I had an instinct for shaping the big picture. So I turned to directing. But you might see me up on the stage some day in Monmouth — you never know.
As the Theater at Monmouth's new producing artistic director, you have your hands full. What do you do in the off season, when most people think you theater types are just drinking, carousing and shouting Shakespeare at each other? Well right now I am working with the staff and board on fundraising, developing the season calendar so we can sell tickets and send out promotional materials for the 2012 season. I'm also talking with members of the community to find out how the theater can better serve the needs of our neighbors. I am also meeting with designers, directors and actors for next season. And starting to read plays for the 2013 season. Working in this role in the theater requires a strong business acumen as well as an artistic side.
What is your favorite play (or two, if you can't name just one) of all time, and why? My favorite play of all time? That's too big. Can I give a few? My favorite Shakespeare to teach is "Othello." I think it is Shakespeare's most accessible play. The plot is clear, the text easy to follow, the characters are vivid and compelling, and as the play goes on we are drawn into the action like a thriller — but we know who the bad guy is from the beginning. My favorite Shakespeare play is "The Winter's Tale." It is a beautiful story of love and forgiveness, and a little magic. My favorite play, or perhaps the play that continues to reoccur in pivotal moments of my life, is "The Glass Menagerie," which we'll be producing next summer. At different times in my life the play's central character has changed, and now with two boys of my own, the play is all about a fiercely devoted mother doing whatever it takes to make certain her children succeed.
What play do you wish you could produce/direct that you haven't yet? Too many to name. My choices are affected by the community in which I work, the company with which I play, and then the place I am in my life as an artist. I tend to like plays about family, language-based plays, and those that are just slightly off-center into the absurd.
What actor or playwright would you most like to work with, and why? Does it matter that they might be dead? Seriously, my favorite actors and playwrights to work with are those that are just finding their voice in theater. That could be someone in kindergarten, eighth grade or just starting college. Young artists that haven't started to censor their instincts and are open to playing. But I wouldn't say no to working with Johnny Depp or Kevin Bacon.