Lights dimming on a full house, a hush of anticipation blankets the audience: to many, this picture strikes fear and nervousness. Yet to Maddie Wasson ’18, this situation is one that she has experienced and will experience again many hundreds of times in her life.
“I’ve been acting and singing for as long as I can remember,” Wasson said. “Ever since my first theatrical role as a mouse, [theater] has always been a driving force of who I am as a person. It’s taught me to not be afraid of who I am.”
Growing up in a school where none of her main friends acted, Wasson soon found her family in the theater department. Ever since coming to Deerfield as a new junior, she continues to be a devoted member of the acting community.
In addition to acting, singing, which she has also been doing since she can remember, plays a big part in Wasson’s life. In particular, her love of a capella taught her about blending, being in an ensemble and becoming a better singer. The Rhapso-D’s, the female a capella group on campus, also provided a “chill” environment for Wasson to develop her passion.
“We’re really just sisters, hanging out and having fun. [The Rhapso-D’s] is just a group of really awesome people who like to sing together,” she said.
Wasson utilizes all such skills in her involvement with musical theater, which includes singing, acting, and dancing. “I think that in order to be successful at musical theater you need to act and sing, but more importantly, be vulnerable and make bold choices,” Wasson said. She continued, “What draws people into performances is when actors make risks and put themselves out there.”
Wasson’s newest “risk” is the spring production, a musical revue, a mixture of some of the most well-known songs from Broadway history. Theater Director Catriona Hynds commented, “Currently, I am struggling to direct [Wasson] in one of the songs she sings in the Spring Musical Revue because I can’t stop crying when I hear her. I am a mess, and the audience will be.” She adds, “Those of you who were lucky enough to witness her performance at KFC know what I am talking about!”
Coming in as a new junior, Wasson was shocked by the atmosphere surrounding the theater department. In her old school, tickets were sold depending on the popularity and recognition of the show and the attitude towards the theater department. At Deerfield, everyone comes to see performances no matter what their interests are. The community that this builds extends beyond the stage. She recalled having many peers and teachers congratulate her on performances when walking between classes.
“I came in thinking that I knew a lot about theater. Yet when I got here I realized that there’s so much for me to learn and all of it came from Mrs. Hynds,” Wasson said. “She has taught me more about acting and about theater in the last year than I have in every year since I have been acting. She has taught me to be more confident in the choices I make and she’s been one of the people who’s changed me the most.”
Mrs. Hynds said, “Maddie burst into the theater scene here at Deerfield Academy the moment she stepped foot in the Acting Lab. She is an incredibly bubbly and gregarious individual, and it is impossible to not be carried along by her enthusiasm for everything!” Wasson has participated in four theatrical productions during her time at Deerfield and has been working with Mrs. Hynds since her first play her junior year.
Mrs. Hynds continued, “It was not long before Maddie showed us what she can do on stage, and she has continually blown us away with her powerful voice and brave performances. She is a really dedicated actor, meaning that she takes her craft seriously, and is constantly looking for ways to hone her skills. Often, Maddie is the one who sets the tone in the rehearsal room, and she demands others have the same level of professionalism as she does. Committed, fun-loving and gifted, Maddie was a superb addition to the theater program.”
In regards to the productions she has been involved in, Wasson jokingly said that it was impossible to choose her favorite play, as it was like choosing a favorite child.
She finally explained, “I loved Pinkalicious because it was so fun and touring Edinburgh was incredible, I loved You Can’t Take it With You because of the cast, and I loved Big Love because of the role I played. I connected so well with the character.”
When asked for any advice she could give for future actors, she said, “Don’t be afraid to take risks in the rehearsal room. I used to be scared of putting myself out there and I would be super reserved of the choices I made on stage. The more risks you take, the better actor you become.” Wasson assures aspiring actors that making mistakes is a normal and healthy part of high school, and even childhood as a whole.
She continued, “I’ve been dealing with serious rejection for the first time in my life and it sucks but I know that I have to keep pushing. Pushing yourself, never losing faith in yourself, and knowing yourself despite any challenges is something that participating in the arts has taught me. It is something that applies to so much more than the arts; it is something that you can carry with you for the rest of your life.”