Spotlight Series: Meet Melanie MacQueen – Actress and Playwright Who Found Her Home Base Directing at 'Theatre 40'

Shari Barrett

Registered Critic, Writer, Publicist

Today's Spotlight focuses on Actress, Anime Voice Artist, and Playwright, Melanie MacQueen, who found her home base directing plays at Theatre 40, who I recently saw in that group’s annual production of "The Manor."

Shari Barrett (SB): What would you like readers to know about your theatrical background?

Melanie MacQueen (MM): I have been lucky enough to be on all sides of a theatrical stage. I’ve acted in many plays over the years, although fewer recently. I am also a produced Playwright, although I have never published my plays—except for a few of my children’s plays. The majority of my Directing jobs have been at Theatre 40, my “Home Base” where I have directed several plays over the past couple of decades. And a theatre is always my favorite place to be!

(SB): What production(s) were you involved with when word went out you needed to immediately postpone/cancel the show?

(MM): We had just opened the World Premiere of "Taming the Lion" by Jack Rushen, which had won the Julie Harris Playwrighting Award the previous year. It’s a true story set in Old Hollywood with characters based on real people–such as Louis B. Mayer and Joan Crawford.

(SB): I was so looking forward to seeing that show and had already booked my seats to review it. How did you communicate the shutdown with your cast and production team?

(MM): Our Artistic Director and I had been discussing what we needed to do about the show when the word came down from the Mayor of Beverly Hills that we must close. So, there was no further discussion. We sent an email out to everyone and said we’d open up after a couple of weeks IF that was a possibility.

(SB): Are plans in place to present that production at a future date, or is the cancellation permanent?

(MM): We may film the show if that is possible to arrange with AEA and everyone involved, but we’re not sure we will be allowed to do so. Then, we might put it up on some other online platform. As far as doing it for an in-person audience, that does not seem possible unless the decision is made to bring it back in mid-May to play in rep with our next show.

(SB): What future productions on your schedule are also affected by the shutdown?

(MM): Our next Theatre 40 production is supposed to be "[Incident] at Our Lady of Perpetual Help" which was being directed by our wonderful Ann Hearn Tobolowsky. I don’t know if they are trying to work on that–separately–or not. I think everything is in a holding pattern right now.

(SB): The entire world seems to be in a holding pattern at the moment without any idea what the future may bring. But for now, how are you keeping the Arts alive while at home by using social media or other online sites?

(MM): I actually started a page dedicated to people who are currently doing art inspired by the “Shelter in Place” scenario we are all experiencing. It is called Celebratory Arts Festival, and the plan is to do a theatrical event at some venue –possibly Theatre 40 – after the worst of this is passed and it is safe to gather in groups once again. I’ve asked writer and musician friends to contribute work, as well as painter friends who might want to contribute their art to decorate the venue. I’ve already had one friend write and perform a song with his daughter from their seclusion, and another wrote a poem. We all want to visualize a time in our thoughts where we will again come together to present art to each other and to the public.

(SB): What thoughts would you like to share with the rest of the L.A. Theatre community while we are all leaving the ghost light on and promising to return back to the stage soon?

(MM): Artists have always enlightened and explored dark times throughout history, and this time is no different. That is our calling, and we will continue. We always have told stories to each other; we always will. The “curtains” will rise again!

The main challenge for artists, in these kinds of dark times, is to bring out of this situation the best we can in ourselves and everyone around us, and call out, artistically, the worst that always arises, sadly, within us and others. We hold up many mirrors for us all to view the Human Journey, and we must never turn away.

This article first appeared on Broadway World.

Shari Barrett, a Los Angeles native, has been active in the theater world since the age of six - acting, singing, and dancing her way across the boards all over town. After teaching in local secondary schools, working in marketing for several studios, writing, directing, producing, and performing in productions for several non-profit theaters, Shari now dedicates her time and focuses her skills as an independent publicist to "get the word out" about smaller theaters throughout the Los Angeles area.

As a founding member of the LA Stage Alliance Leadership Council Task Force, she and reps from theaters throughout the city worked together to articulate a vision for the theatre community of Greater Los Angeles.

Shari has received recognition from the City of Los Angeles for her dedication of heart and hand to the needs of friends, neighbors and fellow members of society for her devotion of service to the people of Los Angeles, and is honored to serve the theatre world in her hometown.

Currently she is the Publicist and a member of the Kentwood Players at the Westchester Playhouse.