By Colleen Kochensparger, MadLab ensemble member and Young Writers events coordinator
Will Macke, former artistic educator, current performer/director and current MadLab ensemble member, has become MadLab Theatre’s newest artistic director. We chatted with him about his background, Madlab’s Young Writers program and his new role.
Colleen: You’re our new artistic director! How are you feeling about it?
Will: I am so grateful, excited and humbled to be working with everyone at MadLab. I cannot wait to collaborate with everyone at MadLab and to continue our former artistic director Laura Spires’ work on ensuring diversity, equity and inclusion within our theater, both in the works and playwrights that we highlight, and in our casting and outreach.
Colleen: Laura ran our recent all-female-playwrights season, and then our more recent all-LGBTQIA-lead-characters season. What is your focus as artistic director?
Will: I want many different voices. I’m conscious of the fact that I am a white man, and I need to make sure that as many perspectives as possible are included, which is why we created a committee just to focus on increasing the diversity we showcase at MadLab.
Colleen: You’ve got a plan that involves listening to many perspectives besides your own, but can you tell me a little bit more about yourself?
Will: I went to school for music theater in Connecticut, graduating in 2013 and moving to Columbus shortly after. I taught acting and voice classes. I’ve worked regionally and around town with a number of theaters, but enjoyed few as much as those that I have at MadLab.
Colleen: Why do you love MadLab?
Will: Our performances at MadLab are so unique, not only because they are new and original works, but because of the location, and the people. There is truly an electricity at MadLab that you can feel when you walk in the door.
Colleen: Speaking of having less free time, can you tell me more about the upcoming season at MadLab?
Will: Absolutely. We are revving up into our 25th anniversary season, which was, of course, delayed by a year because of the pandemic. It includes Sheridan, which is onstage at MadLab in August 2021, then Let’s Hope You Feel Better in October, and You Have Earned Bonus Stars in the spring of 2022.
Colleen: Will you tell me more about Young Writers?
Will: Oh, of course! So, I think one of my favorite things that we do at MadLab is the Young Writers Short Play Festival, where high school playwrights from around Columbus submit their short plays, and we match them with both a local mentor and a national mentor to help advise them and help them edit their scripts.
Colleen: What’s on your current playlist?
Will: Lately I’ve been all about the 80s: Hall and Oates, Huey Lewis and the News, Michael Jackson. Madonna. Bruce Springsteen. That music has a life that other decades don’t — maybe it’s the increased use of the synthesizer and electronic drums. You can’t wake up to How Will I Know by Whitney Houston and not have a good day.
Colleen: What’s the favorite show you’ve worked on and why?
Will: I’ve had a lot of fortune working in theater: I’ve been lucky to perform in musicals and non-musicals, Shakespeare and Sam Shepard. I’ve sung and danced and acted my way through a lot of the Columbus area. Nothing, however, compares to the time I played “Skimbleshanks the Railway Cat” in Cats. It was one of my favorite shows as a kid (for the spectacle alone), so the opportunity to partake in it was nothing short of a dream come true. It tested my abilities as a performer — being a dancing cat is no easy feat. I know it isn’t to everyone’s taste, but I’ve never felt so empowered, so proud or so lucky on stage as I was in that spandex catsuit and pound(s) of greasepaint.
Colleen: What’s the best thing about the Columbus art scene right now?
Will: We’re all so grateful to be here — to have made it through 2020 and the challenges that the last 15 months have provided — that we’re about to burst. The light at the end of this very long tunnel is in sight, and we have so much pent-up creativity to share. The best thing about the Columbus art scene? We’ve been percolating on projects for a long time — be ready to see us at our best as we begin to reopen and share our talents with the world again.
For details on all of these shows and to buy tickets for Young Writers 2021 and Sheridan, go to madlab.net.