It may have been fate that led this woman to have vocal surgery and completely lose her voice for a year in high school. At the time, she was acting in all the school plays and in love with all aspects of theater. But it was during this “mute year,” as she refers to it, that she discovered her true passion at the theater was not acting but directing. Through another twist of fate, she did an internship at Actors Theatre in Louisville after graduating from Northwestern. Her career took her to New York and the West Coast, but six years ago she followed her good friend and mentor Les Waters back to Louisville when he was named the Director of Actors Theatre. She is now the Associate Artistic Director. She loves the Louisville community and having a steady job and home base, which is unusual for most in this line of work. We were grateful to catch up with her the week before rehearsing for the Human Festival of New American Plays began. Meet Meredith McDonough of Actors Theatre, today’s FACE of Louisville.
How long have you been involved in theater? Is it something you have always had an interest in?
I have been involved in the theater as long as I can remember. I have clear memories of directing my first play in second grade! I count myself very lucky that it’s the only professional job I have ever had.
When did you make the transition from acting in plays to directing them? What precipitated that decision?
When I was 16, I had vocal surgery and couldn’t talk for a year. When I came out of that time I started looking for different ways I could use my “voice” in the theater, and directing was a natural fit. Looking back, I couldn’t be more thankful!
You say you develop plays and find homes for them. Where do you find the plays, and then how do you know where they will go?
We read constantly and talk constantly to our friends in the field. Like all industries, our strength is built on the strength of those relationships and our ongoing support of writers we love.
Being a director means a more steady lifestyle than an actor, but you still don’t know what you will be doing in a year. How do you manage having a life with a schedule you cannot predict long-term?
I mean, I don’t know! Am I managing it? By this point, flexibility is my middle name.
What is the best play you have ever seen?
My favorite play ever written is Angels in America, and I will happily watch it anywhere, anytime.
Who is your favorite celebrity you have met?
Give us a peek at your agenda. What’s a typical day or week like for you?
Again, I go back to flexibility. If I’m in rehearsal then it’s meetings in the morning, rehearsal in the afternoon and stopping by other shows’ previews or tech rehearsals at night. The Humana Festival is really all hands on deck all the time.
If you were not in your current job, what would you secretly love to do?
Oh, I’d be a chef and have a pop-up restaurant for dinner parties in my home.
What is something people would be surprised to know about you?
Well I already told you about my mute year, so I guess I would say that I’m a football fan?
What are three words that describe you?
Curious, passionate and determined.
What advice do you treasure?
The point is not to be right, the point is to be helpful.
Fill in the blank. You’ll never see me without my ______.
Where can we find you hanging out around town?
Favorite thing to do in Louisville?
I love walking across the bridge in beautiful weather.
Tell us some of your favorite local restaurants.
What’s on your personal reading list right now?
I gave up reading for pleasure when I started reading this much for work.
Aside from faith, family and friends, what are three things you can’t live without?
My new Jack Russell Ralph, throwing Humana Festival dinner parties and re-watching “The West Wing”
Thank you to Meredith McDonough for taking the time to chat with us. Check out all the great work at Actors Theatre here.
To be inspired by other great women in Louisville, check out our other FACES of Louisville here.