Interview by Kira Cramer
This month’s spotlight shines on Kendal Clifton, our musical director for our summer camp production of The Claw. Kendal worked closely with Megan Hicks for both sessions of campers, teaching them many songs about friendship and conquering fears. Kendal currently attends WSU and is studying Music Education. We are grateful to her for spending two weeks of her summer at The Merc with our young actors.
Kendal and I found some time during rehearsals to talk about her theater experiences. Our conversation follows:
Tell us about your past experience with theater.
Kendal has been performing in plays and musicals from 3rd grade on, and she’s 19 now. She has been cast in ensemble and lead roles in musical and non-musical productions. Some of Kendal’s favorite roles are The Cat in The Hat, Seussical and as Maria in The Sound of Music.
What excites you about live theater?
Kendal shares that she is excited about participating in live theater because it is unique – much different from a movie-musical. While film production often has multiple takes, live theater is intimate; no matter what character you play, someone in the audience will make a connection.
As an actor, she says that she enjoys portraying a character totally unlike who she is.
Why is live theater important in a small community like the Methow Valley?
Kendal doesn’t come from a super small community, but she believes that live theater gives everyone something to participate in. She says that it’s a way for kids to understand what a community can be, and that theater doesn’t always have to be competitive or like Broadway.
Kendal continues that live theater is an important building block that helps community members, young and older, know each other in ways different from just knowing each other in a small community.
Can you share a unique experience you have had in a theater setting… As an actor or director?
Kendal responded that in junior high, she was the understudy for Peter Pan and had no idea what it was going to entail. She learned a lot when she shadowed the actor who was playing Peter Pan (she was cast as one of the Lost Boys.) The part taught her that it’s okay not to be the lead because she realized that everyone gets a turn and the role you are cast in is usually what’s best for you and the show.
Kendal also shared that she choreographed the dances for Seussical with her friends in high school, noting that it was fun to be behind the scenes as well as on the stage. Kendal highly recommends getting some experience in any aspect of theater–on stage as well as backstage – because working in multiple areas of the theater teaches a variety of skills and helps you gain appreciation for all that goes into a production.
What draws you to a particular script like The Claw?
Kendal commented that she did not expect The Claw to address as many topics as it does. She noted the complexities of emotions in the music–friendship and navigating life choices, which can teach the actors as well as audience members valuable life lessons that she hopes stick with them. She comments further that good theater has something that everyone can relate to, and if she were to choose a script for a children’s show, it would definitely be uplifting. In a good script, she says, struggle is necessary so that there is a positive resolution. Kendal says that music is most important to her – she is a musician first and a thespian second. Music, she says, always amplifies the story.
As a director, what do you hope to accomplish?
Kendal’s first goal is for the kids to have a good time. It should be fun, they should feel safe, and learn something. Whether they pursue music or theater, it is a great experience to express yourself and work on a team. Sports are more pressure, but theater allows you to be yourself with less confinement.
Kendal hopes the actors leave the camp with a sense of accomplishment, and if they get the message from the show, that’s great. If they have the songs stuck in their head, it might become their motto and that is powerful – “it’s the best day…”
Anything else you would like to share?
Kendal shares that The Merc Playhouse could be in a much bigger city and do just as well because of the quality of performance and talent. She further states that the Methow Valley community is so powerful with auditions happening during the week of camp. She loves that everyone seems to know and help each other out.
Kendal also stated how amazing Megan Hicks is as a director, actress, dancer, and choreographer; she says that she has learned so much being in her productions and working with her. Kendal continues that Megan has thoroughly inspired her to become a teacher with her passion and creativity, and Kendal hopes to continue participating in theater’s many aspects.
We are so fortunate to have Kendal as our Musical Director during camp weeks and hope she will be back to work with our Merc Playhouse campers in the future.