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BWW Blog: Sharing Their Stories - An Interview with Monique Midgette

Monique has worn a plethora of artistic hats, spanning from actor to director, and hitting almost every step in between.

BWW Blog: Sharing Their Stories - An Interview with Monique Midgette

Hello Broadway lovers, creators, and theatre students around the world! Welcome back to the blog, and to my new segment: Sharing Their Stories. For the next few weeks, I'll be sharing the journeys and artistic discoveries of notable artists in my DC area, and around the world. Every person I've had the honor to speak with, carries unique experiences and perspectives about the constantly changing world of the arts. I hope their stories serve as inspiration, demystification of the road to artistic success, and as fuel to keep creating.

No matter how many future-thinking workshops or classes we take in college, there's still such a mysterious air surrounding life post-graduation. Of course, we have questions to ask in class: what city do I move to? Do I get an agent? Does anyone know a good headshot photographer? But we also have more metaphorical questions that can't be taught. Am I ready for the pressures of living life as an artist? Do I have what it takes to succeed in this business? How do I know what opportunity to pursue? My interview with Monique Midgette helped me understand that the key to navigating all these unknowns rests inside of you- if you know where to look.

Throughout her career, Monique has worn a plethora of artistic hats, spanning from actor to director, and hitting almost every step in between. She has lived and toured across the nation, often choosing to pursue vastly different career opportunities than originally intended. My main questions for her: how did you know where to go next? How were you able to choose your next step? As we talked, I learned how she credited looking inwards and towards the wider universe to ask for the guidance that helped choose her correct path. If this sounds overwhelming, hold on. Don't stop reading yet. Making the correct decision for your artistic body, mind and career doesn't have to be a religious ritual or a drawn-out process. It can simply be giving yourself the space and permission to tune in to what your gut tells you about an opportunity, as opposed to any external pressures or other factors.

Monique's theatre bug bit her at a very young age. "I was a really shy kid growing up. For me, theatre was a way to come out of my shell, develop a personality and start making friends." Once she found her community, she continued to pursue the dream. Her journey started in dinner theatres, specifically at Harlequin (Rockville, MD). From there, she continued her learning process through training with mentors she met in previous productions. "I didn't come to theatre with a lot of college information, it was just a love of performing and I learned as I went. For example, I would do a show, get really close to the musical director, and I'd start taking voice lessons with him."

Monique went on a few non equity tours stemming from Harlequin Dinner Theatre, an experience she highly recommends for young actors trying to come into their own. From there, she worked on Disney Cruise Lines for a year, a step she also recommends in a post-pandemic world. "I loved getting to meet people from all over the world, being in new spaces while being a part of a group." Living rent-free on the cruise helped her save enough money to relocate to New York after docking, where she connected with an agent from a fellow Disney cast member's referral and continued through the audition circuit. Still a non-equity actor, Monique landed a role at Helen Hayes Theatre performing in Jesus Christ Superstar alongside Emily Skinner, Billy Porter, and other theatrical household names. If tech week for one performance wasn't hectic enough, Monique auditioned for her first Broadway show during her tech week for Jesus Christ Superstar. Landing a role in her next play, Civil War, led to more open doors for Monique, as well as her equity card.

While Monique advocates looking inward to find your next step and propel your theatrical career, she also cites the importance of building and strengthening relationships. "They say in this business, that it's about 'who you know.' I don't like that! It's about relationships. If you can strengthen the relationships, the friendships you make with people...that will take you as far as your talent will." Surrounded by an agent, an equity card, and these important relationships, Monique continued through the NY theatre circuit a little longer before moving to Maryland, Atlanta, and then the high seas as a performer on the Royal Caribbean. While she was in the process of auditioning for Royal Caribbean, she also auditioned for The Lion King tour before booking her role on Royal Caribbean. However, Monique's relationship with The Lion King was far from over. "While I was on the ship, I didn't have a vision board, but I had one post-it note. It said, 'Las Vegas Lion King, 2009.' I looked at it every day. I was at sea, and I didn't know how I would get a part, but I knew I wanted to be in that company."

While Monique was on the ship, her agent called to tell her about final auditions for the Las Vegas Lion King company. Still onboard, Monique weighed her priorities and had to pass on the audition. "I was at sea! I had to say no the audition, and it killed me. I made peace with it and realized the opportunity was not mine. A week later, I was checking my messages as we docked. And my agent called and said that they'd kept my name on the table in negotiations. And I'd gotten the part. I didn't even go the audition! I got that role in the middle of the ocean. If an opportunity is for you, it's for you. You just can't mess it up." This method of thinking truly sets Monique apart from the rest. When analyzing a next career step, she focuses on her values and commitments, and believes the right opportunity will meet you. So much about an artist's life involves worry, but Monique channels that into openness and trust. She knows that what's meant for her will work out, and to not chase after what isn't meant to be.

After Royal Caribbean, Monique moved to Las Vegas and was a swing in the company of Lion King. Post circle of life, Monique decided to pursue casting and interned with an agency in New York. While she enjoyed being in the room where it all happened, "being able to bring people in the room without getting to choose who got the role...that frustrated me." More importantly, it just didn't feel right to her. "You know how you get those little gut messages that tell you, yes absolutely or no, not at all? I listened to my message saying this isn't for you, and just decided to hit pause right now."

Following those little gut messages, Monique dove into acting intensives and gave herself time to focus on herself and her learning. Post study, Monique performed in various musicals through LA, New York and eventually Florida, where she performed in The Festival of the Lion King at Disney World. From coast to coast, Monique was always able to listen to her intuition and figure out what she wanted her next steps to be. While performing at Disney, "my soul was like, 'we know you're trying to work. But we know you're not supposed to be doing this.' I just knew this wasn't where I was supposed to be."

After Disney, she tried being a production assistant, a theatrical agent, and arts programming for children. Monique worked at PG County Parks Dept. directing and designing a musical theatre program for children, and "wait a minute...this is fun. I can do this." Post PG County, she was offered a directing job for Ain't Misbehavin at Toby's Dinner Theatre. This unexpected development signaled new promise amidst new uncertainties. "I said yes, I thought about it, and then I asked a LOT of people how to direct!" She ended up directing at Toby's and assistant directing at Adventure Theatre at the same time, adapting a production of Big River for young audiences. Directing opportunities exponentially grew from there. In a matter of weeks, Monique had a whole directing season planned.

"You know more than you think know. Directing was a lot of learning on the job, a lot of acknowledging what I did or didn't know and seeking help to make it better. You have to speak from what you know and get help from others around you." Her philosophy for tackling new opportunities is simple: "Some things I don't know how to do, some things I do. And I just figure it out. That's all you've got sometimes." Monique's path to where she is today has been anything but linear, and there have been moments of doubt and uncertainty about where to go next. And that's oftentimes the life of an artist. But Monique taught me that the key to navigating that uncertainty is always within you. Even when the next step may not be clear, there's a greater force and intuition leading you to the right opportunity.

Today, Monique directs numerous online projects at a variety of theatres, ranging from Olney Theatre Center to University of Maryland, where she taught my online musical theatre class! Meeting and working with Monique has been such a bright spot amidst the craziness of this year. In Monique, I have found a teacher, theatre guide, and a truly hilarious friend. She has taught me worlds about creating collaborative spaces, to embrace joy in tackling new projects and (most importantly) the courage to ask for help. This can be seeking expert opinions in an area you are unfamiliar with or looking within yourself to find your next career move. She knows how to trust others, and also trust in herself. If we navigate theatre like Monique, creating strong relationships both with others and within ourselves, we can create a more meaningful and connected artistic tomorrow.

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From This Author Student Blogger: Leah Packer