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Posted on 07-26-2018

We sat down with Madeline (Maddie) Jones, performing as Medium Alison in Circle's production of Fun Home which runs through Saturday.

Photo Credit | People Picture Company

What drew you to your character as Medium Alison?

I remember watching the 2015 Tony Awards on TV, watching based on what grabbed my attention--when it happened. I saw little Sydney Lucas, standing solo on the screen as Small Alison; as she began to sing I was captivated. Her detachment from the rest of the world as she went into her own universe, all while telling a story that is so difficult to tell for a countless number of people. So basically, I was obsessed from that point on! I was mesmerized by the lyrics and the way this tragically beautiful story is told. I look to perform theatre that will change me and hopefully challenge the audience's minds and that is exactly why this role, and show, has been at the top of my bucket list.

Do you feel like you have any personal connection or similarities to your character? 

Throughout the course of rehearsing for a show, I always dig into myself and into my character to truly find if I’ve ever felt the way, or been put into similar emotional situations, as my character in my own life. I knew going into this show that the personal relationships, growing and depleting within the show, were going to strike a very personal chord with me. Within those relationships, that I found myself sometimes being reminded of my own younger years. I was definitely able to relate to not only Medium Alison, but the girl, and woman, Alison Bechdel was and grew up to be!

What did you do in order to learn more about the show and Alison’s story?

Going into auditions, I knew the show backward and forward already because of my previous love for it. That being said, it's a dangerous game to play with getting too many ideas in your head before auditioning and going crazy with your own version of who you think this character is. So, I read up (as we all should) on Alison Bechdel's comics, biographies, so many google searches. I wanted to know who SHE IS, not who the character was on stage. So once I learned the ropes of Alison Bechdel, I tried to bring to life a version of who I think she is.

What was it like to perform “Changing My Major” on the stage at Grand Rapids Pride Festival?

This was an experience I will absolutely never forget. Being able to see the community we are representing come together and enjoy our message was amazing. Performing was an emotionally joyous experience, that soon shifted to overwhelming pride and honor for my fellow cast-mate Evangeline VanderArk as I watched her perform her solo performance, “Ring of Keys." My eyes turned to the crowd as I watched loved ones grip each other tightly and sob into one other out of sheer happiness that their stories are being told. I ugly cried, to say the least.

Photo Credit | Ashlee Lambart

What does being an Ally of the LGBTQ community mean to you?

BE A VOICE! So many in the community are silenced or are affairs to speak up. Do not be afraid. You can not let the fear of others stand in front of doing what is right. If there is an opportunity your privilege gives you, to help the LGBTQ community, use it. We do not all have equal standing and if yours seems to be higher than theirs, please, pull them up. Most importantly, being a truly decent human being by loving a person for their heart and mind.

How can people be better Allys to the LGBTQ community here in Grand Rapids?

Stop being afraid to speak up. Stop being afraid to attend the rallies and protests and parades. Don’t be afraid to ask how you can help. For example, I asked my friends. I never actually thought about going into LGBTQ centers to volunteer until I asked how I could help. I would never have known allies can help mentor younger LGBTQ community members, but I asked. “Sometimes it’s nicer having an ally because then you know you’re loved not just by other gays. It’s nice to know there are ACTUAL allies out there ya know? People who aren’t the same, but still get it.” -Jude Libner. Thank you very much, Jude, for answering my questions with such prompt answers!

What do you know now about the LGBTQ experience that you didn't prior to being involved in Fun Home?

As I am heterosexual, I’ve never had to come out; never had to be put through that kind of anxiety and fear. I obviously knew it was there, but it was vastly different than just knowing something exists but then living through it on the stage. Also I realized, everyone in the LGBTQ community has their very own personal coming-of-age story, some yet to be written, that all happen only when they are ready to write it themselves; completely unique to each person.

You come from a Catholic family. How have you explained or shared your involvement in Fun Home with your own family? What's their reaction to the show? 

I grew up attending private Catholic schools years k-12; it is an essential part of my family. That being said, because we are a loud, vivacious, Italian, and dramatically theatrical we don’t struggle with love and acceptance. I have never struggled speaking with my immediate family about the racy theater I get to be in--it is more the “traditional” family members that I don’t always feel comfortable inviting. I always want performances to be seen, heard and enjoyed for the message important to the show.

Fun Home is about Alison Bechdel's story, but there's a little of all of us in this show. Would you encourage members of the Catholic community to see the show? 

I ABSOLUTELY think every member of the Catholic community should come and see the show! I know that there would be plenty of audience members that would more than likely leave mid-performance, as we have already had a handful do so, and I think that this action truly speaks the loudest in terms of compassion and love (in terms of faith especially). Our theatre is welcoming to all, so please buy those tickets!

What is your favorite moment performing as Medium Alison?

Of course, the solo number “Changing my Major” is incredible to get to perform nightly, but the continuous character arc through the show in Medium Alison is tremendous. This is such an incredible gift for any actor who loves what they do. To have the challenge of that with someone who is so likeable and kind-hearted and good like Alison, is just simply a blessing. The ‘Finale’ song when we, all three Alison’s, get to sing together is my favorite moment in time while performing, though. 

Photo Credit | Ashlee Lambart

Don't miss Fun Home on the Circle stage for the final three performances, July 26-28 at 7:30pm.

For tickets: circletheatre.org/tickets/funhome

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