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Megan McGuff: Artistic Drive, Passion, and Determination

Armed with infinite initiative, Megan comes off the strappy heels of playing “Legally Blonde” lead role Elle Wood, and now tours the country with the all-age endearing “Matilda” production, slated to hit Houston’s Theatre Under the Stars October 16-18.

Interviewed by Sara G. Stephens

HFM: When did start your musical theatre training?
I started training in highschool, when I was 14, at Humphrey’s School of Musical Theatre. I trained there for around four years, and I’m a substitute dance teacher there now.

HFM: At what point did you know you wanted to pursue theatre professionally?
MM: Musical theatre is definitely my passion. I’ve been curious about it most of my life, and I knew for sure I wanted to pursue it professionally when I did my first musical, during my freshman year of high school. That was “Beauty and Beast.” It’s funny, because another ensemble member of the show I’m in now, Matilda, was in that same high school production. He played Gaston. So, it’s come full circle.

HFM: What high school did you go to?
I went to Dawson High School in Pearland ISD. I homeschooled in my senior year so I could focus on getting work in the theatre. Then I started working professionally in TUTS [Theatre Under the Stars] Main Stage shows. It’s a great program. I would recommend it to anybody.

HFM: Was that a difficult transition for you after attending public school all your life?
MM: It was actually easier for me than public school. I have problems focusing with a lot of noise. All the kids talking around me distracted me from learning.

HFM: But was it hard to maintain discipline with your studies, with everything else going on?
MM: Not at all. I was way more disciplined in home school. It was so much easier for me. I didn’t enjoy high school as much as homeschool. Emotionally I was tired because I was working so much, but I managed. It’s something I loved to do, so it wasn’t really a problem for me.

HFM: How did your parents feel about your decision to invest yourself so deeply into theatre? Were they supportive?
My family is very artistic. My cousin is an actress and playwrite, and my family supports all the arts. My mom is a single mom–she’s on tour with me now. She completely supports me in what I’m doing.

HFM: So do you think theatre is in your blood? I wonder if that’s a trait that gets passed down.
MM: It depends on the family. Some of the kids I know in theatre do have a bunch of family members in the business, but there are kids who do and wouldn’t have a desire to do this job.I think it’s different for each family.

HFM: What’s it like having Mom tour with you?
Oh my god, it’s so great! I love it so much. We’re experiencing new cities we haven’t been to, and we get to do it together, which makes it so much better. Being on tour has been very different than what I’m used to when I’m at home in Houston. We go non stop–constantly doing something new every day. We went powerboating the other day and jumped into a lake in our clothes, cuz we didn’t have our swim suits.

HFM: Sounds like fun. How’s that different from how you spend your free time in Houston?
MM: I’m actually kind of a homebody. I spend a lot of time at home. I like to go downtown, to the parks. I like West U and Highland Village, those areas, especially the creperie in West U. I’m relaxed, and I just like to chill out when I get home because I’m so busy when I’m out touring. I have four dogs and a cat who I just love. I really miss them when I’m away, but my grandpa takes care of them.

HFM: Tell me about Grandpa.
Oh, he’s so sweet! He came to L.A. to see me perform, and I will get him to come to Seattle. He’s so supportive of my career. He comes to as many shows as he can. He can’t move as well as he used to, so just getting on a plane is big deal. It’s really special to have him care so much.

HFM: If you weren’t in musical theatre, what would you do?
My love is definitely being on stage, but I also love teaching children. I love when their eyes light up when they’re learning something new, or when they discover they can create something. I find it so interesting to see how every child does things differently. I love seeing all the personalities. My dance students are eager to learn, which is so nice.

HFM: How would you advise your students–or any kid–about making it in the theatre? What does it take?
MM: You have to work hard and keep trying no matter how many times you’re told “no.” You have to have drive and the willingness to keep going.

HFM: Tell me about the show you’re working now, “Matilda the Musical.”
MM: Every age will enjoy this show. It’s meant for everybody. There’s something to grab kids’, teens’ and adults’ attention. It’s not a kids show–it has some dark moments and some light moments. The music is fantastic, and Dennis Kelly wrote a great book–it’s really funny and really scary at times. It’s also a very moving musical. “When I Grow Up” is one of the best numbers in the show.

HFM: What role do you play?
MM:I play a kid, Hortensia, in the ensemble. I went to the audition and to callbacks for about five months. At that time I was going out for the “swings”–they learn every part, so if somebody calls out of the show, the swings go in. At some point it switched to them wanted me to play Hortensia. I was so excited when I got the call. I was jumping up and down. It’smostly a dancing part–it’s a hardcore dancing show.

HFM: How do prepare to go onstage?
MM: It’s a different mindset for each role. For Hortensia, I need to make sure my moves the sharpest possible, and that my dialect is clear when singing. We’re using British accents in the show, which is new for me. It’s also a different experience moving to an ensemble role after playing a lead part.

HFM: You played Elle Wood in “Legally Blonde.” That must have been fun.
Yes! She’s my favorite part to play in any of the shows I’ve ever done. I’m not like her at all–I mean, I do like to go shopping, and so does she–but other than that, we have nothing in common. Maybe that’s why she was such a fun part to play. But it was such a challenge. I was literally on stage the whole show, except to go off stage and get changed. It definitely gave me something to work for, and the show itself was so much fun.

HFM: What are your plans after “Matilda?”
I’m planning on moving to the east coast after I’m done with the tour, which should be six months, possibly a year. Ultimately, my goal is to live in New York and be on Broadway. Hopefully, that will happen soon!

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