By Keith Tomasek, May 1, 2018
Melissa Metler is an English teacher at Holy Cross Catholic Secondary School in Strathroy; she also directs her school’s musical theatre productions. She was born and raised in London, Ont., and has been acting in and around the city for the past seven years. Currently she’s appearing in the St. Marys Community Players’ production of “All My Sons.”
In 2017, she was nominated for a Brickenden Award for Best Supporting Female Actor for her portrayal of Martha in the London Community Player’s “The Secret Garden – A Musical.” She has also been nominated for two Western Ontario Drama League Awards, first for her portrayal of Sally Bowles in the St. Marys Community Players’ 2015 award-winning “Cabaret,” and this past winter for her role as Vivien Bliss in the London Community Players’ “Nurse Jane Goes to Hawaii.”
Melissa Metler in Cabaret.
Photo: Lucid Musings
“All My Sons” is Melissa’s fifth production with the St. Marys Community Players.
1) You teach “All My Sons” to your high school students. Do most of the students know that the Grammy Award-winning group Twenty One Pilots were inspired to take their name from the twenty one pilots referred to in the play?
Students don’t always make the connection immediately, but they usually pick up on it before the end of the first act. It creates inroads for them to enter into discussion about the big ideas of the play on their own terms. It was actually a student who told me that the members of the band are from Columbus, Ohio, not far from where the play is set and where one character is, in the action of the play, in prison for a crime he didn’t commit.
2) The play’s main themes include the unintended consequences of one’s actions, guilt and responsibility – perfect for high school students as they transition to young adults. Although it’s set in post-war America are the students quick to recognize the play’s relevance to contemporary society?
They are quick to pick up on the relevance of the play’s content: the struggle between family and social responsibility, the cost of success, the pitfalls and evils of living in a world often ruled by money and power. We study the play using its many connections to classical and Shakespearean tragedy, which gives them a familiar foundation to build from.
More than anything, Miller wrote such believable characters, each of whom holds up a mirror to life in their own way. It feels real for them, and gives them a new experience of what theatre can look like.
3) The character you play, Ann Deever, goes through emotional turmoil, turns her back on her father and is the only character who truly reaches her objective. While teaching the play did any of your students relate deeply to Ann and if so did it inform your approach to playing the character?
A lot of students, and even members of our SMCP cast, have experienced conflict when trying to understand Ann. She’s the antagonist of the play, though unwittingly so, and that causes a lot of debate.
Some students see her as a character whose main objective is to destroy the Kellers as her own family has been destroyed, some see her as a gold digger, and thankfully, most come to know her as a genuine, honest character who has fallen in love with an equally honest man.
All of those things informed my own character development, though admittedly she has always been my favourite character in the play and I went into rehearsals fully believing in her goodness. I hope that comes through on stage.
4) What came first teaching or acting?
I acted in elementary and early high school, but made the choice to stick with choral music after that. When I started teaching, there was an opportunity to be the assistant director for a production of “Godspell,” and from there I was hooked; I’ve directed all of our shows since. I get to work with students from all walks of life and a wonderful group of teachers who make up our production team.
The joys and challenges that come with working on productions made me realize that I missed being on stage. I auditioned for my first adult role seven years ago, and have had wonderful and rewarding experiences ever since that keep me coming back. Community theatre is pretty special that way.
Either / Or
From each pair below pick one. Explain in three sentences or less.
1) Musicals or Drama?
There is a magic to musical theatre that is unmatched for me, both in performing and as a member of the audience. When I was young, my aunt would take us to big productions in Toronto and my parents started summer vacations by booking front row seats to whatever musical was playing at the Huron Country Playhouse; every one of those trips felt like the adventure of a lifetime. Once, we even got to sing Happy Birthday to Donny Osmond after a performance of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.”
2) Stratford or Mirvish?
I saw my first production at Stratford in 1993; I was on a Grade Six field trip to “The Mikado,” and the thing I remember best is how gravity-defyingly tall the Lord High Executioner’s wooden sandals were. Stratford never fails to help me fall in love with theatre all over again.
3) Laurie Metcalf or Frances McDormand?
I polled the cast for this one: Frances McDormand by a six to three ratio.
4) Grading student work at home or at school?
At school. And at home. (And sometimes in the St. Marys Community Players Green Room, at the moment.)
All My Sons
St. Marys Community Players
Final performance 2pm, Sunday May 6th
Get details online
St. Marys Town Hall Theatre
175 Queen Street East
St. Marys, ON