Student actor & playwright sets the stage for a prolific career in theatre

The writer of Imaginary Theatre Company’s Gnaw will take his original play to Toronto’s Fringe Festival

Sean Meldrum is an actor and playwright whose work has garnered a high reputation at Queen’s.
Sean Meldrum is an actor and playwright whose work has garnered a high reputation at Queen’s.

There aren’t many Queen’s students who can rightfully call themselves professional theatre artists, and although Sean Meldrum doesn’t always admit to it, he’s one of the few.

Now in his final year at Queen’s, Meldrum is both an actor and a playwright. He’s been cast in Canadian playwright Judith Thompson’s new show, Hothouse, and he’s taking his latest play, Gnaw, to the Fringe Festival in Toronto this summer.

Gnaw went up for the first time at Queen’s this fall to wild success. The play twists the classic fairytale of Hansel and Gretel, turning it into a dark story set in a time of great famine. The characters are raw and real, and unapologetically angry at their situation. It’s a play that showcases Meldrum's talent.

The official poster for Sean Meldrum’s original play Gnaw, which played at the Tett Centre earlier in the school year. (Supplied by Imaginary Theatre Company)

But Meldrum says he never thought he’d work in theatre when he was younger.

“Drama was never really a thing before university,” he said.

“You could consider me a dramatic kid — I liked memorizing poems and standing up and saying them at family reunions … but that was it.”

However, when he auditioned for his first Queen’s show, 5th Company’s The Woman Before, he got the role and began a journey that led to a budding career as a professional actor and playwright.

“I just always really tried to audition for the thing that I thought would be really challenging ... I never wanted to go and do something that I felt like I could do easily,” Meldrum said.

“I talked to someone who said ‘treat it like a job until it is’, so that was what I tried to do.”

Having found his talent, Meldrum continued to work with the theatre community at Queen’s, eventually starring in the Drama Department Winter 2014 Major, Lilies. The annual fall and winter majors are some of the biggest shows on campus; this was a big step in his acting career.

But as he grew as an actor, Meldrum explored other roles in theatre production.

Sean Meldrum on stage during his performance in Vagabond Theatre’s Blackbird earlier in the school year. (Supplied by Vagabond Theatre Company)

“I was performing in things, [and] I was like ‘I really to want to try to write this kind of stuff too,’” he said.

Meldrum wrote and submitted multiple plays to Vogt Theatre (now known as Power Presents: Drama Studio Series) along with other companies, all while working on his writing.

Reflecting back, how does he feel about his career today?

“It’s crazy. It’s totally crazy,” he says. “It doesn’t feel real at all.”

Hothouse is running from Feb. 19 to March 6, 2016, at the Isabel Bader Centre for the Performing Arts. 

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