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May 1, 2015
|Megan Friend appears, with Matt Sweeten, in Theatre Northwest's 2013 production of "Barefoot in the Park."|
Two years ago, Megan Friend was only a sophomore at Northwest Missouri State University and could hardly believe it when she was cast in the lead role of Corie Bratter in Theatre Northwest’s production of the romantic comedy “Barefoot in the Park.”
The experience proved to be a pivotal one for her confidence and development as an actress – especially after the play’s director Dr. Theo Ross, a professor of theatre at Northwest, issued her challenge.
“I really just couldn’t believe that he believed in me enough to put me in his show with all of these juniors and seniors at the time,” Friend recalled. “We were in rehearsals and I just wasn’t giving 100 percent, or I just wasn’t giving him what he wanted, and he said ‘Megan, do you want people to say that you belong in educational theatre or do you want people to say that you belong on Broadway?’ From there, it just kind of took off.”
Take off she did, delivering memorable performances during that play’s run, along with several others since. Through her experiences at Northwest, Friend has developed her skills as an actor, writer, director and teacher.
She graduates this spring with her bachelor’s degree in speech theatre education and begins her employment with Respect, a touring theatre troupe based in her hometown of Omaha, Neb., that visits students, business professionals and community groups to perform scenes with socially-based themes.
“I came to Northwest hoping that I could maybe do some acting and get into a few of the plays and shows, and it has just exceeded my expectations,” Friend said. “From day one, I was auditioning for things and getting into shows, and I just continued to grow as an artist, as a student and as a person throughout my four years. It’s just exceeded my expectations from what I wanted to gain from my college experience.”
Like so many students who choose Northwest, Friend visited the campus for a tour and found a comfortable community.
“I met professors and met students, and I just felt so comfortable and unafraid,” she said. “It just felt fearless to me and that it was where I needed to be.”
Throughout her years at Northwest, audiences could count on seeing Friend somewhere on the University stage. Children often saw Friend, too, in productions of “Cinderella! Cinderella!”, “The Nutcracker,” “Red vs. The Wolf,” and last winter’s “Snow Queen,” which Friend wrote. Northwest annually takes its children’s shows on the road to area schools.
“Those experiences were wonderful for me because I was able to learn about how children respond, not only for acting but education as well,” Friend said. “It was invaluable to actually go to those schools and perform and prepare for that and have that experience. It’s an experience that not a lot of other universities offer.”
In addition to performing on Northwest’s stages, Friend gained experience with internships at the Omaha Theater Company and the Lexington Children’s Theatre in Lexington, Ky. She also was cast in professional roles at Omaha’s Blue Barn Theatre and the Omaha Community Playhouse.
She also was active in the Alpha Psi Omega theatre fraternity, Northwest’s Comedy Inc., improvisation troupe and the University Players, having served as president of all three organizations.
“I feel very prepared to go into my field,” Friend said. “I’ve already been in a few play productions and I have a job lined up, and I know none of that would have been possible had it not been for the experiences that I’ve had at Northwest and the professors and my peers helping me along the way. There’s no way I could have done it alone, and I’m just very grateful to everyone for everything that they’ve done for me.”
A first-generation college graduate in her family, Friend hopes her hard work has demonstrated the benefits of a college education and sets an example of what her siblings may accomplish. In the meantime, Friend says Northwest will remain a part of who she is.
“It’s not going to just disappear the moment I graduate. It’s something that I’m going to take with me,” she said. “I think back on the experiences I’ve had at Northwest and how I’ve grown and how I’ve learned, and I try to apply those to my everyday life."
Mark Hornickel, Communication Manager
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Northwest Missouri State University
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