Madeline is an award-winning director of new plays, classics, and opera who believes the stories we pass down inform our collective possible futures. She is deeply influenced by the stories and oral traditions passed down to her by her great-aunt Gladys Tantaquidgeon, former Mohegan Medicine Woman, and her mother Melissa Tantaquidgeon Zobel, current Medicine Woman. For her work as a director she has been honored as a 2019 Drama League Director-In-Residence, a 2018 Forbes 30 Under 30 in Hollywood & Entertainment, TED Fellow, MIT Media Lab Director’s Fellow, National Directing Fellow, and a recipient of The White House Champion of Change Award from President Obama. Her work ranges from reinterpretations of Shakespeare to absurdist comedy, and explores the complexities of identity, culture, and media. She premiered a critically acclaimed production of The Magic Flute, embedding indigenous ideologies into the classic opera, and wrote the cover story for the first issue of American Theater Magazine to focus on Native Theater. This spring she is directing Shakespeare's Henry IV (1 & 2) at Connecticut Repertory Theatre, Midsummer Night's Dream at South Dakota Shakespeare, and will also be performing her solo show Where We Belong at Shakespeare's Globe in London.
"I like that theater brings different groups together," she shared, going on to discuss her role in ensuring that indigenous ideologies are represented on stage, and why she works to give mythic figures a voice they may not have had previously. By making space for underrepresented ethnicities, ideologies, and genders, Madeline is allowing for broader and more creative interpretations of classic pieces, such as the works of Shakespeare, whose work she grew up on and still feels drawn to for many reasons. "I think that Shakespeare moves with the time and can be read differently depending on what's happening in the world," she said. "Most of his iconic lines ask questions rather than provide answers, which allows the audience to be included with the characters and their journey."
Madeline explained how her time at Williams helped to prepare her to take on responsibility and risks through her involvement in the theater community as well as other clubs. Of course she cites Mrs. Martineau's influence as well, referencing in particular the Jabberwocky assignment which requires students to interpret poetic language, and is still used in class today.
Madeline also spoke to her belief that staying open and curious allowed her to build a career beyond what her original aspirations were, which previously began and ended with acting. "I know now that every 'yes’ leads to more yeses, because I can trace my career back from the beginning to now based on what opportunities opened up others for me."
She wrapped up by answering questions from students and faculty members, sharing her feelings about facing her fears and risking failure in the creative process, and encouraging others to do the same. "I never feel like my shows are completely ready, but you're only given so much time to work on them and at a certain point you just have to let go and see what happens."