For Madison McVeigh, theater performance is beyond a program of study or a hobby: it’s a personal passion. Acting reminds her to be brave, a message which she shared on her graduation cap—“Be brave enough to go outside of my comfort zone. Be brave enough to try something new. Be brave enough to be myself.”
As a little girl, McVeigh loved watching the Oscars with her family and putting on home plays while directing her siblings as cast members. Her theater career began when she was 15, and she developed her fondness for acting when she first read the New York Times best seller novel series, “The Hunger Games,” where she dreamed to audition for a character in the adapted movie series.
“That was the first time I decided to pursue acting as a career path and a passion I want to explore. I began searching for theater programs and found the Acting for Young People.”
McVeigh first joined AFYP’s summer Weekly Acting Camp as a freshman in high school. The faculty and staff encouraged and motivated her to continue pursuing her love and passion for acting. After her first experience, she continued participating with AFYP through the Summer Advanced Showcase, the Summer Musical Showcase, and the Advanced Actors Showcase.
“When we met McVeigh during her first summer as a student, we knew she was something special,” said Mary Lechter, founder and director of AFYP, the Academy’s theater division. “She was not only doing excellent work as an actor, but setting a strong example for younger students along the way. McVeigh joined us as a teaching assistant and quickly became a leader. Over the past few years, she has been an assistant teacher for our summer camps, a lead teaching artist for our after school programs, and has grown through the ranks to head up our Mini Actors’ Showcase. We are so proud of all that McVeigh has accomplished, and grateful to know that she will continue to work with us after graduation.”
“AFYP has been such an important part of my life as a student, and I don’t want to spend any moment not realizing that,” McVeigh reflected on her experience throughout years as she advanced her roles in AFYP. She said nothing comes naturally but the hard work.
“One of my favorite showcases was the musical showcase ‘Beauty and the Beast,’ which I was hoping us to do the show for years,” said McVeigh. “After I heard this announcement, I trained with a vocal coach months before the audition. When the staff told me I would be the ‘Belle’ in the show, I was over the moon. Every rehearsal was a joy, and I was so excited to go to it.”
McVeigh explained that playing the lead role of “Belle,” taught her how to strive to be an actor. “Being in a leadership position, I remember the weight over my shoulder that the whole cast was looking up to me.”
From day one of “Beauty and the Beast” cast rehearsal, McVeigh challenged herself to be better each day. “I don’t think I was good at choreography, but I kept practicing and pushing myself to step outside of my comfort zone. I remembered vividly that Ahmad Matty, the showcase choreographer, at one rehearsal cheered and said, ‘Yay McVeigh, I have never seen you dance like that.’”
McVeigh carried her work ethic and her passion to college, where she majored in theater performance at George Mason University. There, she met Ms. Lechter again, but as a member of the theater faculty and her mentor. “It was an exciting day when I took attendance in my Acting II class, and there she was! Throughout the semester, she showed the same level of excellence that I had come to know from our earlier collaborations.”
During her time at college, McVeigh was fully immersed in the world of theater. Her studies led her to explore many different facets of theater, including playwriting, stage management, costume design, and acting on camera. She was casted in several major productions within the School of Theater and the Mason Players, such as “The Originals!” “The Imaginary Invalid,” and “ Really, Really.” Her study abroad in England experience brought her a global perspective and she is considering returning to England for a graduate degree next year.
“The staff and faculty at Mason School of Theater are so gifted and equipped with knowledge to help students with career advice, life choices, and personal education,” said McVeigh as she listed the faculty who guided her in the past four years. “In my sophomore year, I didn’t get cast for the first time after auditions. Having lots of free time made me to think about what I want to do for my future. I met with some faculty, such as Dr. Kristin Johnsen-Neshati, Ken Elston, Mary Lechter, and Edward Gero, for advice, They all told me that the future is open as long as I stay open to embrace the opportunities. That was the best advice I have been giving, and I still hold that belief with me today.”
“Madison McVeigh is a natural collaborator. She loves to play in rehearsal and welcomes ideas without judging them,” said Dr. Johnsen-Neshati, associate professor at Mason. “Freedom and generosity define her creative process. Empathy guides her work with others. It’s been a great pleasure to work with Madison McVeigh here at the School of Theater. She’s a brilliant artist with a bright future ahead!”
A member of Mason’s Class of 2020, McVeigh joined other 10,000 students who celebrated their milestone on Friday, May 22, through a virtual commencement ceremony. Although her post-graduate plans have been interrupted due to the COVID-19 pandemic, McVeigh is staying active in the theater world. She has been filming self-tapes and auditions and is virtually collaborating with filmmakers virtually as she bravely steps into this new stage of life.