Backstage Magic: Meet Student Kaitlyn Meule
Originally from Pennsylvania, Kaitlyn Meule is a second-year student at John Cabot University majoring in Art History. In Fall 2023, she was Stage Manager for the JCU Performing Arts Company, and in Spring 2024 she was given the role of Creative Director.
How did you become passionate about art?
I spent a lot of my childhood surrounded by the arts. I was a kid who always had a pencil in her hand and was drawing on some random piece of paper. And then, when I was about five or six, I got to see my first live theater production, The Little Mermaid, with my cousins and grandparents. That same play was the first show I ever did in high school, and my grandparents got to see me perform.
Doing theater is different than the experience of playing a musical instrument or singing as a member of a choir. You could see yourself as a piece of the puzzle rather than a minuscule drop in the bucket. I was initially a shy kid and found myself and my voice through theater. I found myself making art and really caring about what I was doing. It helped me come out of my shell and solidify who I was.
Why did you choose to major in Art History?
The decision came from a lifetime of doing art and my family taking me to museums and wanting to be involved with the arts, especially coming from a small town in Pennsylvania. Every time we went to a bigger city, we would go to museums and theaters to expose me to the arts because it was something I cared about. As I got older, it continued to grow. There are many things you see, learn, and gather from studying art history and understanding all the different philosophies and sociologies that go into it. It’s an interdisciplinary major, which is what I was looking for.
What brought you to Rome and JCU?
It started with a vacation to Italy for my 16th birthday. Our tour guide talked about all the international students he saw every day. I wasn’t really thinking about college yet, but it put a seed in my head of something I could do. We came back home and I started emailing the JCU admissions office to find out what they look for in a student and what I could do to make myself a prime candidate. From the first moment I found out about JCU, it was my dream school.
Tell us more about your role as the stage manager for Puffs and what you learned from that experience.
I did a lot, from helping with casting to building sets and running rehearsals to helping people with staging and blocking, sound design, lights… everything. I was lucky enough to have some study abroad students who were here for that time who helped me. It was a lot of hands-on stuff, and it was chaotic, but I loved it all.
I learned that I flourish creatively when I’m doing behind-the-scenes work. There is a specific set of skills I have in theater, and it makes me happy to know that I can use those skills to impact the final project. It’s helped me develop pride in my work and deal with self-doubt by creatively putting the pieces together and making something. I saw the impact I could have on the actors and other crew members, and it was special to see their positive reactions. I was allowed to take pride in what I do. They want to see these things get done and I can do them.
What is the Performing Arts Company working on this semester and what is your role?
We’re doing Jekyll & Hyde – the Musical and it’s going to be a lot of fun. Jekyll & Hyde is something that has a lot of drama to it. It’s a bit less of a Broadway classic and has more rock undertones to it. It’s unique. Also, it’s a drama, and we did a comedy in the fall. I think it’s always a good thing to do one drama and one comedy in a year.
My official title is Creative Director for the show. I’ll also be doing the music for it, so I’m going to be helping the cast with singing. A lot of people coming from European high schools don’t have a lot of music experience, and I’m excited to work with everybody and use the experience that I was lucky to get in an American setting.
How do you balance your responsibilities for theater alongside schoolwork?
I need to be constantly busy, and it’s a great form of mental stimulation. I’m never bored, and I love that. I’m always thinking about x, y, and z for the show while also thinking about all the cool papers I write for my classes. I love reading academic articles, being involved, and having discussions. So, I get to prepare for class, and then in my downtime, I get to work towards something that will have a great product. It’s like my own creative outlet on the side, but it will produce something the whole student body can enjoy.
What advice would you give to students who are considering going to college abroad?
Do it. Studying abroad will reframe the entire way you look at the world. It’ll introduce you to some of the most interesting and amazing people you’ve ever met. You will not be the same after studying abroad. I’ve talked to my friends who have studied abroad, and they always hold a piece of the place they’ve visited fondly in their hearts. It’s an intrinsically woven part of them. It’s nice to think of ourselves as tapestries in that sense. We’re all made up of the weavings and threads of everything we do in our life. And I think studying abroad is like a shiny piece of thread that we can put into ourselves.
What are your plans for the future?
I want to go to graduate school with the end goal of working with INTERPOL in cultural heritage crime. I’m only a sophomore, so I’m still looking into various graduate programs. Right now, it’s cultural heritage crime because I think it’s so interesting. I love working with art and being hands-on while researching. I’m taking an art law class now, and it’s just really driving the nail home that this is the coolest thing ever.