by Jerica Rice
Dan McLaughlin. If you have been around the theatre world of the University of Northwestern – St. Paul, then you know his name and the important part that he plays in keeping the Northwestern theatre department running smoothly. Apart from being the production manager here at Northwestern, he also wears many other artistic hats. McLaughlin is a triple threat: actor, director and writer.
McLaughlin got his start on all three of these artistic abilities as a child. “When I was young I used to write and direct and act in these stupid plays for my cousin’s birthday parties. They were basically Austin Powers plays. Then in late high school and early college, my friends and I would make movies,” said McLaughlin.
Later, he came to Northwestern to join the theatre department, but he wasn’t sure if he would continue to write or direct. “I was a little intimidated by the idea. I thought, ‘Oh, I’ll just be an actor,’ and then as time went on, Doc Rainbow, the guy who was the artistic director at the time, kind of encouraged me to try it. So I was in the directing class, and it was my first taste of directing theatre, and I really enjoyed that. Then he invited me back after I graduated to direct the Bathrobe plays, and the rest is history.”
As McLaughlin continues on in his artistic career, he would like to always be equally an actor and a director. The only time that he prefers one over the other is when he is directing his own script. “I like directing my own things: things that I write. I don’t necessarily get a huge kick out of directing somebody else’s script. For Shakespeare Abridged, I really enjoyed that, but it’s not as fulfilling to direct somebody else’s work.” Northwestern students had a chance to see him direct his own script last year when he directed his own version of A Christmas Carol during the Bathrobes Festival.
This year at Northwestern, McLaughlin directed The Complete Works of William Shakespeare Abridged. When asked what the highlights of directing that show were for him he said, “There were so many. The cast that we had was such a small group. Just having that three-person cast and small rehearsals, we were able to have fun and take our time and explore the show together. It felt super laid back; it was the most laid back show that I had done here, and I think it was because the cast and crew meshed really well.”
Being a Northwestern grad himself, McLaughlin enjoys working at Northwestern both as the production manager and as a director. His favorite part is “being around and working with the students. They’re so full of life and fun. They’re good kids as old people would say.”
When McLaughlin was a theatre major at Northwestern, he was in many productions, but his favorite role was John Proctor in The Crucible. “It’s such a powerful show. It’s obviously very dramatic and heavy and important. It feels like a show that will always be timely, so it was cool to be involved in something so… epic,” said McLaughlin.
Since graduating from Northwestern, McLaughlin has been making great contributions to the world of theatre, and he is using what he learned about Christianity and faith here at Northwestern in his artistic career. “I think as you get older, faith is your bedrock of your life. Not that you don’t have to try, but naturally faith will come out in your work. Themes that you are passionate about will naturally reflect what you believe about God and the world. It’s not like ‘Hey, I’m doing this thing. Let me put a God stamp on it.’ I think it just naturally comes out.”
Right now, McLaughlin isn’t directing or acting in any shows, but that doesn’t mean that he isn’t working. He is currently in the process of writing more episodes for his soon-to-be web series The Misadventures of Sheevster and Murfo. His first episode “Manic on Minos!” was entered into a Star Wars Fan Film contest and placed in the top 25 out of 500 films submitted from around the world. He shot his second episode in November and is currently in the process of editing it. His YouTube channel can be found by searching “Manic on Minos!” on YouTube or by going to www.facebook.com/ sheevsterandmurfo.
McLaughlin has some parting advice for any Northwestern artists about to go out into the real world, and he gives it freely:
“Be as versatile as possible within your given field, or maybe even consider what it looks like to push the boundaries of what your field is or could be. Seek as many opportunities as you can, and keep doing things, even if it means doing your own things… Put on your own shows, or if you’re an artist, get your own show at a gallery. Really be your own advocate and put in the work. Also, to some extent, have some kind of business mindset, in that you are selling yourself, and sometimes you’re going to have to do your own work. Most of the work I’ve done, or maybe it’s been fifty-fifty, has been opportunities that I’ve created for myself and not that somebody else gave to me or I auditioned for.”