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Refusing to be typecast

Rowan Meyer

Rowan Meyer returned earlier this month to the Lehigh Valley after a five-day stint of auditions in New York City, perhaps a little tired, but undeniably energized by the experience.

Meyer, a fifth-year presidential scholar in the theatre department tackled four auditions a day in the hopes of landing a spot in a Master’s of Fine Arts (MFA) program at either the National Theatre Conservatory in Denver or DePaul University in Chicago.

“I’ve kept close contact with professors who already have their MFAs in theatre, and they helped coach me and prepare me,” says Meyer, who spent most of his time dashing around the city, presenting 4-10 minute monologues and musical selections from contemporary pieces and musical theatre. In between auditions, he did find time to sneak away to visit the Bethesda Fountain in Central Park which is featured in his favorite play Angels in America.

“The MFA will serve as an incubator for the next two to three years, honing and focusing his acting with like-minded colleagues and peers at a time when a young person can mature and become more castable,” says Augustine Ripa, Jr., professor and chair of the Theatre Department.

The “Great White Way” wasn’t exactly where Meyer first pictured himself when he enrolled at Lehigh as a double major in biology and math, but the Gloucester, Massachusetts native turned his extracurricular interests into a career pursuit. Meyer, who was active in theatre for about six years before attending Lehigh, will graduate with degrees in both theatre and French.

Ripa says that Meyer’s tenure at Lehigh is indicative of a good, well-rounded education that a bachelor of arts in theatre can provide. “You have to learn everything,” he says. “There are all sorts of skills, ways of learning and modes of thinking that a good theatre artist needs to have.”

To help further develop those skills, Meyer is taking on another role—this time as a student director of the production Frozen. After satisfying all the prerequisites and proving himself a serious student of the theatre, Meyer was offered the opportunity to direct in the Zoellner Arts Center’s Diamond Theater. Meyer spends about four hours a night, five to six nights a week rehearsing with the all-student cast.

In Frozen, written by Bryony Lavery, the lives of a criminal psychologist, a homicidal pedophile and an English woman are tragically and irreversibly linked after the disappearance of the woman’s youngest daughter.

“A new direction for me”

“I tend to focus on heavily ensemble shows, but I like this because it’s a challenge and a new direction for me,” says Meyer. “Casting is about 85 percent of the work, and it’s been great to have friends as actors. I know what to say to get the best out of them.”

At Lehigh, Meyer has directed Salvage Baas and Polaroid Stories, and performed in The Shape of Things, How I Learned to Drive, A Midsummer Night's Dream, Bug, Arcadia, The Fantasticks, The Banana Man, A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum and What the Butler Saw. He has worked on additional productions outside of Lehigh through Cedar Crest College, the Theatre Outlet and Northwestern University.

“Rowan was already a serious student of the arts when he came to Lehigh and is an exceptionally bright student,” says Ripa. “He has been able to build a portfolio in directing and acting and will be competitive as a theatre artist.”

Meyer says that if he doesn’t end up pursuing his MFA, he will likely return to New York to audition for acting roles, working in whatever capacity that will allow him to do so. Either way, he says, he’s ready to take the next step after Lehigh. “I’m very excited. I don’t know exactly where I’m going, but that’s OK with me.”

Frozen opened February 15-17 and is in the midst of a second run (February 20-23). Tickets are $12 or $5 for students and are available by calling 610-7LU-ARTS or by going online.

--Tricia Long

Posted on Thursday, February 21, 2008

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