This is part of a series about our 2016 Emerging Artists. They will perform selections from three powerful plays by Black women, August 5-7, for Intiman Theatre’s Emerging Artist Showcase. Join us for this free show! LEARN MORE.

Madison Kylie Spillman | Actor
Q: When did you know you wanted to dedicate your career to the arts?
A: I toyed with the idea of acting or performing, throughout my childhood — re-enacting my favorite Disney movies on the playgrounds of my elementary schools with my friends, curating musical showcases for the neighborhood with my karaoke machine, and giving dramatic readings of my little brother’s books, before his bedtime — but the realization that my dramatic tendencies could be translated into a career didn’t hit me until my sophomore year of high school. It was then that I auditioned for the winter musical, Once Upon a Mattress. I had never worked so hard for anything in my life than I did for that audition, and I was cast as the antagonist, an evil Queen Mother intent on maintaining her rule and her position of power over her adult son, and I was later nominated as an Outstanding Supporting Female Character by 5th Avenue Theatre’s High School Musical Awards. Suddenly, something that I hadn’t even realized I had been doing, all my life, became something that I was good enough at to be recognized by a major Seattle theatre. So, I dove into it, head first, and I never resurfaced.

Q: Why is theatre important to you?
A: In the past ten years, my relationship with theatre has truly matured, but the personal core has endured. Theatre is something that I get to share with others; it’s my contribution to society, my gift to friends, family, and strangers, and it’s a tool that artists use to teach its audiences, challenge preconceptions, inspire other artists, and invite its viewers to engage in critical thought. A colleague of mine once defined theatre as the ‘art of empathy,’ but I would take it one step further. Theatre, to me, is an art form that visually, emotionally, and intellectually connects its audience and its creators in a network that opens itself to empathy — for those people to take or to leave — and inspires conversation and connection to those outside of that network. It’s with that empathy that theatre becomes a tool with which we can unlock and open the door to progressive, social change.

Q: What excites you about the Emerging Artist Program?
A: As is often my favorite aspect of my artistic endeavors, the most exciting thing about the Emerging Artist Program, to me, is the people that I get to surround myself with. This is a particularly talented, beautifully diverse group of artists; it’s a group of actors, directors, stage managers, writers, and producers from all walks of life, of varying ages and races, with many different skill-sets, all willing to open their minds and their hearts to one another in a way that I’m not sure I’ve ever experienced, before. It’s reminded me how much I thrive — not only as an artists, but as a human being — in these artistic communities, and has re-inspired my decision and re-established my resolve to pursue my art. And I thank each member of my troupe for that reminder and for the inspiration.

Q: What is one experience that stands out in the program so far?
A: I used to be assertive, and confident, and extroverted, but over the course of the last few years, I have become the opposite of those things: I have become introverted, and self-conscious, and timid. After a talk we had with Valerie Curtis-Newton — one that was incredibly inspiring, and one that I took very detailed notes on — she asked for the people who had not made verbal contributions to the conversation to raise their hands. There were three of us. I watched her cross her arms over her chest as she made silent, meaningful eye-contact with each of us from her place on the stage. And then she said something that really struck me. “Remember. If you don’t speak up, you’ll never be heard.” She gave a lot of great advice in her talk — among my favorite, “get so good that the merit of your art can never be questioned,” — but nothing so necessary for my own, personal growth as, “if you don’t speak up, you’ll never be heard.” Paired with the pre-program research we were asked to do, which gave me a foundational understanding that being wrong, saying the wrong thing, and making wrong decisions is okay, has truly opened the door to the confidence I once possessed. Despite creeping social anxieties, despite the fears of sounding stupid, or making an acting choice that might not be correct, I have found myself taking risks, making comments when I normally would have been silent, contributing to analyses and conversations in ways I never would have, before this program. I’m breaking out of the shell that I have constructed for myself, because Val took a moment, at the end of her workshop, to remind me of my voice.

Q: What or who is your biggest inspiration?
A: I am very lucky to have three major inspirational figures in my life: my mother and two of my best friends. When I was younger, I told my mom that I thought she and I were soul mates — not in a romantic sense, obviously, but that, somehow, our souls were entwined and that we were always destined to collide. It was a heady, metaphysical description of our connection, but to this very day, I still think it could be true. She pushes me, and I push her; what she lacks, I have, and everything I lack, she has. We’re opposites, in many ways, and in others, I’m her replica. And then, there are my friends — Catherine and Robin, a screenwriter and an actor, respectively. The three of us make up a creative trio that provides a system of support and reason for each member. They serve as my council, my critics, and my motivators, all in one, encouraging me to make bold choices and to identify the positive in all I do.

Madison Kylie Spillman graduated from Fordham University’s London Dramatic Academy in 2013 and from Seattle University with a bachelor’s degree in theatre in 2015. A self-proclaimed, ‘jill-of-all-trades’ in the realm of theatrical arts, Kylie is delighted to be a part of the Intiman Emerging Artists’ program. Her recent stage credits include Maria in Love’s Labor’s Won, Olivia in Twelfth Night, Béline in Imaginary Invalid, Cindy in Fefu and her Friends, Gertrude in Hamlet, and Miss Prism in The Importance of Being Earnest. She also had the pleasure of appearing on-stage in New Century Theatre Company’s recent production of Festen. Kylie would like to take this opportunity to thank all of her mentors – professional and personal, American and English alike – for their endless support and for pushing her to be more than she ever thought she could be.


Join us for our Emerging Artist Showcase August 5-7 at Seattle Repertory Theatre. We will feature selections from three plays: The Owl Answers and A Movie Star Has To Star In Black And White by Adrienne Kennedy and Black Super Hero Magic Mama by Inda Craig-Galván. The show is free and open to the public. RSVP HERE.