Meghan Murphy is compulsively curious. This has served her well. She is a capable broadcaster, documentary filmmaker, actor, writer and public speaker. Work in the arts usually comes in the form of gigs- temporary, diverse, sometimes sporadic. Asked if her diversity of experience is the result of choice or necessity, Meghan affirms that it is a conscious choice. This season she is funneling her energy helping the 4th Line Theatre celebrate their 30th anniversary as Associate Artistic Director, Special Projects.
The podcast was a natural fit. The project was designed to capture the remarkable history of the 4th Line Theatre’s journey from neglected farm fields and a dilapidated barn into a thriving artistic hub celebrating local history. It gave Meghan the pretext to ask a lot of questions of a lot of people, from actors, producers, writers, directors and volunteers. She could relate to all of them. How perfect was that? Called Treading the Barn Boards, this six-part series is hosted, produced and engineered by Meghan. Talk about creative control! She also brings thirteen years of experience as a professional radio announcer to the project. Three of the episodes are now available on the theatre company’s website and on Soundcloud, with more to come.
By far the most daunting task on her list is the development of a play about Peter Robinson. He was an architect of the emigration plan to bring thousands of Irish immigrants to Canada to escape the brutal conditions in Ireland in 1825. More than 2500 people settled in Scotts Plains, later renamed Peterborough, in honour of this pioneer. Her closest project to date was much more personal. In her award-winning feature-length documentary, “Murphy’s Law”, she repeated a 1500 km bicycle trip across southern Ireland by her late father that he had documented in a diary found long after he was gone., and like him, she found the journey life-changing.
After instantly leaping at the idea of creating this historical play, Meghan had what she calls a “gulp” moment, as the magnitude of the task sunk in. Rehearsing for the August play is good preparation helping put into focus all of the elements of producing a play. The project might also require a trip back to Ireland for research where she might find connections between her family and other descendants of these Irish immigrants.
Coming back to acting in the 4th Line Theatre’s, “Wishful Seeing”, Meghan was struck by the notion that she was no longer the ingénue, the youngster learning the ropes. More the Marilla Cuthbert than Anne Shirley in the Green Gables story, she sees her role amongst the cast and crew as a model and mentor to the younger members of the company. It’s a role she embraces. Flub a line, miss a cue? It’s part of the process- move on. She is no prima donna.
One of the 4th Line traditions she particularly enjoys is the moment before a performance or rehearsal where everyone pats each others’ backs. It’s a gesture she uses in her own improve sessions. The symbolism is obvious: “I’ve got your back”. This is a team effort. The audience experience depends on everyone’s performance.
The Peter Robinson play is scheduled to run in 2025, which coincides with the 200th anniversary of the mass migration from Ireland to Peterborough as people faced unimaginable odds to come to Canada for the chance at a better life. It fits her philosophy of speaking for the underdog, explained in the Laurie Buchanan quote “When we listen, we hear someone into existence.”
Megan is a good listener as well as a good talker. She brings a unique breadth of talent, insight and pedigree to her work at the 4th Line Theatre. In fact, there may be no one more suited to address a succession plan for this venerable organization. Could this assignment represent an extended job interview? Perhaps not yet… KG