It’s 6:30 p.m. on a humid September day on campus. After a long day of classes in the studio, working in the scenic shop, and tending to college life’s other necessities, performers and technicians begin to assemble in Swisher Theatre – a beacon of performance on the JU campus. This semester theatre students are rehearsing Arthur Miller’s essential American fable, “The Crucible.”
Actors are busy running lines in the seats of the theatre, and one is on stage stretching to prepare for the physical demands of the evening’s work. A few more actors rush in the door so as not to be late for rehearsal and wake the wrath of the production’s director. The sprung floor of the vast stage creaks as a wide-eyed grin rounds stage right to eventually reveal its owner – Brooks Anne Meirdierks ‘82.
Meirdierks exclaims how excited she is to be back in Swisher Theater – and can’t believe how much it’s changed. As a student, she performed in the space many times. This fall, Meirdierks is returning home to play the part of Rebecca Nurse in “The Crucible “– a part she played in 1980, on the exact same stage. She told the students with a sincere smile, “I met my husband doing that show, he played Willard.”
Brooks is part of team of guest artists and actors from the community that are working with students this semester to reimagine Miller’s work. Judge Danforth is played by Jacksonville legend Bill Ratliffe, and the steadfast Giles Corey is brought to life by JU Professor of Philosophy, Dr. Erich Freiberger.
In her time at JU, Meirdierks made lifelong friends and connections that nurtured her passions and pursuits. She recalled a performance with her classmate, Michael Fritton, and a particularly fiery moment.
“Well, everyone smoked back then – and you could smoke in the buildings – in costume. So, one time I was late for a cue and threw a cigarette butt out in the trash can in a hurry and we came back after the scene to find it ablaze in the dressing room.”
Since graduating from JU under the guidance of Frances Bartlett Kinne, Meirdierks has enjoyed an enviable career in theatre and performance. She’s worked in New York, Hollywood, and on stages across the country. She’s served as a spokesperson and appeared in film and television. Some of her favorite performances include Marsha Norman’s “Night Mother,” “The Foreigner,” and “Steel Magnolias.”
Come see Meirdierks return to her college roots and set the stage on fire (with her performance, to be sure) as Rebecca Nurse in The Department of Theatre’s Production of “The Crucible.” The role of Rebecca Nurse is key to Miller’s fable. She is portrayed as the kindest, most sincere resident of Salem in the play and suffers greatly at the hand of the justice being wielded by the aggressors of the story.