The National Women's Theatre Festival

Extraordinary Producer Spotlight: Madison McAllister


Sunny day. Building in background reads “Theatre”. Woman in foreground wearing sunglasses is Madison McAllister

Hello again, WTFers! 

For those of you who I didn’t meet this summer during my short stay in Raleigh, my name is Madison and I was the inaugural Directing Apprentice for WTF this year! 

I spent 3 weeks in Raleigh assisting with prep work for the festival, participating in workshops, meeting brilliant artists from across the country, getting items from local businesses for your swag bags, and seeing some fantastic work! It was a great way for me to kick off my early career by getting plugged into WTF, an organization with an important mission that I am very passionate about. 

WTF’s Executive Director Johannah recently reached out and asked me if I would write about my apprenticeship. This is the perfect time to reflect on the highlights and lessons that my time with WTF brought me, especially since the organization is going through a lot of growth and changes right now. 

And before I shift into reflecting mode, I have to give a quick nod to Johannah and her leadership. While working under her, I got to witness someone literally put out fires non-stop and keep this organization running. And now we get to witness her brave transparency as she communicates to you all what changes are being put in place to ensure the future of WTF. 


The biggest impact WTF has had on my life thus far can be boiled down into one word: connection. 


WTF is a prime example of an organization that provides opportunities and fosters relationships. I was lucky to get connected to some incredible artists and organizations that have impacted and will continue to impact my life and my career. I’ll cite 3 examples even though I could write so many more.  


The first example that comes to mind is Rachel Spencer Hewitt and her organization PAAL (Parent Artist Advocacy League). The collaboration with PAAL and Playmakers Repertory Company’s reading of Cry it Out (now one of my favorite plays) followed by a panel about being a parent artist was simply life-changing. Even though I’m not married and don’t have kids yet, I think anyone and everyone working in the theatre should be thinking about ways that we can make working in the arts more accessible to parents and families. It’s part of the conversation on inclusion. Having this organization on my radar thanks to WTF has made me hopeful about someday living the lifestyle of both a mom and a working artist. I’ve always been family-oriented but I’ve been told time and again that I would have to choose between a family and my career. To that I say– I’ll take both, thank you very much. 


Secondly, participating in a 2 day intensive with Theatrical Intimacy Education equipped me with more resources to add to my toolbelt. Our industry is changing and the emotional and physical safety of all people working in the theatre– whether in the rehearsal room or in the office– is finally becoming a priority. The culture of the industry is not changing overnight, but it is changing. I saw this firsthand when I sat in a room of artists across disciplines and generations who all humbly opened their minds to experience new approaches and pedagogy for choreographing intimacy. This was an eye-opening and incredible learning opportunity. Not long after I got home from Raleigh, I dove into my second intimacy choreography gig in my local theatre community of Austin, TX. This gave me the opportunity to put my knowledge I gained from the workshop to use. I have a long way to go and so much to learn, but this was an introduction. A connection. 


Lastly, I am constantly reminded of how small the theatre world really is. I directed a staged reading by Chicago playwright Marjorie Muller for WTF Occupy and met her for the first time at the festival. I had no idea I would see her again so quickly a few months later in my new home in Sarasota, Florida. Her play Regular was chosen for another staged reading festival this fall. I was able to see her again and attend the reading because the theatre was in Sarasota! I could not believe the odds. If not for WTF I wouldn’t have met her or countless other theatre-makers that I aspire to work with again in the future. I’ve always loved building my network, and WTF definitely helped me do just that. 


Wow. All this talk about the summer sure makes me miss Raleigh. At the moment, I am currently working as a Literary Intern at Florida Studio Theatre. I’m living a slightly less freelance lifestyle than I was this summer. I work 40+ hour weeks with very little time off and I live with other interns (we’re all fresh out of college and trying to figure out our lives). Similarly to WTF, FST focuses on producing the best in contemporary theatre and my department does a lot of work in new play development. I couldn’t be luckier that I get to read and evaluate plays daily for my job. I don’t know what my future holds or when I’ll be able to attend WTF again but it’s comforting to know that I have a company of artists who will always welcome me back to North Carolina when I’m able to return to make more badass-and-woman-empowering theatre magic! Here’s to 50/50 by 2020. 


Want to help WTF continue to cultivate the talent of Extraordinary Producers like Madison? Give to Living Our Mission 2020 today! 

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