Meet Meg Heimstead. I like to call her Mary Margaret, because it’s just so gosh darn Irish Catholic sounding, but she’s never gone by anything other than Meg. She plays Julia in The March of the Kitefliers.
How very fitting that you gave me a photo of you as a kid dressed as a kite. 🙂 Care to tell me about that photo: when was it, how old were you, where was it, what were you doing?
That photo is about 25 years old! Yikes! It was taken in Baltimore, Maryland circa 1981 – my last year in pre-school at St John’s Parish Day School. My pre-school did lots of performances. For this, we made kites and sang “Let’s Go Fly a Kite”. My first boyfriend (DJ) is standing directly behind me. Do you like my kite? I love the fact that my name is in GIANT letters across the front. Nice.
When were you first on stage?
My first play was “The Little Rabbit that Wanted Red Wings”. I was 3 and I played the little rabbit. I remember loving being on stage and playing in front of an audience.
Were you always drawn to that? Why?
Yes. I know that answer is not necessarily the most interesting but it is true. I had a great imagination as a child. I used to perform skits for my parents and I also made radio plays with my Fisher Price tape recorder (complete with sound effects and character voices). I was also an only child so I was left to entertain myself most of the time. I think that situation also made me crave attention. I was isolated growing up and we moved a lot so I didn’t have a ton of friends. But when I was on stage everyone was my friend. They listened to me. It was play for me. Public play but still play.
Was it encouraged by your family?
Yes. Anything that made me happy was encouraged by my parents. Of course they did have dreams of me becoming a doctor or a lawyer but they didn’t ever push those expectations on me. I have been very lucky. They are my biggest fans. One or both of my parents have seen every show I have ever done.
What did you think you would be when you grew up? How’d that work out for you?
I thought that I would be doing this. This is the life that I always dreamed about having. The details are a bit different. I always saw myself living in New York City but I still have some time left. Not dead yet. Seriously, I am so lucky to be living my dream. I make a living as an actress. How cool is that? I did take a brief detour into radio for a few years but that just reinforced what I always knew – that this is “home” for me.
Outside of acting, were you a big pretend/imaginary game person? What were your favorites?
Oh yes! I had an imaginary friend throughout most of my childhood. She was sort of my alter ego. She was the “bad” version of me. She was the one with all of the “bad” thoughts. I would get very mad at her. I would also interact with my stuffed animals. I would line them up along the edges of my twin bed every night. We would visit before I went to sleep. Sometimes I would pretend that I was dead and they were at my funeral. (Weird, I know.) They would each take turns talking about me.
I started this game shortly after my grandfather died. I think that it was my way of making sense of the whole death thing. I had to play it out in my mind in order to really “get” it. I don’t know. I also made the radio plays and I would sing all the time! For a couple of months in grade school I wanted to be a song writer. I would make up all sorts of songs and record them.
Did you have a lot of friends outside of school hours or before you started school? Were you an instigator of activity or a follower?
No. We moved a lot so establishing friendships was difficult for me. I was always the “new kid”. I had some friends but I remember never really feeling like I fit in. It wasn’t until I was an adult that I began finding people that I really felt comfortable around. As far as being an instigator or a follower…I was neither. I just sort of did my own thing. There was a time in Jr. High when I became desperate to fit in. I was definitely a follower then. I also remember being the most miserable at that age.
Gimme 3 … favorite kid’s books:
Where the Sidewalk Ends
The Secret Garden
Oh! The Places You’ll Go
TV shows from your childhood:
The Muppet Show
Toys from your childhood:
Monk Monk – My monkey puppet
My Fisher Price Tape Recorder
Grandpa Bear – A rescued teddy bear from my Grandfather’s farm. He was to be sold after my grandfather died but I rescued him. He is from the 1940’s and he is weathered but I love him.
Do you have any of those books or movies in your possession anymore?
All of them except the tape recorder. I have no idea where that is.
What about gone back and watched any of those old shows? If so, how’d they hold up?
The Muppet Show is a classic! Not so sure about 3-2-1 Contact or the Jeffersons. I think the Jeffersons would still be funny but 3-2-1 Contact would be a bit hokey today – at least for me.
Do you feel “all grown up yet” or are you hanging onto your childhood in any way these days?
No! I don’t ever want to feel all grown up. I always want to have a sense of play and spontaneity in my life. I value my childlike imagination. I need it for what I do. You are also only as old as you feel. When I’m 99 I still want to feel like a vibrant young person.
Yes, I have responsibilities but the minute I start taking all of that “very seriously” is the minute I stop being true to myself and living MY life. My number one goal is to have fun and to laugh as much as possible. Life is so short. I don’t want to waste one minute.
You work with kids now – what’s that like?
Joy! It’s so much fun to be around kids. I love watching them learn and experience something for the first time. Their energy and enthusiasm is contagious. I leave my classes feeling great. I also work with developmentally disabled adults. They have taught me so much about life and living in the moment.
What do you identify with most in this play thematically?
The whole Julia theme – her big lesson. She starts out wanting to know how it’s all going to turn out in the end. She tries to manipulate situations so that she can feel safe and secure knowing that it’s all going to be okay 10 years from now. Life doesn’t work that way. We don’t know the end. The only thing we know is right now. (And the crux of the matter is that the more you focus on the right now the better your future usually is.) I used to want that for myself. I wanted to know that everything was going to be okay. I spent so much time worrying about the future that I wasn’t actually living my life. Yes. We need to make some plans and be responsible for how our life unfolds. But most of the good stuff happens when you are busy making other plans. When I was so focused on the future I was missing out on all of that good stuff. Julia does that in the play until she realizes that it’s okay to enjoy the “now”, to step into the unkown with hope but not with rigid expectations. That’s a HUGE, freeing realization.
Why should people see the show – even if they saw the original production?
It’s different this time around. We have fleshed these people out even more. There have been some changes to the script that really crystallize all of the themes. Aside from that? It’s funny! Who doesn’t want to watch funny?
Any last thoughts?
Not sure how many people know this but this show has had a HUGE impact on my life. The first time I played Julia was two years ago. I had “given up” acting and was pursing a career in the radio world. Then Kari (our director) called me looking for an actress. The original Julia was moving and couldn’t do the show. For some reason I felt compelled to audition for the role. When she called and offered me the part I was not sure if I wanted it. I was moving on with my life. I was supposed to be moving away from acting not towards it. But I said “yes”. I still remember that first read through. It was like coming home after a long trip. I had forgotten how much I missed performing.
This show was the catalyst that led me back to acting. Without that phone call two years ago I am not sure where I would be now. For that, I will be forever grateful. Like I said, all the good stuff happens while you are busy making other plans : )