Drama, Theatre and Dance Professor Meghan Healey, (left) a sought-after costume and scenic designer for productions in New York and nationwide, in discussion with student Henry Cheng.
Perhaps it’s no surprise that Meghan Healey was one of those kids who “wouldn’t get out of the dress up corner at school.” At five years of age, Healey even auditioned for and was cast in a production of St. George and the Dragon for the Shakespeare Festival of Virginia.
Despite that early imprinting on stage, Healey recognized that “I didn’t want to be a professional actor.”
By the time she left Emory, where she had originally planned to become a lawyer, Healey was still smitten with theatre. A course in stagecraft led to a “complete epiphany,” Healey recalls. “I knew this was it.”
Now Healey is sought after as a costume and scenic designer for productions in New York and around the country. “I see on many different levels,” she says. “It’s the puzzle piece as a whole.”
One of her recent projects, Subterraneo: A Cruel Puppet’s Guide to Underground Living, which was featured in the New York Times, uses puppets to translate Dante’s Inferno to the New York City subways. Healey enlisted Queens College students to help collect some of the subway stories she uses.
Teaching is as important to Healey as her other professional endeavors.
“I’ve always had the belief for every generation of artists to nurture the next generation of artists,” notes Healey. “I’ve always had young assistants. I find teaching incredibly rewarding. It’s a constant source of inspiration. Teaching can rejuvenate your own passion; for students, everything is new and exciting.”
Healey also believes that students do better not being in a conservatory, but in a liberal arts college like Queens.
“It’s important that artists be in the world and have other interests,” she says. “I strongly prefer to teach students who are not in a conservatory. They’re more curious, they’re interested in a lot of things. They’re more well-rounded artists.”
Book she recommends: The Empty Space by Peter Brook. “It’s a different way of thinking of theatre as an art form, not as entertainment, but as sacred space. I ask all my students to read it.”
Artist who moves her: “My favorite artist is Mark Rothko. For many years I saw pictures in books and didn’t understand. A decade ago, MOMA did a retrospective in chronological order and I saw how much power there was in a simple canvas painted red. I felt his emotional journey.”
Surprising fact: “Even though I work in the high arts, my favorite kind of movie is animal horror, like Jaws 3.”