Mia Mekjian is a longtime creative who has launched a new relationship with Oregon Cabaret Theatre, playing "Actress 3," a multiple-role character, in Rick Robinson's production of Ken Ludwig's "Baskerville." I caught up with the young actor to talk about her background and current project.
JG: Mia, tell us about your academic and artistic background.
MM: I was fortunate enough to grow up in an artistic family. My mom is a dancer and my dad is a singer/actor/dancer. My first true exposure to theater arts was getting to watch my dad on television growing up. The Big Ragoo, otherwise known as Carmine from "Laverne and Shirley." I would watch him on the screen and think to myself, "That’s what I want to do. I want to be just like my dad. Bringing characters to life while singing and dancing my heart out." From there on out I was always looking for ways to immerse myself in the arts. Every day after school I would have a different lesson or activity — voice, dance, dance competitions, gymnastics, band. I had a craving for the arts and I knew I had to spend every minute of my time exploring all of the possibilities.
I did theater in high school and when my junior year rolled around, I knew that I wanted to do this for the rest of my life. After high school, I decided to put all of my eggs in one basket and only auditioned for one college, PCPA (Pacific Conservatory Theatre, formerly Pacific Conservatory of the Performing Arts, in Santa Maria and Solvang, California) and I was fortunate enough to be accepted into the class of 2015. It was the best education I could have asked for. The teachers were incredible and I could never drink up enough knowledge from them while I was there. Not only did I get to learn from them in the classroom, but I was fortunate to act alongside them on the stage as well, which brought a whole other level of learning to the table. Since graduating, I have been fortunate enough to be a consistent working actor and I owe it all to my training at PCPA.
JG: What brought you to Ashland, and from where?
MM: I am originally from Las Vegas, Nevada, and had never been to Ashland until just a few years ago. I actually met Valerie Rachelle in 2014 when she guest directed me in "Spring Awakening" at PCPA while I was a student. After graduating, I knew that since the time I worked with her, her and her husband Rick had acquired the Cabaret. So while I was visiting Ashland last year to attend a few shows at the Shakespeare Festival, I thought I would audition for Val while I was there, and presto! I was blessed with being cast in "Baskerville." Thank you Rick and Val for believing in me and blessing me with this wonderful opportunity.
JG: Tell us about some of your favorite roles/actors/plays.
MM: I’ve been cast in a wide variety of roles in my short but plentiful career thus far. However, my favorite character that I’ve been able to play was called Little Dog in the musical "A Dog’s Life." It was at the Great American Melodrama and Vaudeville in Oceano, California, and the plot is right there in the title. The audience got to follow the lives of three different dogs from the moment they’re adopted at the pound to their last breaths with their owners in their old age. I played a high energy, fast speaking Jack Russell Terrier. How could that not be amusing! Actors portray different human characters all the time, but how often do you get to play an animal? And a singing and dancing one at that! It was a wonderful challenge for me to get to embody Little Dog as well as keep up her stamina. I’ve been in musicals where I had been dancing in every big musical number while singing at the same time. That’s a challenge in itself, but doesn’t even come close in comparison to the energy and stamina I needed just to keep up Little Dog’s energy in her language. I’m so grateful I had the opportunity to get to know that character and bring her to life on the stage.
JG: How has it been to work on “Baskerville” at Oregon Cabaret Theatre?
MM: This is my first show at the Oregon Cabaret Theatre and I have had nothing short of a wonderful time getting to work on it. It has pushed and challenged me as an artist and as a person. I play 13 different characters with seven different dialects. It’s been fun getting to find the differences between my characters, both physically and vocally, to set them apart from each other. I had only studied/ knew how to do half of my dialects coming into the rehearsal process and never have I ever truly known the meaning of a "quick change" until now.
It’s my first time working with our director Rick Robinson and he is great with his actors. He had a vision with this show and I’m blessed to have had the opportunity to bring it to life on the stage. My fellow cast members have welcomed me with open arms and I couldn’t have asked for a better group of people to goof around with every night. They’re all incredibly talented and open and willing to create. Even with the fast pace of the show and the whole other beast that is costume changes, I never truly felt stressed during rehearsals because I knew that my cast members and I were a good group and that we could work together to find a solution and make anything work. I continue to be amazed by the talent and specificity of my coworkers and hopefully you will too if you come on down to the Oregon Cabaret Theatre.
— Ashland resident Jeffrey Gillespie is a Daily Tidings columnist, arts reviewer and freelance writer. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.