Sophomore Madi Laughlin takes the hectic schedule of finals week to the next level. She takes on an enormous number of tasks in her day-to-day life. She’s the president of the WSU Green Group, works as an office aid in a neurology center, and serves as an SGA honors senator. She has Honors Council meetings weekly. On top of all that, she plays in a worship band at local churches, participates in Thriller-themed flash mobs on Halloween, and sidelines as a musical theater performer when she miraculously finds any spare time. Laughlin is a true leader-in-the-making.
Laughlin said her greatest passion is doing her part to take care of the earth by recycling and living a zero-waste lifestyle. She gets to show off her “save this earth” initiative as the president of the Green Group. The group organizes clean-ups on campus and throughout the city each Saturday.
Laughlin’s professional goal is to become a civil technology engineer, then save the earth by streamlining waste-processes. Through such streamlining, she said she hopes to minimize the waste that large companies generate.
Laughlin strives to minimize her trash output. When she eats out, she carries Tupperware in her car to store her leftovers, she said. To live a zero-waste lifestyle, she makes her own food, deodorant, and toothpaste whenever she can.
“It boosts confidence as a person knowing that what you put into the world, you will get out of it, and a lot of people are putting trash into the world,” Laughlin said. “I’m trying to not put trash into the world, but I’m trying to put trees into the world . . . grow my own food, and make my own items.”
When it comes to her other passion, theatrical performance, Laughlin usually plays the antagonist. She attributes this to her above-average height and broad shoulders. If she’s not filling that role, her self-described “big voice” often lands her “statement character” roles.
It’s a departure from when Laughlin was still learning the ropes and played supporting characters with little stage timer. When she auditioned for Wichita Signature Theatre’s production of “The Adams Family,” she said her expectations were low. When she was called by director Deb Campbell to play Morticia Adams, it was a shock and an honor.
After securing her role, Laughlin said she “Facebook-stalked” her counterpart, Nathan Houseman, who would play her husband Gomez. She said the first thing that popped into her head was, “This man is 20 years older than I am.”
Houseman was only able to fly in from Savannah, Georgia, 14 days before the first show to begin rehearsing. When the two met, Laughlin said all of her prior uncertainties were laid to rest when she saw how funny and focused Houseman was.
“I knew he would be fabulous for the role,” Laughlin said. “But . . . at rehearsal, where we would have to make intimate eye contact like, ‘you’re like my dad.’”
The thought of casting Gomez and Morticia with a 20-year age gap crossed director Deb Cambell’s mind but it never really impacted her decision, she said.
“Morticia is timeless. She’s immortal,” Campbell said. “Madi reads very, very mature, so having Morticia young and beautiful was a plus. I have known Madi for three years, and so I’ve watched her mature as a performer, and so I was very confident to cast her.”
Laughlin loved theater in high school, and said she knew she had to keep doing shows when she graduated.
“I’ve always been dramatic my whole life,” Laughlin chuckled.
“What excites me about theatre are the ways it can be cathartic for people. I feel like people carry a lot emotionally, and when they get to see someone else express onstage, the emotions they wish they could, I think it’s very relieving.”
Laughlin said she also loves how theater allows people to understand and sympathize with different points of view. In her eyes, theatre helps people understand characters that society deems as bad, she said.
When Laughlin talks, she has a warm sincerity to her personality that clashes with Morticia’s cold, yet familial presence. In real life, she’s a devout Christian, but on stage, she plays a character that thrives off of darkness. Morticia’s not evil, Laughlin asserts — she’s just different. Laughlin said she seeks out the beauty in that difference.
Weirdly enough for a classic set of characters, the oddball Adams family scans as relatively normal in 2018. They’re actually one of the healthiest families portrayed in mainstream media’s history. Throughout the show, each family member learns to embrace their true selves. That’s something that instantly attracted Laughlin to the role of Morticia, she said.
“There’s no boundaries on what The Adams Family can be,” Laughlin said. “They don’t set limits on one another or themselves — they’re just honest. I think it’s refreshing to see people just be in their honest form.”
Despite constantly dealing with academic and social responsibilities, Laughlin rolls with the punches and deals with life efficiently as it comes at her. Two days before opening night, there was an incident in which a fellow cast member accidentally stuck his foot in a doorway. The closing door bounced back and hit Laughlin’s left eye, causing it to bleed. Laughlin didn’t let it get to her, even when it was time to perform. Later, she laughed it off — that’s just the way Laughlin is.
“Theater gives me joy in life, and it’s been something that’s kept me sane this semester since I’ve been so busy,” Laughlin said. “Sounds ironic because it’s been a contributor to my business, but I think we have an excellent cast family.
“Going there, being with them and being able to express myself in a creative way and a way that accurately depicts the character, gives me joy. I don’t know what it is about that but it lights me up inside.”
Suffice to say, performing adds a spark to Laughlin’s life, no matter the color of the costume she’s wearing.
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