When Madelyn Boyne steps on stage in the lead role of “Good People,” she’s not just making her debut as a University of Missouri–St. Louis student. She’s making her first appearance in a play.
Boyne, from Belleville, Ill., was involved with all of the productions at her high school, but she was never on stage. Instead, she focused her efforts behind the scenes, often being in charge of props, costumes, makeup and all things technical.
“At the time, I was a little too timid to actually be put on stage,” said Boyne, an education major with a minor in theater. “But I’ve been involved in theater my whole life in one way or another.”
After high school, Boyne attended classes at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville as an English major before transferring to UMSL in fall 2014. For several years, she was also part of the nonprofit Immediacy Theatre Project, which produced pieces written by members. Most of her work there involved short pieces where she portrayed herself and took a turn as Gandalf the Grey.
In “Good People” Boyne departs from those early performances and her tendency to work backstage. She was inspired to audition for the play while taking an acting class with Jacqueline Thompson. Boyne was unsure of her prospects, but was attracted to the nuanced, soulful role.
“This is a very real person who’s dealing with a lot of internal struggles that I could hold on to and play with,” she said. “There’s a lot of humor in it. My favorite part is how much humor there is despite the less than ideal circumstances the characters are dealing with.”
“Good People” debuted on Broadway in 2011 with Frances McDormand winning a Tony Award for her role of Margie. The story opens when Margie has just been fired from her job at a dollar store and is suddenly without the means to provide for herself or her daughter, who has a disability. Toughened from her life in South Boston, Margie turns to unexpected places for help.
Boyne has been impressive in the role, Thompson said.
“She’s really good at being natural and real and relaxed in the role,” she said. “This woman is 30 years her senior, so being able to embody the character of that has been really challenging and she’s doing an amazing job of it.”
Many of the theater department’s previous productions, such as the Laramie Project, have dealt with serious themes. Thompson selected “Good People” because of its ability to tackle serious topics with humor.
“This play has a good balance, because it does address classism and racial tension, but does it in a way that we can laugh,” she said. “These are real, transparent, unapologetic people that are just talking unfiltered. It makes the audience think about their perceptions of what makes good people.”
“Good People” runs at 7:30 p.m. Thursday through Saturday, and at 2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday in the Lee Theater of the Blanche M. Touhill Performing Arts Center. Tickets are $5 for students and $10 for all others.