Staff Spotlight: Meredith Noël Johnson, Teaching Artist

We are thrilled to continue to build our team of amazing artists and art administrators at Virginia Stage! Our newest addition to the Virginia Stage staff may be a familiar face, as you may have seen her on stage belting out songs of freedom from Mile Wiley's The Parchman Hour: Songs and Stories of the '61 Freedom Riders, or in other production with Virginia Stage including Oliver Twist, The Wiz, and The Hampton Years. Meet our new Teaching Artist, Meredith Noël Johnson!

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Meredith Noël Johnson is an alumna of Norfolk State University (NSU) where she majored in English and Theatre Performance. She is the recipient of the NSU Theatre Company 2015 Best Supporting Actress in a Play and 2016 Best Supporting Actress in a Musical awards.

Can you tell us a little bit about your background
I am originally from Baltimore, Maryland. I'm the youngest of five siblings and grew up loving performance, but was too terrified to actually do it. It wasn't until I was 19 that I performed in my first show. It was the musical, Bubbling Brown Sugar, with the NSU Players (as the Norfolk State University Theatre Company was known at that time). I was awful. But that experience lit a spark inside of me and I believed that I had discovered who I was and what I wanted to do forever. I thought there was something very powerful about total strangers coming together in one place to have a shared experience. There is something almost religious and sacred about the space and experience of theater. No matter who you are or what station in life you find yourself, at that moment and in that space we are all the same, sharing the same moments. It's beautiful. 

How did you come to work for Virginia Stage Company? 
Well, I started working with the Stage Company as a performer first. My first show here was The Hampton Years. I was able to form some great relationships from that experience and I guess they just liked having me around!

What impact do you hope to have in your role here? 
I hope to meet some awesome folks and engage with them in ways that are deeply meaningful, both for them and myself. 

What do you do for fun? 
I LOVE the thrift store. Thrifting is my jam. I also like to make my own hair and skin products. I make a mean whipped shea butter that keeps me baby smooth. 

Favorite place to grab lunch in Downtown, Norfolk? 
California Burrito and YaYa Asian gourmet are my go to places usually. 

If you could produce any show, what would it be and why? 
Fences by August Wilson is my favorite play. The characters Rose and Troy seem so real and multi-dimensional to me. There is an earnest, gritty quality the piece has that excites me. I just love character driven dramas. I think it is August Wilson's best work. 

What are you looking forward to the most this season? 
Crowns! I love that show and, being a southern Black woman who grew up in church, it's one of the shows that makes me feel nostalgic about my own up bringing. 

Where do you see yourself 5 years from now? In 10 years? 
I see myself as a consistently working professional actress and playwright. I see myself giving a voice to the marginalized in my work, particularly women of color, and providing opportunities to people like me (just like the opportunity I've received at the Stage Company) to be able to perform and be a part of projects that portray them as fully human, fully realized, multidimensional characters on stage and not as sassy-strong stereotypes. Black women are not just sassy and strong, we're wise, caring, nurturing, weak, fragile, indecisive, sexy, loving, nerdy, etc... and I think it's time people see us in more than just one way. I want to help facilitate that shift in our media and entertainment industry. 

We look forward to having Meredith fulfill her aspiration of engaging folks from many different backgrounds and providing opportunities to youth through her work as a Teaching Artist here at Virginia Stage!