Summer 2011

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Johanna Middleton

Johanna Middleton

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Hometown: Los Angeles
Major: Theater

Defining anecdote: The summer before junior year I went to a conference for Christian artists with InterVarsity Christian Fellowship. It was a moment of healing for me as a person and as an artist because we talked a lot about accepting yourself and knowing you’re loved by God as a person above all. That was really freeing. It changed how I looked at creating.
At Northwestern I co-founded Arts Fellowship, a community for artists who are Christian. We explore how our faith is integral in our lives as artists.

Turning point: Until I came to campus for the Cherub program in theater, I felt like I should pursue something practical — like psychology. But Cherubs gave me the confidence to realize that theater was truly what I needed to pursue. I appreciated the fact that at Northwestern I could get solid acting training while also having the chance to major in math if I wanted to. 

Favorite hangout? Backstage of the Barber Theater — there are a lot of memories there — or the library. During fall quarter junior year, a couple of us invented a game called library tag. You start on the fifth floor, and you play all the way down to Reference.

Favorite Northwestern tradition? I love the drum line serenade the night before Homecoming.

Favorite Northwestern class? Taking Intro to African American Studies was a life-changing experience for me. There’s such a temptation to approach the subject matter from personal experience, but Professor Barnor Hesse really moved us beyond that into a greater, more intellectual understanding of what is race, how is it a part of the makeup of our society? It blew my mind — the idea of racism being about power and not simply “I don’t like you because of the color of your skin.”

Top accomplishments: Beyond the plays I’ve been blessed to act in, I’m very proud of a slam poetry show I produced. It was a nontraditional theatrical event that engaged audiences beyond the theater community, which I believe is really important.
Also, this past summer, I took a huge risk and did standup at the Comedy Store, one of the big comedy joints in LA on the Sunset Strip. It’s where people like Eddie Murphy and Jay Leno got their starts.
The first time I went it was a mess. I hadn’t committed to a specific voice, so people didn’t know what to do with me. I got some laughter, not a lot. Afterward I cried in the car while driving home — and then I decided that I would have to go back and do better. So I did. I went back a few weeks later with an entirely different routine that had a very specific focus and a clearer character and did pretty well for a novice. People laughed, but most importantly I could tell people were with me and really listening. It was certainly a victory!

Dream job? I want to act as much as possible. And I would love to work at a summer or afterschool program for underprivileged kids, where they could have free classes in theater, dance, music and writing. I’ve done that with a theater company for the past two summers in LA, and I’ve seen how important it is to give all kids a space where they know their voices are valued. Another goal is to do a one-woman show that I’ve written myself.