Westwood native breaks theater norms

Madeline Bugeau-Heartt, a Tisch School of Arts graduate, mixes her interest in spirituality with her passion for theater with her production, ‘A Crack of Strange Light.’ Photos by Jaina Cipriano

By Laura Drinan
Hometown Weekly Reporter

Inside of Fisher School, Westwood’s one room schoolhouse, were two sections of folding chairs, carefully positioned into diagonal rows. Antique furniture sat along the sides of the 172-year-old room as people continued to shuffle in and find seats, holding on to the miniature pencil and two slips of paper that they received on their way in.

Standing out among the vintage furniture were multicolored lights: blue and pink bulbs protected by metal lampshades and Christmas lights strung along one of walls. Before anyone could question the décor, the lights dimmed and a winged person came out from behind a door, turning on the blue lights and furiously writing on the chalkboard.

Richard, played by Madeline Bugeau-Heartt, drunkenly sings karaoke in Bugeau-Heartt’s production of ‘A Crack of Strange Light.’

Richard, played by Madeline Bugeau-Heartt, drunkenly sings karaoke in Bugeau-Heartt’s production of ‘A Crack of Strange Light.’

This was the beginning of Madeline Bugeau-Heartt’s original production, “A Crack of Strange Light.” Bugeau-Heartt, a Westwood native and graduate of the prestigious Tisch School of Arts at NYU, wrote and starred in the production, which aimed to explore spirituality. The experimental play follows Richard, played by Bugeau-Heartt, an alcohol-abusing fallen angel, who is looking for his way back home.

“I really wanted to see if I could accomplish this idea of mingling art and spirituality together and more specifically, using this marriage of the two to present a gift of light to people,” said Bugeau-Heartt, who took an interest in divinity school over the summer. “I suspended the grad school idea for the time and took all the questions and research I'd been doing and started to build this show.

“When I lived in NYC, it always bothered me that more people weren't getting an opportunity to see work that challenged, inspired, and ignited the imagination. I wanted to make a piece that brought this ‘experimental’ work out of the confines of NYC and into the world!”

Members of the audience watch Richard, played by Madeline Bugeau-Heartt, undergo a series of highs and lows in Bugeau-Heartt’s original play, ‘A Crack of Strange Light.’

Members of the audience watch Richard, played by Madeline Bugeau-Heartt, undergo a series of highs and lows in Bugeau-Heartt’s original play, ‘A Crack of Strange Light.’

The production will be split into three parts, allowing the audience to see Richard’s journey progress in segments. As the audience saw in part one, Richard hopelessly writes love letters to a woman named Mal, which only end up crumpled and thrown across the room. After the audience witnesses Richard’s self-destructive tendencies, a mysterious phone call sets him on a new path.

“The beauty about making your own work is that you can create characters you want to play, do things onstage you want to do, but that if you did in ‘real life’ there could be consequences for,” explained Bugeau-Heartt, while elaborating on Richard’s dynamic character. “We're all so multi-faceted, but there are elements, I'm sure, in everyone that are quelled for some reason or another; creating art in any capacity allows you to safely explore these sides.”

As the audience watched the performance, they were nearly taken aback when Bugeau-Heartt, as Richard, asked the members of the audience to write down a joy that was experienced earlier in the day and a wish for themselves, another, or the world on the two slips on paper that they received earlier.

Madeline Bugeau-Heartt’s orginal production, ‘A Crack of Strange Light,’ introduced Westwood to experimental theater as she played Richard, a fallen angel searching for his way back home.

Madeline Bugeau-Heartt’s orginal production, ‘A Crack of Strange Light,’ introduced Westwood to experimental theater as she played Richard, a fallen angel searching for his way back home.

Just days before the show, Bugeau-Heartt said to her boyfriend, “We have a chance to bring people, even if it's just a few and for an hour, into another world. We have a shot at giving them magic and hope and connection.”

While she admitted it was quite an ambitious goal, Bugeau-Heartt wanted to create something that would touch and inspire her audience.

“There have been periods in my life when I felt numb, and hopeless, and cut off from the world. But then by some miracle, I saw an incredible film or read a book or beheld a series of photographs that changed my perspective and made me feel less alone,” she said. “This is the magic of art. It's like a veil is pulled off your eyes and the piece says, ‘Look, see how much beauty and mystery there is left still in the world?’ So even if it was just for that night, I wanted to extend my hand through the work as others have extended theirs to me. That is ultimately the greatest inspiration for the piece.”

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