Artist Spotlight: Madeline Burk ’23

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Burk '23 performing in "The Vagina Monologues" at Muhlenberg

Madeline Burk ‘23 has been heavily involved with the theatre and dance department at Muhlenberg, having taken part in productions and studio courses for the duration of her time at Muhlenberg. Burk, like so many other seniors involved in the arts, takes time to reflect on the Muhlenberg experience with eyes on the future in her final year. 

Burk will be playing Polly Peachum in the upcoming Muhlenberg theatre and dance production of “The Threepenny Opera,” a complex character brought into a world of rampant crime and constant uncertainty.

“[Polly] lives in a world where women are not respected for the work that they do, but women are often the driving force for a lot of the things that happen,” explained Burk. “It’s so deeply frustrating for her because she has been sort of confining this life with her parents for all her life since she was a child. She finds a way out of it, where she can become a person in a position of power, and where she can get the respect that she’s always craved.”

“I want to figure out what it means to be a person while making art”

-Madeline Burk ’23

“The Threepenny Opera,” a musical comedy in three acts with a book by Bertolt Brecht and Elizabeth Hauptmann and music by Kurt Weill, will be premiering in the Paul C. Empie Theatre on Friday, Oct. 28. The show features direction by Theatre Department Chair James (Jim) Peck, Ph.D., musical direction by staff accompanist Vincent Trovato and choreography by Professor of Dance Samuel Antonio Reyes.

“Jim is so incredibly knowledgeable, and as he so often says, he’s directed plays before, which is clearly very true,” says Burk. “Vinny, Sammy and Jim are also specific in the work that they do, and they want us to do it because the show has to be so specific for it to make complete sense. Specificity is such an important part of the show in terms of the movement and vocal work and getting all the little notes right, and making sure that it all fits in with the story and the three of them together. [This] is [a] tough thing to do with an old show that’s translated from German, and they do it so well.”

When asked about the highlight of her time on campus so far as a senior, Burk replied that the compounded skill sets she has developed have enriched her coursework this semester.

Burk explained, “This year, I’m fortunate enough to be taking a directing class, as well as a solo performance class, both [of] which allow me to create a lot of performances, and make just odd wacky things and make these big mistakes that, in high school, we weren’t allowed to make and up until relatively recently, I felt like I couldn’t make and having that realization that I don’t need to be perfect, and I really shouldn’t be perfect as an artist, has been really freeing.”

What awaits Burk after leaving the Muhlen-bubble? She says she is looking forward to exploring a number of possibilities as an artist and as a human.

“I want to figure out what it means to be a person while making art,” says Burk. “Then maybe, hopefully, someday make money for theatre in some way, shape or form. My favorite answer to give to adults is I’m going to take a gap [year] and then go to grad[uate] school, which isn’t entirely untrue. I do want to go to grad[uate] school at some point but right off the bat, I want to live. You can’t make good art without living.”

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