An Interview with Megan Mioduski

Coming into militaryspousedom in my 30s, I find a kindred spirit in Megan Mioduski’s story. It’s difficult to discover that PCSing and military life often doesn’t support a spouse’s career, and entering into a community in which you feel like the odd-one-out just compounds an already disruptive situation. As an actress, Megan had to discover creative ways to make sure she could practice her craft and help others achieve their acting goals as well. And as someone who doesn’t quite fit in with the generalized definition of a military spouse, Megan learned that embracing her identity and quirks makes her all the more creative and stronger. 
-Introduction by MilspoFAN Lisa Stice

 

MilspoFAN: Tell us a little about yourself, your journey as a military spouse, and where you are today.

Megan: I am a theatre-loving, Glenn Miller-obsessed, free spirit, originally from the desert of Arizona.  When I met Brian, I was 30 years old with a full-time job, and I considered myself an independent woman.  Becoming a military spouse was the farthest thing from my mind, and then I met this “stupid jerk” who was unbelievably supportive of me and my artistic endeavors. I had no idea that being a military spouse would strip me of my artistic identity.  It has taken years to figure out who I am within the confines of “military spousedom.”

For the last seven years, it has felt like a constant uphill battle. I am an odd-ball, childless, disabled, purple-haired cabbage patch doll roaming in a sea of childbearing barbies.  Add an MFA in Acting, and who I am has offended a decent amount of people in the military world. For a while, I didn’t understand what was happening, and I thought I had to change myself in order to fit in. Luckily, I met two amazing vets who challenged my perceptions. One asked me why I felt the need to alter myself, because he believed my military community was missing out if I hid my diverse perspective.  The other told me that just because I haven’t served in a war zone doesn’t mean that I don’t serve my country. That concept completely blew my mind. Ever since, I have taken extreme pride in the fact that I serve my country by making sure that Brian doesn’t have to worry about the Homefront when he’s deployed. His confidence in me translates to him being able to focus entirely on the mission.

MilspoFAN: How did you become an actor/director?

Megan: My mother will tell you that I came out of the womb acting.  As a child, I lived in a world of fantastical realities and managed to see life through a specific lens.  Becoming the greatest actor who ever lived was high on the priority list as a child. So much so that I began meticulously sculpting my signature to be “autograph friendly.”  LOL! Talk about a precocious child!

I hit middle school, and my life took a serious turn when my disability began to develop which had a side effect of chronic pain.  I became very self-conscience of my body and was too scared to put myself out there for others to scrutinize. When I got into college, I ended up getting a degree in theatrical sound design, but I always sat in that dark theatre secretly wishing I was on stage.  Luckily, I had a fantastic mentor who told me that I would never regret going into graduate school if I was passionate about the topic. So, I applied to all the top acting schools in the country, and the Actors Studio Drama School in NYC invited me to attend. Graduate school was when I began to unearth my artistic voice.  The classes forced me to get up and put myself in vulnerable situations every day of the week for three years straight. It was a tremendous education and the beginning of my professional career.

After graduation, I got an agent in LA and moved out there for a few years.  LA wasn’t really my scene, but it gave me the chance to work on independent films and cable shows.  My first professional gig in LA was as a reenactment actor for a show called “I Didn’t Know I was Pregnant.”  It was only supposed to air two times on TLC for Baby Week, but then the first episode went totally viral. People had diametrically opposed viewpoints with regards to how an individual wouldn’t know that they were pregnant, which the producers loved, and then decided to make it into a long-running series.  It was a show that haunted me for years after I made it. I was working at Apple in Santa Monica, and a co-worker came up to me, hit me on the shoulder and said: “Why didn’t you tell me that you had a baby!?!?!” I mean, if you watch the show, I think it’s pretty clear that I look NOTHING like the woman who is recounting the story.  But see for yourself. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7hgMb-ca6Cc  I’m reenacting the woman during the first segment of the show.

MilspoFAN:  How has your role as a military spouse impacted your work as a writer- creatively, logistically, or otherwise?

Megan: Being a military spouse has drastically impacted my work.  Our first PCS was stressful but ultimately wonderfully creative.  I set three goals for myself: to get plugged in to the local scene, to get a job teaching at the University, and to perform in a musical (which seemed like the scariest thing I could do). I’m happy to report that I ended up accomplishing all three of my goals!  I performed in not one, but two musicals, taught Intro to Dramatic Arts at Angelo State University, and became the Managing Director of a local theatre that would have closed its doors had I not shown up.  I even directed a few shows and created my favorite experience called the “Mustache Melodramas.” It was a farce where the bad guy had a ridiculously oversized mustache, the good guy had rocks for brains, and the audience was encouraged to participate throughout the entire show.  They booed, cheered, and threw a ton of popcorn on stage. The whole concept was such a novel idea to West Texas that I ended up having to step in as a host in order to guide the audience as to how to have fun. My character was from NYC and my favorite bit was when she couldn’t pronounce the word “y’all” and many people in the audience earnestly tried to help her.  She kept saying “yous guys” or “youuuwall” and just never seemed to understand. That was an amazingly fruitful time for my creativity, and it was so difficult to say goodbye to that community.

When we PCS’d back to Arizona, the stress of the move, multiple deployments, plus an NCOA stint was too much for me.  I had a mental breakdown. Luckily, we had been seeing an MFLC on base, and she was the first person to ask if I had PTSD.  I had no clue that a civilian could get that, but it turns out that trauma from the past can manifest through PTSD. So for the last two years, I had to put my creativity aside and learn about my trauma. It has been an exhausting journey, but I have developed some great skills at self-care.  I also now have a service dog, who has transformed my life. He’s my little “time lord” and when I time travel into the future or the past, he puts his paws on me and reminds me that I’m not in that other time. Thanks to him and my counselors, I am not as terrified to go into new situations, and my creativity is coming back more and more each day.   

MilspoFAN: How do you meet other artists or plug into the local arts scene when you PCS?

Megan: This is currently the million dollar question.  Theatre is an extremely tough scene to “get into quickly.”  When we PCS’d to Texas, it took a year just to get in with the local scene, then it took another year to gain everyone’s trust.  By the time the third year rolled around, we got PCS’d back to Arizona. So I’ve been reluctant to get involved again, especially as my disability has not only progressed but hindered my ability to maintain the rigorous rehearsal schedules.  That is why I am looking for ways to create theatrical opportunities that I can accomplish on my own time frame and that can also travel with me to our next base. I figure if I can create an online business, then it won’t matter where I am located. The challenge has been to figure out how theatre can translate to the online space.  But, with the help of Boots 2 Business, I think I have finally figured it out!

For any of your readers who don’t know what Boots 2 Business entails, it’s a phenomenal and free resource funded by the Small Business Association.  Any veteran, military spouse, or dependent looking to start their own business can utilize their services. They help you take your concept and turn it into a viable business plan.  Then they get you connected with local business resources. They’ll even let you change your mind multiple times like I have done. It’s an incredible resource, and I highly recommend it.

MilspoFAN: What’s next for you?

Megan: Currently, I have two main projects that I am working on.  The first is that I am writing a two-person show that delves into the issues that I have faced as a differently abled individual and as a military spouse. The theatre has always helped me work through the most difficult times in my life and I want to share its importance with others.  Fingers crossed, I will be able to produce the show next spring, and my service dog might even make his theatrical debut!

The other project I am working on is to build a business that makes theatrical training cheap.  My college mentor was correct that I did not regret going to graduate school. However, I would have loved not having student loans that rival those of a law degree.  I think its predatory how much schools are charging for theatrical training. Especially considering that 2% of professional actors earn 95% of the wages.

On top of the financial concerns, the other fact is that Google now exists.  It took almost 7 years after I graduated to feel like a master in my field.  What that tells me is that the most important thing an actor can do for their art is to be dedicated.  The most brilliant acting teachers I worked with spent decades developing their “critical eye”. To them, techniques were just tools which were only as good as an actor could use them.  In my online business, I’d like to see that the techniques (or tools) are free to learn. That way an actor can go and spend their money on a teacher who can help them specifically wield those tools to their individual’s needs.  The first step is to start a YouTube channel that will use famous monologues, especially from film, in order to demonstrate various techniques. My goal is for the episodes to be entertaining as well as informative.

MilspoFAN: What is the most practical piece of advice that you would give to other artists?

Megan: Try not to compare yourself with others from your past, and if you do, find ways to be kind to yourself.  My MFA was highly competitive, so my peers are working on Broadway, in network series, and are even showing up on red carpets.  It’s really hard to not envy them and think “what if?” “What could have happened?” When I was trying for the New York or LA goals, I was completely miserable.  It just wasn’t the right path for me. Becoming a military spouse, while unconventional, has given me a sense of purpose. I firmly believe that everything happens for a reason.  If I hadn’t married into the military, I would never have met a counselor that saw I had PTSD, and that journey has led me to discover a confidence within myself which is now translating into my creative work.  I am able to use my artistry in ways that I didn’t even know was possible to dream. And for the first time in three decades, I am actually content with my life.

Studio shot - Photo by Molly Condit at Great Bear Media

Thanks so much to Megan for joining us for this interview! Have you got questions or comments for Megan?
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