With her talent for writing and love of theater, Maddie Vonk pursues playwriting


Even though moving away from all she had ever known in Connecticut was difficult, the move helped junior Maddie Vonk to finally find the place where her eclectic set of talents converge: playwriting. While she pursued some of her other interests over the years, her love of plays and theater was a constant in her life, even at a young age.

“When I lived on the East Coast a year ago, I would see Broadway shows,” Maddie said. “That was my Christmas present every year, and I just fell in love [with theater]. It’s just so magical. At the end when the actors and actresses come out for bows, you can just see that they’re doing what they love, and that is just such a cool thing to watch.”

However, the realization about her love for theater didn’t dawn on her until she moved to Michigan, where new opportunities began to widen her horizons.

“I never really pursued theater until recently because I was either busy with dance or field hockey,” Maddie said, “and in Connecticut, there were no places like the Civic Theater [with theater classes and such]. To me when we moved here, Civic was all I had ever dreamt of. Now, I’m just really excited to start pursuing theater and playwriting because I’ve always loved it but had never acted upon it.”

Although playwriting is only a recent interest of Maddie’s, creative writing has been a huge part of her life for even longer. In fact, her knack for storytelling began before she was even old enough to write her thoughts down and has continued to develop over the years.

“When I was little, I would dictate stories to my parents before I could write,” Maddie said. “Then in sixth grade, my teacher told me that my writing was really good, and I was like, “Huh, I guess I am.a�� After that, I got really into it.”

To harness all of her natural creativity and grow as a writer, Maddie has gone to summer camps to study creative writing at Interlochen, a prestigious arts institution.

“[Going to Interlochen] is such a life-changing experience,” Maddie said. “Everyone was there because they love art and love what they do. I would say that going to that camp definitely made my writing better and stronger. They make you read a bunch, which makes it like school for six weeks. I always read everything [that they gave us], and it’s so cool because you got exposed to all these new ideas.”

Through the mentorship of various teachers there and the encouragement of her peers, her writing took off in a new direction, and being at Interlochen showed her a world of possibilities for her creatively.

“I didn’t think I would be good at creative nonfiction,” Maddie said. “I thought it would be so factual, but it’s actually the coolest form I’ve ever written or read. People blend facts with weird descriptions and stuff from the world around them, and they put a spin on everything, which is so amazing. It really opened my eyes because there’s so much more that I can do than just fictional stories.”

Being at camp this past summer also introduced her to playwriting, something that combines all of her passions in a unique way.

“My playwriting teacher- Reina Hardy- is an aspiring playwright, and she’s super quirky and inspiring to me,” Maddie said. “She’s pursuing something that many people would view as a dead art; I guess she’s a bit of a role model for me. Without Reina, I probably wouldn’t have gotten into playwriting.”

Reina isn’t the only one who has had a lasting impact on Maddie though. Her history teachers, both in Connecticut and Michigan, have all encouraged her to dig deeper into history by appealing to her love of stories and storytelling. Her seventh-grade history teacher especially helped her discover her love for history.

“The way he taught the class was really fun, and he would scour Youtube for Thomas Jefferson raps and stuff like that,” Maddie said. “He was just brilliant. I’ve always had such great history teachers, like Mr. Labenz and Mr. Anderson. They’re just so good, and they make you want to keep learning. History teachers just have a way of teaching that turns history into a story.”

From learning the stories of history to writing her own stories, storytelling has always been deeply rooted in Maddie’s life. Over the years, she has learned that her imagination and talent for storytelling can really take her anywhere. Despite her uncertainties about playwriting and where it will take her, she knows that she will thrive wherever because of how passionate she is about writing.

“I have a big imagination, so I think to satisfy that I have to do something with it, like reading or writing,” Maddie said. “But it’s almost like I was meant to write– if I’m going to get all hippy on you. I like to think about stuff like that, with the sort of romantic ideal that there are things that you’re meant for.”