Theater Arts '73
One Daemen (Rosary Hill) alumna blessed with a talent for connecting with kids – coupled with the unique benefits of live theater – is Meg Quinn ’73, artistic director of the Theatre of Youth (TOY) Company in Buffalo. TOY describes its mission as that of a non-profit theater company dedicated to “the enhancement of life in the community through the enrichment, education, and entertainment of young audiences.”
It would be difficult to think of anyone better suited to be Theatre of Youth’s artistic director than Quinn. And it all started with Rosary Hill back in 1973, following her graduation, after studying theatre arts and becoming actively involved in the genesis of TOY.
Indeed, the theatre group began at Rosary Hill, when two professors decided to start a children’s theater and invited Meg – a senior at the time – to join. It made good sense, since the College wanted a place for its theater graduates to work. “TOY grew out of the mind and thoughts of Rosary Hill,” says Quinn. “The company literally started in a closet, on the second floor of Daemen Theatre. We had a broom closet, a manual typewriter, a file cabinet, and a chair. We held garage sales to raise money, and kept the earnings in a cigar box under my desk.”
“You have to start somewhere. And while the theater group was short on supplies and facilities, “we had a whole lot of heart to do what we wanted to do,” says Meg. “We didn’t have a business plan. Anyone with any business sense would have said this was impossible. But we had talent and care and we were going to do it. We had the mind-set that, if you want to do it, you can do it.”
They did it. TOY is now in its thirty-third year of delighting elementary school-age children – and most assuredly their parents and guardians – and Quinn has been involved for 21 years of that tenure. She has gone on to obtain a graduate degree from the International Studies for Creativity program at Buffalo State College. Combined with her foundation in theatre from Rosary Hill, and her affinity for acting, writing, and the magic of children’s special spirit, it has helped her lead TOY to the strong community profile it enjoys today.
There was never any doubt this Rosary Hill graduate would become a theater professional. “I remember being four or five years old, and saying I wanted to be a playwright!” Meg recalls with a chuckle. “I was always making up stories and directing people. Kids would run away when they saw me coming! I always had an eye to ‘physicalize’ the story. I think it’s my Irish heritage. My grandparents on both sides were from Ireland and had this thoroughly Irish legacy. A gift of language and storytelling is just in me,” asserts Quinn, who imagines she’d have been a journalist if she hadn’t become involved with theater. And her son Joseph is, in fact, a senior journalism major at American University in Washington, D.C.
When we caught up with Meg for this article, she was rehearsing for a production of The Miracle Worker. And, in a way, she sees a bit of a miracle unfold every time a student group assembles to watch A Year With Frog and Toad, Miss Nelson Is Missing, and other delightful titles that both entertain and advance enduring lessons.
“One of the reasons we’re so successful is that we really dig into a play to find the heart of the story and make sure it has something meaningful to say,” she explains. “There’s a difference between children’s entertainment and children’s theater. We
do what theater should do: connect with the audience to play out on stage something that is true and honest about being a human being.”
If theatre is in Meg Quinn’s blood, the Theatre of Youth is all in the family. Her husband, Chester, is its talented musical director, and daughter Amanda is housekeeper, a part-time role she takes on while majoring in nursing at college. “We’re so successful here because we balance each other out,” Meg said, not only of her family members, but the entire staff and volunteers who make TOY a Western New York community jewel.