Meghan Kreidler can shift into different categories easily. As a tall, multiracial actor, she often is cast as a strong, powerful woman. She is lead singer of the band Kiss the Tiger, plays the piano and some guitar, has experience in puppetry, and has a third-degree black belt in Tae Kwon Do.
Having studied in classical, western acting at the University of Minnesota/ Guthrie Theater Bachelor of Fine Arts Actor Training program, it did not occur to Kreidler until after graduation that she might find success outside the classical Western, male canon of plays. She did her first performance with Theater Mu in 2012. Then she met playwright Jessica Huang, who, like Kreidler, had a European and Asian background.
The uniqueness of mixed-race identity sunk in. “There are other people like me,” Kreidler says. She also realized that “what does not exist as much are narratives about that experience.”
Since then Kreidler has been compelled to seek more work created and written by people that have mixed-race identities similar to her. “What I’ve done that does fall into that category has been really exciting and made me feel more comfortable and accepting of who I am,” she says.
For example, in Huang’s “Purple Cloud,” a girl grapples with her identity. She visits China, only to realize she doesn’t feel at home there either.
Kreidler had a very similar experience herself, going to Korea with her mom and sister in 2012. “I had never been to a country before with such a homogenous culture,” she says.
“It did feel like we were getting a piece of our history that is part of us, but is very distant from us,” Kreidler says. Not able to speak the language, Kreidler felt overwhelmed listening to people speak Korean all the time without any idea what they were saying. “I remember after two weeks, we had only eaten Korean food, which was amazing, but there was a moment where my sister and I got really irritable. ‘We just want pizza.’ It made me realize, ‘Oh, wow. I’m not really 100 percent Korean.’”
Kreidler’s dual identity hasn’t prevented her from experiencing racism, which she first encountered in second grade. She lived in Georgia at the time. A boy at school made racist gestures — making fun of her eyes and calling her “China.” The bullying got worse after her family moved to a suburb of Boston.
Kreidler feels most comfortable acting in theaters led by people of color, especially Theater Mu and Mixed Blood Theatre. “I’m just more confident about who I am as an individual, so I either don’t go in for things that don’t interest me or I don’t see myself in, or I tell myself, ‘I’m not going to try to fit inside a box.’”
As an artist, she tries to push herself. Like when she joined a band three years ago as the lead singer. With a background in singing and piano, Kreidler wasn’t a beginner, but being on stage as a singer for the first time in 2015 was the most awkward experience of her life. “Being on stage as a musician feels way more vulnerable and stripped down than being in a play,” she says.
Even if she’s doing an inflated version of herself in her rock band, she sees musical performance as being about self. “For me, the most important thing is being truthful,” she says. “When you decide to let go of fear, and let go of the expectation of what you are supposed to present as — and you go with what feels right and what’s the most truthful — that’s all good art-making has to be.”