On stage and behind the scenes, Ian Martin is taking Chicago theater by storm
Ian Martin: B.A. '16, Theatre
By Jennifer Garrett
Whether he’s working with an improvisation troupe, performing Macbeth at IU, or acting in his first Chicago production, for Ian Martin, B.A. ’16, “every performance is different.” But each performance offers an opportunity to connect with the audience.
“It’s all about empathy,” he says. “Today, more than ever, when there are so many differences, so many lines being drawn in the sand, that chance to reach across is a paramount opportunity, and I think that’s why I do it.”
A graduate of the Department of Theatre, Drama, and Contemporary Dance, Martin is just one of the incredible alumni we celebrate this IU Day. His talented performance as Macbeth was featured in one of the College of Arts and Sciences’ recent short films, but his work at IU has reached beyond the campus — all the way to the Chicago theater scene.
Together with eight of his theater colleagues, Martin developed a student-run fellowship and training program at IU that culminated in a showcase in Chicago. “I got the audition for the show that I’m in now because of that showcase,” he says.
He was featured as "Zimbabwean Husband" in Truth and Reconciliation, a play put on by the Sideshow Theatre Company in Chicago from March 12 to April 16. The hour-long play deals with issues of genocide around the world and features a cast of 22 actors.
“It’s been really cool and amazing that it’s my first show in Chicago because it feels so important,” Martin says. “After every show we have a number of talk-backs with the audience. It’s such a short show, people generally are willing and even needing to deconstruct the experience they just had.”
I think art is imperative, especially in times of distress.Ian Martin
These talk-backs are not Martin’s only experience with theater events that go beyond performances, however. He is currently the artistic producing apprentice at the Goodman Theatre, where he works on a number of projects that support and enrich the programming that happens on stage.
In fact, Martin and his colleague, Marissa Ford, developed the first-ever Black History Month celebration at the Goodman. “Marissa and I designed, programmed and pitched a four-event series during the month of February,” Martin says. The apprenticeship has been “really hands-on, really tactical and exceptionally professional,” he adds. “I feel really privileged.”
Martin credits IU with helping him land the position, just like the audition for Truth and Reconciliation. “As I started developing my materials and prepping for the interview [for the apprenticeship], I realized how thankful I was for the freedom of my degree,” he says. “A lot of people in theater, they go through a Fine Arts [program to get a B.F.A.], but I walked away with a B.A., and it gave me a lot of liberties, which I think really aided my experience at the university.” In addition to creating some of his own curriculum for the fellowship, Martin is grateful for the space and resources that IU made available for his pursuit of the arts, particularly his work with the Awkward Silence Comedy improvisation team.
Just like his time at IU, Martin’s time in Chicago is spent juggling a number of projects. In addition to his work as an actor and his apprenticeship, Martin will be making his directorial debut in the fall. He was selected to be a part of The Director’s Haven, an initiative to highlight upcoming directors sponsored by the Haven Theatre. The program will give Martin the resources to direct a short play that will be produced and performed as part of a showcase with two other rising directors. “I’m really excited about that,” Martin says. “I think art is imperative, especially in times of distress. Every day I ask myself: What can I do with the tools that I’ve been allotted to instill and affect change?”
If directing and producing offer him the opportunity to craft a message and make a difference, acting provides yet another outlet for his art. “I think acting is an exercise in vulnerability,” Martin says. “The world gives me certain reasons at every turn to be something I’m not … and I feel like when I step on to a stage, it’s a chance to show a part of me that I don’t get a chance to show the rest of the world.”
There’s a lot ahead for Martin. He’s thinking about graduate school, but he has a number of other goals, too. “I definitely am excited to follow this artistic career path,” he says. “I want some projects. I want to produce a few things. I want to land a grant or two. I want to get my name out there.”