By Theresa Goffredo, Herald Writer
When she was a first-year nursing student in Cleveland, Melanie Calderwood performed skits and used to joke that she’d stick with nursing until she got her big break on Broadway.
Well, that break didn’t come.
But today, Calderwood, 61, has found a way to combine her two worlds: She’s a full-time nurse and an actor.
In fact, she’s a theater owner, having taken over what used to be Edge of the World Theater in Edmonds in 2008 and turned it into The Phoenix Theatre.
Calderwood said she is often asked where she finds the time for both.
Calderwood’s answer: “If you really enjoy something, you find time for it.”
Calderwood has enjoyed acting ever since her first performance in a drama when she was 24 back East.
Locally, Calderwood acted at Edge of the World theater for 16 years before founding The Phoenix Theatre and becoming its artistic director.
Besides running the theater, Calderwood often stars in its productions. She has earned a reputation for having keen comedic timing and appears now in the comedy “Wild Dust.”
Calderwood enjoys physical comedy but said one of her favorite roles was playing poet Emily Dickinson in basically a one-woman show that involved memorizing lots and lots of lines.
How does she do it?
Calderwood said she has plenty of time on her hands to work on theater stuff while she’s taking the shuttle bus from her home to her job at the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance.
Calderwood used to work at Group Health as a pediatrics nurse. Now, she is a transitional nurse with SCCA helping discharge patients who have undergone bone marrow transplants.
Her job is tense and stressful but primarily her patients are those who are doing well and going home.
Still, theater offers her a break.
“My job can be intense so it helps to have something to go to and escape,” she said.
Calderwood believes theater benefits others as well; perhaps not as much as a good nurse but theater plays its part in fulfilling people’s lives.
She sees that as artistic director at the Phoenix, adding that the theater is doing well and she has no regrets about taking the venture over.
“Besides,” Calderwood joked, “what would I have done with my time?”
Time does become a factor when Calderwood’s friends want to see her and she has work or the theater. She admits that’s when she doesn’t feel like she’s being the best of friends.
It’s those times that Calderwood might wish that theater paid the bills, not nursing.
“But nursing is something to benefit society and I believe that if you use the resources, you have to give something back,” Calderwood said.
She paused, adding a bit wistfully.
“Theater is theater. If it paid the bills it’s what I would do,” Calderwood said. “Nursing has been good to me but in a perfect world if I could I would cut back on the nursing.”
She said if she could take more time at the Phoenix doing administrative tasks the theater would probably be even more successful.
Still theater and nursing is a combination that she’ll keep juggling for now.
“I enjoy both,” Calderwood said. “And I’ll do both as long as it’s beneficial because that’s what I need.”