Student Spotlight: Madeline Abbott ’15

by Haley Gordon | 4/14/15 6:05pm

Abbott’s “Crossroads II” will bring Britney Spears to the female college experience.

When Madeline Abbott ’15 auditioned for the student-produced musical “To Slay A Demon,” a musical based on the cult show “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” (1997), this winter , she had no idea that she would land the lead role. Prior to this audition, Abbott had not done any sort of theater since she was in high school.

“I showed up at auditions and randomly got the part of Buffy,” Abbott said. “It was so much fun. It was a really great musical with really great people in it, and playing Buffy — she was a really fun character to play.”

Inspired by the spirit of “To Slay a Demon” and a late-night viewing of the film “Crossroads” (2002), which stars Britney Spears, Abbott decided to write the script for a musical of her own featuring the singer’s music.

“It kind of all started when I was on Shonda Rhimes wiki page,” Abbott said. “I realized that she got her start by writing the movie ‘Crossroads’.”

Abbott immediately watched the movie, and the gears began to turn in her head.

“At the end I thought ‘Wow, that was wonderful,’” Abbott said. “Of course, that’s really the only reaction you can have to ‘Crossroads’ the movie. I also felt a little bit cheated because there’s only one Britney Spears song in there, and it was not good.”

Abbott concluded that “the only thing to do” would be for her to write a musical sequel incorporating more of Spears’ discography.

Abbott emphasized that Spears holds the role of a global icon with a varied repertoire.

“If I wrote a musical with Taylor Swift music, it would not be an interesting musical,” Abbott said. “Writing a musical with Britney Spears music is interesting because it deals with a lot of different kinds of themes.”

Abbott said that themes that Spears uses in her music, such as professionalism, friendship and sexual empowerment appealed to her and that Spears holds personal significance to her own life.

“I have fond memories of Britney from back in the day,” Abbott said, referring to a childhood and adolescence scored to her music.

After coming up with the idea for her musical, called “Crossroads II: Till the World Ends,” Abbott had to flesh out a plot to go along with the music. She said that she originally found the idea of writing a script daunting. Finding a storyline that worked with the music, however, was “easier than [she] expected.”

“If you’re working with [Spears’] music, it sort of tells a story on its own,” Abbott said. “The evolution that she’s gone through in her career both personally and in her music, I think, says a lot about a lot of women’s journeys in the modern American context.”

The director of “To Slay A Demon,” Ben Ferguson ’15, said that he was impressed by Abbott’s talent for writing given her relative inexperience in the area.

“It’s amazing that it’s coming from somebody that’s never written a musical before,” he said. “It’s an amazing story. It’s relevant.”

Abbott said that she found some inspiration in her own life and experiences, as the plot of the musical centers around three female roommates in their senior spring of college.

“The characters certainly are not mirror images of my roommates...but I think in some ways I took that group living dynamic and wanted to transfer that to the stage,” Abbott said. “It’s a very relatable story concept.”

Abbott’s roommate Alison Flint ’15, who will be playing a main role in the show, said that she has enjoyed the play so far.

“I think it’s hilarious,” Flint said. “I think it’s super awesome that she took the initiative to write something outside of her daily routine. I think a lot of people say that they’ve always wanted to do this, and [Abbott is] the type of person who if she wants to do something, she’s going to do it.”

Abbott finished writing “Crossroads II” at the end of winter term, and after seeing the production of “Voices” and “The Vagina Monologues,” Abbott said that she proposed her musical to the Center for Gender and Student Engagement for sponsorship, as the musical’s themes of female empowerment and commentary on feminist movements seemed to coalesce nicely with its other projects.

Sigma Delta sorority, of which Abbott is a member, will also support the production and has tentatively offered to host the last performances of “Crossroads II.”

Abbott said that the “fun factor” was on her side in terms of attracting people to auditions, as many have told her of interest in singing Spears’s music. Abbott said that she also used the campus listserv to advertise the performance to the entire campus.

In addition to writing and directing “Crossroads II,” Abbott is an Asian and Middle Eastern studies major with a focus on South Asia and is currently writing a thesis on the future of Indian television. She also has been involved in the Dartmouth marching band her four years on campus and recently retired as the band’s president.

“That was one of the defining parts of my Dartmouth experience. I love the marching band… That’s where a lot of my friends come from,” Abbott said.