Performing her monologue on Valentine’s Day, Elon University senior Madison Scott is comfortable on stage.
She grew up in the spotlight, starting dance lessons at two and a half years old and never looking back.
“I was definitely a very hyperactive social kid, but it was all kind of driven to the stage. Like everything I did, I loved performing. I loved speaking and meeting people,” Scott said.
Growing up in Toronto, the theatre scene was vibrant, and she would travel to local competitions performing anything and everything. When Scott was 8 years old, a judge at a competition saw potential in her and told her to get an agent.
“Of course my mom was like, 'No, she's going to have to just stay at school. She has to focus on her studies.' And then for my ninth birthday, I asked for an agent as any 9-year-old would do,” Scott said, laughing. And she got one.
A year later, she was cast as Scowl in the play “To Kill a Mockingbird” at the Stratford Festival theatre. She had long days on stage and was looking a bit worse for the wear at the end of it.
“My mom got kind of nervous because I was really pale and really tired,” Scott said. “But being a child doing eight shows a week, she assumed it was just because of the show.”
During the next performance, Scott said she started having back spasms and had to be brought off the stage. A few blood tests and x-rays later, she received the news that the reason for the exhaustion was not the because of the show. It was because she had leukemia, a type of childhood blood cancer.
“I honestly thought it was like a cold,” Scott said. “The first thing I said was, 'Okay, well, can I get my medication? I have a show to do.'”
Scott didn’t let that stop her from performing.
“I'd be getting chemo in the morning, taking a nap, then doing a show that night,” Scott said. This went on for two years until she became cancer-free at 12 years old on January 29, 2010.
One may think the demanding acting practices would tire her out, but Scott said they did just the opposite. Practices energized her. Instead of sitting in bed moping and waiting to get better, Scott was on her feet, rushing toward recovery.
“I remember doctors and nurses telling me if it wasn't for the stage, you wouldn't have gotten better as fast as you did and you wouldn't be in as good of shape as you are now,” Scott said.
She’s done academic research at Elon to explore that. Being on stage during chemo meant she was still getting the socialization she needed. By not sitting on a bed all day, she was physically stronger and mentally happier being with her peers and doing what she loved.
By the time she was in high school, she was performing in teen sitcoms, voicing children’s cartoon characters, and acting on stage. Taking a look at her past work, it was hard to recognize which one was her at first; now she has strong blonde highlights, but high school Madison was chestnut brunette. She can still contort her voice to sound like a three year old and speak in that high-pitched voice like no time has passed while watching YouTube videos of her past clips.
After passing the first roadblock, going after an acting career still wasn’t all glitter and sparkles. Her high school, the Etobicoke School of the Arts, was an intense breeding ground for acting hopefuls, and in any school production, everyone was out to be the lead.
“It created a kind of toxic environment at the school just because there was that heightened sense of competition. A big reason I wanted to come to Elon and get away from Toronto was to kind of figure out who I am,” Scott said.
In college, she kept the performing bug and was on the dance team for three years and performs casually in theatre productions. But she’s ventured out into the business world as well and is double majoring in marketing with a concentration in professional sales and drama theatre studies. She says her research in drama therapy, inspired by her firsthand childhood experience, fuels her fire academically.
Her childhood dreams of being a professional actress haven’t fizzled, but they’ve shifted. She’s done more academic research on drama therapy for kids with cancer and is starting a job with S2K Financial in New York post grad. She’s not afraid to dream even bigger and give back to people having the same experience as her.
“My dream job would probably be like a venture capitalist, investing in social entrepreneurship,” Scott said, “And then kind of using that business to also open a charity because I definitely think that drama therapy is very impactful. It's the reason I am the way I am. It's the reason I was able to get through it.”