Dawsyn Wilson ’26  |   Published October 19, 2022

Role of a Lifetime

Fifth-year senior Cullen Marshall describes the experience of playing Romeo on Monmouth College stage.

TRAGEDY: Cullen Marshall's Romeo is about to make a fatal mistake, believing that his beloved... TRAGEDY: Cullen Marshall's Romeo is about to make a fatal mistake, believing that his beloved Juliet (portrayed by Gabriela Madu) is already dead. The Shakespeare play ran Oct. 7-9 at Monmouth College.MONMOUTH, Ill. – The SparkNotes synopsis of William Shakespeare’s Romeo is that he’s “an extremely likable character.”

That description also fits Cullen Marshall, the student who portrayed the impulsive male lead earlier this month in Monmouth College’s well-received production of Romeo and Juliet.

“I like Shakespeare overall and performing in Shakespeare,” said the fifth-year senior from Kewanee, Illinois. “I knew that we had a good cast of seniors and also new students coming in. So I was really excited to work with them, and it’s been a great experience.”

Romeo and Juliet was Marshall’s fifth production at the College but his first in a leading role. A biology major who is minoring in educational studies, Marshall didn’t have the standard résumé for a major role in a play that director Todd Quick called “the Olympics of acting.” But he’s a seasoned actor who’s had great experiences with the department.

“I have had such amazing opportunities, and I wouldn’t have had those if I hadn’t tried out,” said Marshall. “Even if you get a small role, it can still be fulfilling, and you still get to be a part of the whole process and learn and grow a lot.”

“I decided to accept one of the lead roles because I trusted Professor Quick enough as a director to believe that if he chose to put me in that role, it would be for good reason.” Cullen Marshall

Marshall did not intend to audition for Romeo because of the role’s time commitment, and he didn’t believe he could do the role justice.

“I decided to accept one of the lead roles because I trusted Professor Quick enough as a director to believe that if he chose to put me in that role, it would be for good reason,” he said. “It’s also hard to deny an opportunity to work so closely with so many talented actors, most of whom happen to be my good friends. And it’s obviously somewhat of a boost to the ego and an enticing challenge to be offered a role like Romeo, so I couldn’t help but accept.”

A risk worth taking

Now that he’s gone through the experience, he’s glad he took the risk to get outside his comfort zone.

“It was a fun experience and a great opportunity for growth,” he said. “There were many areas of the production process, from fight choreography to vocal projection, to name a few, that I learned more about.”

Marshall said his favorite part of the process was the social aspect.

“The social interaction of all the people behind the scenes is what’s really been the most positive part of the production for me,” he said.

Taking on the big role was an enjoyable experience for Marshall, and he’s glad that audiences enjoyed it, too.

“The feedback on the show has been incredibly positive. I’m mainly just happy that so many students were willing to take a chance by seeing a production of Shakespeare and that in the end, they were happy that they did.” Cullen Marshall

“The feedback on the show has been incredibly positive,” he said. “I’m mainly just happy that so many students were willing to take a chance by seeing a production of Shakespeare and that in the end, they were happy that they did. Probably the best compliments I’ve received are from my high school and college directors about how much I’ve grown from the time they met me and how proud they are of how much work I’ve put in, which makes me really glad.”

For Monmouth students with an interest in theatre who are questioning whether they should take part in a production, Marshall’s advice is to try it out and see where it goes.

“So even if you think there’s the slightest interest to you, I would say audition and give it a try because you never know if you don’t try,” he said. “And there are many ways to get involved – from acting on stage, to costume design, technical design, dance choreography and many more.”

What’s ahead

Marshall came to Monmouth after earning an associate degree in 2020 from Black Hawk College (East Campus).

“The campus and the faculty felt extremely welcoming and promised me a home away from home, which has definitely been my experience,” he said.

He took on an extra semester not only to complete his educational studies minor but also “to have a little more time on campus, since I didn’t get the full four years, being a transfer student.”

Looking ahead, graduate school is a possibility.

“I wouldn’t say I have any concrete plans after finishing my degree,” said Marshall. “I eventually plan on applying to graduate schools so I can study to become a professor of biology. However, I’m currently looking for a temporary position to fill my time before attending grad school.”

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