At the age of nine, Martin Flowers landed his first role as the lead in his church’s Easter program. Acting out a script created from a sermon, a small number of children gathered to perform in front of the entire church.
He didn’t know this first experience with performing would later catapult him into being a prominent figure in both the theater and music departments at Goshen College 10 years later. While Flowers has had a part in every Goshen College mainstage, he is also a vocalist with the Men’s Chorus and Chamber Choir, and is currently preparing for his senior music recital.
“You lose a lot of sleep, so it’s hard to be a student and performer sometimes,” said Flowers.
Theater and performing wasn’t always something Flowers felt confident doing. As a shy kid with few friends, Flowers said, theater was a way for him to develop his artistic tastes. It wasn’t until seventh grade during the middle school production of “Aladdin Junior” that Flowers thought to himself he was good at acting.
“Being cast as the main role was the first big thing I did and I remember being overwhelmed,” recalled Flowers. “I was always the quiet kid and no one really knew me. With this role, I remember all the attention people were giving me. I remember thinking, ‘People will like me if I do this. And girls will too if I do this thing because it gets me attention.’”
Three years later as a sophomore in high school, Flowers was cast as Tony in the musical “West Side Story,” beating out seniors for the lead. He said that having the director place that amount of trust in him, as a sophomore, really made him think that theater was something he might want to pursue for a possible career, especially musical theater.
Since his arrival at Goshen College in 2012, Flowers has discovered a different genre of theater he for which he has passion: contemporary drama.
“I like it because it’s a more serious, complex and darker form of theater,” said Flowers. “It gives you something to think about, like ‘Death of a Salesman’ by Arthur Miller, ‘A Zoo Story,’ or one of my favorites is ‘M. Butterfly.’”
While he enjoys more modern styles of contemporary drama, he doesn’t rule out the classics.
“As cliché as it sounds, I adore Shakespeare,” he said. “It’s flexible and full of emotions. It can go from highly comedic to heartbreaking and shattering.”
Flowers has played a myriad of roles at Goshen College while in the theater department. Each year, he has been nominated to compete in the Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival, held in January.
After playing this wide range of characters, Flowers said his favorite roles to play are the more abstract and obscure ones. He’s not one for the typical romantic lead. Rather, he said his favorite roles to play are more challenging to him, in the sense these characters aren’t like what you’d see in every day life.
“I like playing the darker character who’s very inward and dramatic,” said Flowers. With a laugh, he said, “I usually like to play the villain or the crazy people, something that is not identifiable to someone in the audience. There’s this unreliability with the villain or the darker force because they’re not matching up with the good the audience sees happening with the protagonist.”
Flowers had the opportunity this summer to perform professionally at the Round Barn Theater, a summer stock program in Frankfort, which he described as “a theater factory.” Over the course of three months, Flowers performed in three plays. Each play was performed five nights a week, while rehearsals for the next play took place during the day.
“Being at Red Barn was like jumping out of the nest,” Flowers said with a sigh. “You had a lot to learn in a short amount of time. You had to be ready.”
As Flowers prepares to leave Goshen College, he’s preparing for an event highlighting everything he’s learned as an undergrad: his senior show. This “culmination of work at college,” he said, is a way for theater majors to “show off the best work you can.”
Usually senior shows are individual events, however, this will be a joint senior show with three other seniors in the department.
“I started looking for shows in the fall of my junior year when my show wouldn’t be until spring 2016,” Flowers said. “For the joint senior show, we need to communicate well and trust is important. We want to make sure everyone’s voice and opinion is heard.”
What’s next for Flowers after graduation?
“There’s that ‘starving artist’ stereotype,” Flowers said, furrowing his brow. “I want to go to grad school, and I want to act. But I like to direct and do sound design as well. We’ll see. The future is scary.”