“Writing a play as an actor makes you respect authors and playwrights so much more,” Caitlin Muelder ’96 said of writing her one woman show, “Solitaire.”
Originally written for her master’s thesis for the University of San Diego’s Old Globe Program, the play portrays the factual life story of Amelia Earhart.
“I loved what she symbolized,” Muelder said of Earhart. “Whenever someone dies young or in their prime, I think they sort of linger for a time in an interesting way.”
Since its conception, Muelder has performed “Solitaire” from as near as Knox to as far away as the Edinburgh International Festival in Scotland. It is an essential piece of her repertoire. Recent findings linked to Earhart’s mysterious disappearance, though, have led Muelder to update the one-woman show.
Up until this year, speculation was that Earhart and her copilot Fred Noonan died upon impact or soon after landing in the Pacific during their 1937 attempt to fly around the world. Muelder’s play originally followed this speculation, beginning with the plane crash followed by a first-person reflection by Earhart of her life.
Plane debris and female cosmetic supplies circa 1930s recovered in August around Howland Island — where Earhart and Noonan disappeared — now suggest that the two may have survived the crash and made it to dry land.
In response to the new findings, Muelder has given the end to Earhart’s life a vaguer ending but kept much of the original structure the same.
“I’m not interested in writing the castaway story. What is important to me is her life and telling her story and the perfect ending to that life,” Muelder said.
As a daughter of Owen and Laurie Muelder ’63 (a history and English major), Caitlin Muelder grew up valuing “truthful storytelling.”
“We had a lot of really awesome conversations at our dinner table,” she said. “The arts were so valued in my family and so was storytelling.”
Muelder attributes much of her acting success to Knox College, where she is a third-generation legacy.
“When I left Knox, I remember thinking that most of the Globe people had conservatory experience, so my education background gave me an edge. Knox taught me to have an intellectual curiosity about everything; that meant I had a little more to draw from. People would say to me: ‘God, you had a good education’,” she said.
Muelder describes Knox’s course offerings as a “buffet of learning” and considers Professor of Theatre Liz Carlin-Metz her most influential professor.
“She definitely changed the trajectory of my life,” Muelder said of Carlin-Metz, who nominated her for the Young Alumni Achievement Award she received in 2006.
“I was so surprised and startled and incredibly flattered that my undergrad respected me and what I was doing. It felt like in a way, this was a means for me to say thank you even though they were meaning to honor me,” Muelder said.