A West Virginia University student will make her big screen debut when “Getting Grace” premieres nationwide Friday, March 23.
Madelyn Dundon, a sophomore musical theatre major, stars as Grace, a charismatic and riveting teenager with cancer. The movie tells the story of what happens when Grace goes into a funeral home to learn about death, only to end up teaching the funeral director about life.
“I learned so much from Grace,” Dundon said. “She reminds me to wake up every morning and live every day like it’s your last. She reminds me to be brave in the face of life’s challenges.”
Dundon filmed the movie in her hometown of Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, the summer before she came to WVU on a full scholarship through the Freddy Awards.
“I moved to school two days after shooting and had two days of hair growth from my last shave of the shoot,” Dundon said. “I was completely bald, so people here either thought I was actually sick, or kind of edgy. I’m neither!”
For Dundon, “Getting Grace” served as a learning experience on the ins and outs of the film industry.
“This was my first film experience, so I learned how to act in front of a camera,” Dundon said.“I also learned how to read a call sheet and all about what the pre- and post-production of a movie entails.”
Filming such a complex role wasn’t without it’s challenges, Dundon admits.
“The most daunting aspect of this opportunity was portraying a girl who is terminally ill in a way that was realistic and not offensive or trite,” Dundon said. “Plus, the script has many comedic elements, so I had to deliver jokes within the context of something so tragic. I really had to trust my director and the editors and know that they would tell the right story.”
Spending the last few weeks on tour debuting the film has confirmed to Dundon that the story was told properly.
“Being on this tour, and speaking with everyone who has seen the movie, it seems that so many people who either have fought cancer themselves, or are very close to those battling cancer, or to people who have passed away from cancer, all have a memory of that person’s zest for life, or they have it themselves,” Dundon said. “This love for life is the whole point of Grace, and the whole message of our movie. It is very meaningful to get that response from our audiences.”
Dundon has maintained her love of learning and has kept a regular class load throughout the post-production and premiere of “Getting Grace.”
“I am very passionate about my undergraduate studies, and I use this time to write and research my own one-woman plays,” Dundon said. “I have loved my time here at WVU. What I love the most about it is that I have been able to pursue every single one of my passions in a very diverse environment. I have grown to appreciate scholarship and research more than I thought I would studying performing arts. My professors have fueled my educational and personal growth as an individual.”