Juliette (Miller '06) Trafton | Musical Theatre
When Juliette Trafton steps onto the New York stage, she is no longer a resident of northern Manhattan, a wife or an ACU alum. In that moment, she becomes someone new - a character who can relate with the audience in ways that she herself cannot. And as she looks straight into the eyes of complete strangers, the journey of exploration begins yet again.
"Every night, I get to take that journey and discover afresh with my cast and the audience how misled or misplaced our desires, even those that seem the deepest and strongest, can be," she says.
Juliette is currently playing Luisa in "The Fantasticks," an Off-Broadway show that combines elements of romance, drama, tragedy and humor. She got the role after auditioning with 200 other young women in a selection process filled with competition and uncertainty.
"There are countless lessons, classes, meetings, mailings and auditions that seem to generate little to no result, and then all of a sudden something clicks and you get the call ‘You got the job!' " she says.
She finds her character’s emotional journey fascinating as well as something to which any member of the audience can relate. Luisa’s range of experience and reactions runs the gamut from comedy to romance to despair, yet never loses sight of the dream that fuels her search for a new reality.
"Luisa is an incredible character," Juliette says. "She is a young girl who dreams of life only in Technicolor while she feels trapped in a reality that is mere sepia tone. She dreams and fights and bargains and compromises, at times at great cost to herself and her loved ones, to get a taste of the great world ‘out there.’ What she finds surprises her - and perhaps gives her a completely renewed sense of wonder and delighted satisfaction in what has been in front of her all along."
Art and faith intertwined
Juliette is marred to a fellow actor, Stephen Trafton, who graduated from Baldwin Wallace College in 2006. They met in 2008 while understudying romantic leads Raoul and Christine for the Broadway tour of Phantom of the Opera. For Juliette, being married to an actor is both wonderful and challenging in a myriad of ways.
"It is a joy being married to Stephen - he is an incredible man of faith and rare talent," she says. "The most difficult challenge is the unknown, and that is certainly not unique to showbiz."
One of the couple’s greatest priorities is staying together, even though many employment opportunities come in the form of traveling tours or out-of-town shows. Although most jobs in the acting world may only last for a few years, Stephen and Juliette are willing to deal with the challenge.
"We are not willing to sacrifice our relationship for any job," she says.
Juliette attributes much of her current success to the training and relationships she found at ACU. As a member of the famously close-knit theatre department, she benefited from an excellent program and deep friendships with professors and peers.
"I loved being at ACU," she says. "I have always felt lucky that I went to college there. The relationships with the faculty make ACU what it is. The training is incredible, and the personal investment encouraged throughout the theatre department is what I feel really prepared me for life in the business. I was loved and nurtured to respect my talents and the craft, and to search for a way to serve God’s purpose through my career."
‘God in the Darkness’
That dedication to serving God through theatre informs Juliette’s upcoming Summit discussion as she addresses the topic of "Aliens and Light: Finding God in the Darkness." She and Stephen both see a strong connection between art and a life of faith.
"We feel passionate about theology and the arts," she says. "When that connection is explored it actually deepens the artists' understanding of their faith and their art. We hope to share some of our ideas about our calling as artists in a world that, because of Jesus’ resurrection, already has glimpses of His new creation. We want to encourage and explore how we are to be agents of that new creation today."
Keeping the faith
Juliette’s faith has impacted not only her experience as an artist, but also her journey as a member of various theatrical companies. Through her years as an actress, she has had opportunities to join in worship with other believers in the cast and crew, visit churches in cities around the country, and lead an interdenominational church service for guests onboard a Disney Cruise Lines ship. Each opportunity has lead her to a deeper understanding of what it means to be both a leader among her fellow Christians and a follower of Christ.
"Stephen and I believe strongly in the need for community," she says. The group we worshiped with was a huge blessing to us, and any good that came of it was from the Lord’s hand. Also, leading a church service onboard the cruise ship was a huge blessing to me, because through that responsibility the Lord increased my discipline in my own study."
Juliette knows firsthand that life as an actress is filled with uncertainty and challenges as work, relationships, and faith simultaneously coincide. Some days are peaceful, while other are chaotically busy. But through it all, she never forgets the reason she walks onstage and tries for a few short hours to tell her audience the story of a girl who dared to dream.
"I love telling stories, singing and connecting to people," she says. "This show makes that very special."
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