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Director and actress Janet Colson embraces winds of change

The local playwright shares her journey to having multiple degrees, three kids and endless possibilities

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Besides playing nude volleyball, it’s hard to find something Janet Colson hasn’t done.

In June, Colson graduated with an MFA in writing from Goddard College in Vermont.  In addition to boasting famous alumni such as David Mamet, Trey Anastasio and William H. Macy, the school was once known for its naked volleyball games.

Colson has directed and acted in several local productions including “The Diary of Anne Frank” and “The Buried Child.” Recently, she was in Peppermint Creek Theatre Co.’s “Indecent,” where she auditioned to be a violinist but won a spot playing Halina instead.

Colson holds multiple degrees in addition to being an actor, director, playwright, budding children’s author, yoga instructor at the Oak Park YMCA, violin and viola player, teacher of multiple subjects and a waitress who can play spoons. She is a pole dancer, too. 

“Not professionally, but that could change,” Colson said. “I do need the income.”

The multi-hyphenate said she has a “personality that craves lots of options.”  Which made attending Goddard College a “big deal” because she had to focus on one subject.

After high school, Colson attended the New York University Tisch School of the Arts, then a theater program at the University of Wisconsin, the Boston Conservatory and then returned to NYU with a year in Paris.

Chicago-born and Madison, Wisconsin-raised, Colson spent 17 years in Los Angeles. She earned teaching credentials through the University of California, Los Angeles and taught at an inner-city school. She also met her husband, Mark, of 23 years while performing in “Matthew and the Pope’s Hat.” Her performance netted Colson a glowing review in Variety magazine. The rest of the play was labeled “bedlam and dreck.”

Colson’s husband is a TV and equity theatre actor and in a yet-to-be-released Netflix show.  The couple has lived in the Lansing area for eight years with their three children.

“We are Family Colson,” Colson said, “We all act and we’re all really interesting.”

The Colsons came to Lansing in pursuit of teaching positions at Michigan State University, where Janet teaches today. 

“I’ve taught five different departments at MSU,” she said. “Not many people can say that.”

She mainly teaches English as a second language. In the past, she’s taught finance to Korean students, led role-playing for the Office of Inclusion and co-directed Disney musicals for elementary students in Lansing schools through the Wharton Center for Performing Arts.   

Other local work includes acting in “The Women of Lockerbie,” directing “The Diary of Anne Frank” and “Buried Child” at Riverwalk Theatre and acting in “Gideon’s Knot” at Ixion Theatre Ensemble. For a past Lansing Renegade Festival, Colson performed a one-woman show called “The Yellow Wallpaper.” 

“She was such a caring director,” said Sally Hecksel, who played Anne Frank under Colson’s guidance. “She’s someone who is really easy to open up to and trust.” 

Michael Boxleitner played Peter in the same play. He said it was Colson’s attention to detail and amount of energy that set her apart from other directors. 

“She’s a director that fights to achieve her vision,” Boxleitner said.

Connor Kelly shared the observation about Colson’s energy and commented on her optimism as the director in “Buried Child.” 

“I think she does an incredible job of making everyone see their self-worth,” Kelly added.  “I hope to carry the same amount of energy and optimism into my future.”

For her thesis at Goddard, Janet had to submit a full-length play.  It is called, “EA (Eaters Anonymous).”

“It touches all of us,” she said. “We’re all addicted to eating.”

The director-student-mother said she battled with a “raging” eating disorder and kicked the habit when she started raising her children. She said above all, parenting is her favorite role.

The family’s next move will likely be to Detroit, where her and her husband regularly commute for work and commercial shoots.

“It’s a weird time. It’s the in-between,” she said. “I’m at a precipice, but I know everything is going to turn out cool.” 

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