Marvin Merritt IV '20: Actor, arts leader and island son

Marvin MerrittYou might see Marvit Merritt IV '20 around Harvard this weekend. He's the ARTS FIRST Festival intern, and he performs in The Danube, TDM's spring production. Both the festival and the show through May 5.

By Alicia Anstead

I run into Marvin Merritt IV '20 a lot these days. He has been working at the Office for the Arts at Harvard as the ARTS FIRST intern -- a formidable and fun job that helps keep the glue sticking for the annual festival. Marvin is also performing in the Theater, Dance & Media spring show The Danube. I've seen him in everything he has done

Marvin Merritt with co-actor Eliya Smith ’20 in "The Danube"
theatrically at Harvard -- and before that, I saw him as a kid performing at Opera House Arts at the Stonington Opera House in Stonington, Maine. He comes from a small island, but his talent is very big. I asked him about his experiences at Harvard, his life in the arts and his work on the show. The Danube runs thought May 5. Tickets are free and can be reserved here.

You’ve been in four TDM shows. What’s your biggest take away from these experiences?
TDM productions are exciting opportunities to collaborate with a dedicated group of students and an experienced team of professional artists on quite innovative experimental theater. I appreciate the opportunity to apply my theoretical learning in a practice-based environment that respects my time and creativity.

The Danube is a complicated play. Tell us about Paul, your character, and what you think folks need to know before stepping into the theater.

The DanubePaul Green is an American that moves to Budapest, Hungary, where he meets the Sandor family, falling in love with their eldest daughter Eve. They get married, and just as quickly contract an unexplained disease, one that tests the resilience of their relationship and forces them to fight through declining health in an increasingly hostile environment. The Danube was largely inspired by Hungarian language-learning tapes that María Irene Fornés had found, directly influencing the structure of the play; most scenes begin with a tape- recorded introduction and contain “basic sentences” reminiscent of the stilted dialogue for which these tapes are infamous. The play is less plot-driven than an imagistic meditation, and I am thrilled to share this largely unknown masterpiece with an enthusiastic audience during ARTS FIRST 2019.

You’ve had a busy year, traveling abroad, doing a major show and working as the ARTS FIRST intern at the Office for the Arts. What has been the most memorable part of your junior year at Harvard?
I feel fortunate to have had the opportunity to study abroad in Russia at the Moscow Art Theatre last fall, and now to work as the ARTS FIRST intern at the OFA and on The Danube with TDM. Can’t I just say that my participation in the arts is the most memorable part? It’s impossible to pick between these experiences because of how each has nurtured a different aspect of my learning. They have all contributed to a memorable year of my life.

You come from a small island in Maine. Tell us how that experience prepared you for the rigors of Harvard and for your academic life as an artist.
Yes, I was born and raised on Deer Isle, a small island off the coast of Maine. I am grateful for my island community that nurtured me, instilling a versatility and strong work ethic that have prepared me for my time at Harvard and my life as an artist. Deer Isle will also be the central inspiration of my senior thesis next year.

If someone were to ask you about the arts at Harvard, what would you tell them?
Why tell them about the arts at Harvard when they have the opportunity to see The Danube and so much more during ARTS FIRST 2019? Seriously, just come see some good art!