Knox Graduate Caitlin Muelder Revising Play on Amelia Earhart

Search for plane wreckage won't diminish pilot's legend

July 26, 2012

Caitlin Muelder as Amelia Earhart
Caitlin Muelder, in costume as Amelia Earhart, above left, in her show Solitaire

The continuing search for Amelia Earhart only adds to the legend of the aviator who disappeared 75 years ago, according to Caitlin Muelder, an actor and Knox College graduate who has written and performed a one-woman show about Earhart.

Muelder is currently revising her play, Solitaire, which she performed at Knox in 2002. She also has performed the play in New York and Los Angeles. Originally written as her master's thesis at the noted Old Globe Program at the University of San Diego, the play also was selected as a "showcase" production at the Edinburgh International Festival.

"I don't know that I will change the ending of the play," Muelder said in an interview conducted before this weeks's announcement that the latest expedition had failed to find any wreckage in the region of the central Pacific Ocean where Earhart and navigator Fred Noonan disappeared in 1937.

While Earhart was not the only, or even the most skilled, woman pilot of her day, Muelder said that Earhart "was more than up to the task" -- an attempt to become the first woman to fly around the Earth.

"Part of me wants them to solve Earhart's disappearance," Muelder said. "But even if it's solved, I don't think it will put an end to the fascination with her."

Earhart was someone "who defined her own role, started her own category," Muelder said. "There's no way to know what might have been, if she had lived out her days. She created an interesting mix of femininity and masculinity. She was a woman of a certain society, but not defined by that society. I admire that, respect that. It appealed to me, and I wanted to dramatize that in some way," Muelder said, explaining why she chose to research and write about Earhart.

"From all the research I did, I believe that something went wrong and they crashed in the water. I believe they landed in the water. Whether or not they made it to the island is just too hard for me to determine. Once water gets in the plane, that points to drowning. As harsh as that reality might seem, she died doing what she loved best. She's one of my heroes -- somebody's sister, somebody's classmate, who did something remarkable."

Caitlin Muelder in Engaged"One of the best things I did, career-wise, was my decision to go to Knox," Muelder said in an interview after she appeard in Engaged, above with Jeremy Shamos. "Because you get a liberal arts background, you have more to bring to your acting -- the literature, history, science, everything else that you've studied."

Muelder said that her revision of Solitaire could be completed later this year.

Muelder earned her bachelor's degree in theatre at Knox in 1996, winning the Colton Prize and Riddell Award for excellence in performance. Her New York theatre credits include the Obie nominated and critically acclaimed Off Broadway production of Engaged and the Broadway production of Tom Stoppard's The Invention of Love. She won Best Featured Actress Awards at The Cincinnati Playhouse and the Charlotte Repertory Theatre.

Muelder has had guest roles NBC's Law & Order: Special Victims Unit and CBS's The Education of Max Bickford and has appeared in two movies, Going In and If You Can Say It in Words. She received Knox College's Young Alumni Achievement Award in 2006.

Muelder is currently in the Old Globe Theatre production of God of Carnage, which runs July 27 through September 2 in San Diego.