Finding the Michaels
nytheatre.com q&a preview by Cassie Angley
September 27, 2012
What is your job on this show?
What type of theater do you like most to work on?
Let’s face it, as a playwright and performer I love solo theater because it allows me almost complete control over my piece. I don’t have to worry about a savvy actress putting her own twist on my play, which doesn’t jibe with my artistic intent. And it’s cheap and easy to produce, because the casting is already done, and hey, I work for myself for free! But more importantly, solo theater serves me tremendously as a playwright, since it allows me to literally try on my work, roll it around in my mouth and body and hear how it plays and feels. If I can’t make my own material land true in my own body, then I know I need a slight cut or a rewrite. Performing my own writing is the best editing tool I’ve ever experienced.
What does solo performance do that can't be accomplished in a multi-actor play?
Solo theater replicates storytelling, which is as ancient as the beginning of human language. There is something very primal and nurturing about hearing a story from a single person who acts out all the characters. In ancient times they did it around a fire. In modern times elder family members perform our family heritage at dining room tables or in recliner chairs in the center of the living room—introducing us to all the “characters,” living and deceased, in our family trees. When we were children, many of us enjoyed a kind of “solo performance” as our grown-ups read us bedtime stories from picture books, where they acted out all of the characters. At its best, solo theater can be a nurturing place for an audience to hear a personal story. A story which not only allows them empathy for the characters presented, but also a moment to go deep inside themselves and connect with their own life stories.
Has this show been presented in other cities before New York? Was there a place where the response to this piece surprised you, and why?
California audiences have been touched to tears by both the tragic challenges and the inspiring messages inherent in "Finding the Michaels." Now, it’s time to share this story with New Yorkers, each of whom were propelled on their own unique, but connected journey after experiencing the disaster of 9/11 in their hometown. Eleven years has passed, and the old adage of “time heals” has some truth. But how do we talk about and integrate meaningful change? My intention with "Finding the Michaels" is to open up dialogue about how our lives have been irrevocably changed by the events and aftermath of that shattering day, how we’ve survived and thrived through it, and in some ways have emerged even stronger, livelier, and more united.
Which “S” word best describes your show: SMOOTH, SEXY, SMART, SURPRISING?
I'd say "Finding the Michaels" is surprising. You will be surprised by how universal the themes are in this show which is based on my own personal journey. You will be surprised as the plot twists and turns, and most of all you might be surprised to find yourself crying your eyes out as you reflect on your own journey.
Can theater bring about societal change? Why or why not?
Yes. As I began exploring my story and its themes I started sharing my personal experience of 9/11 and the quest it sent me on with my New York and California friends. I learned that many of them, whether they witnessed the tragedy on the television or on the streets of New York, were profoundly personally affected by 9/11, and were also propelled into action that led them on their own personal quests. Courageous quests for lost friends, relatives and dreams, that prior to looking tragedy in the face they’d been too fearful to embark on. 9/11 acted as a catalyst for change and healing in many of our lives, and yet no one was talking about it. "Finding the Michaels" starts a dialogue about how positive change can come from experiencing tragedy.