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Work Samples

BATS! Dr. M with Genny (short for generalized anxiety)

Michele Minnick BATS!
From "BATS!" conceived, written and performed by Michele Minnick, created by Michele Minnick, Glenn Ricci, Ursula Marcum, Caitlin Bouxsein, Jess Rasp, with original drawings by Chelsea Demitras. Premiered at The Marquee Lounge at Creative Alliance, Baltimore. Photo by Glenn Ricci

Vital Matters

Vital Matters
Vital Matters is a devised work engaging participants' and audiences' relationship to self, other, and the non-human world in a time of climate crisis. An investigatory process framed by environmental theatre and somatic practices, it premiered at Kennesaw State University in 2019, with material created by 8 undergraduates and directed by Michele Minnick. The KSU project serves as a prototype for future iterations in other communities, which will each shape it in unique ways. In this image, audience members participate in a water ritual created by students. Photo by Kenehan Shotwell.

Lamatown

Lamatown
Lamatown, a play by Clotilde Tavares with original songs and music by Gabriel Soto. Co-directed by Henrique Fontes and Michele Minnick. This new play, a satirical fable about corruption, played in three different outdoor venues in Natal, Rio Grande do Norte, Brazil, in 2014, supported by a grant from NatalemCena. During the first two weeks of rehearsal, Minnick trained the performers in the Rasaboxes and other techniques, which served as the basis for developing the play's larger than life characters, and for performing outdoors.

Sotoba Komachi Ballroom Men and Women.jpg

Sotoba Komachi
Sotoba Komachi, directed and choreographed by Michele Minnick at James Madison University. Set by Richard Finkelstein, lighting by Emily Becher-Maceever, Costumes by Pamela Johnson, Sound by Nathan Leigh. Photograph by Richard Finkelstein.

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About Michele

Baltimore City

Michele Minnick's picture
My collaborative artworks, large and small, intimate and spectacular, are carefully cultivated experiences that take place in fields and forests, on beaches, in studios, bars, and theatres, and in your home. They use images, words, music, puppetry, movement, and objects to engage histories of madness, the ooze of oil, the migrations of animals and humans, the smells of ancestral memory, the tastes of home, beauty, danger, a lot of humor, and futuristic fabulations to vitalize, and to offer alternative... more

Vital Matters and House Calls

Vital Matters/House Calls
 
What does "home" mean to you?
What is vital to you?
What is sacred to you?

These and many other questions are at the heart of both Vital Matters, and its sister project, House Calls. Both projects bring the earth close, where the smell of tree bark and memories of water reminds us of our creature-hood, inviting us to slow down, come into our senses, and be able to relate to one another from a more grounded place, whatever catastrophe might face us.

I include them both here, because Vital Matters is really the overarching project under which House Calls sits. Vital Matters is the ensemble oriented, spectacular umbrella. House Calls is an intimate affair, intending to take me into one on one conversations in people's homes, and though I received a Ruby Grant in 2019 to develop House Calls in 2020, Covid made it impossible to engage with people in the up close and personal way the project demands. So it has also become an entry point to Vital Matters, an interview to help find Baltimore collaborators. They are both long term projects, with shared themes, some shared methods, that are designed to be taken into different communities.
 
The problem:
Discussions of climate change in the political arena tend to be disembodied, reductive, and frought with party politics. In personal relationships it can be difficult to talk about climate change and what to do about it because we feel we don’t know enough, we don’t know what to do, or how to start, or simply because even addressing the climate crisis fills us with fear, dread or despair. And so, in relationship to a topic that should concern and unite us all, we often end up feeling alone, isolated and powerless. Many people of Earth have already been dealing with the devastating effects of climate change, largely poor, black and brown people. Histories of the fossil fuel industry and other forms of extractivism, the anihilation of native peoples and cultures, slavery, capitalism, misogyny and other forms of violence are inextricably linked, and so environmental and social justice are an essential part of addressing the climate crisis, and telling new stories of our relationship to the home we share.
 
Performative responses:
Vital Matters is an ongoing, place and community-based, performative response to this predicament. It posits a celebration of our connectedness to the earth and its elements and creatures as foundational to moving into change, and offers ways of connecting to one another as inhabitants and stewards of earth during this climate crisis. The project originated and was workshopped over a period of eight weeks with a small ensemble of students at Kennesaw State University in the fall of 2019. It is currently being developed as a 2-3 year project with Submersive Productions, where Baltimore’s diverse land, creatures, and human populations, will shape our explorations. 

A multi-arts, mobile laboratory for investigating local and global human relationships to the natural world and climate change, Vital Matters is based on the lives, skills, and interests of members of the ensemble, the locality in which it takes place, and the shifting reality of the climate crisis, each iteration of Vital Matters is unique, emerging like a cardiogram of the place and people it is exploring. It draws on environmental theatre and ecosomatics practices, the individual biographies and poetics of participants, scientific, philosophical, and other literatures, and the natural and human histories and present bio-articulations of a place, in this case, Baltimore and the Chesapeake Bay Region. The culminating results will be multiple experiences for the public, including performances, installations, and conversations with diverse panels of scientists, culture workers, social and environmental justice activists, spiritual leaders, science fiction writers, and others.

House Calls is a multi-sensory interview, a walk down memory lane, an intake with Dr. M. about your visions for the future. It begins in my immediate neighborhood, in the homes of my neighbors, and moves outward to other parts of the city, engaging a diverse cross-section of the city's population. It gathers (and audio records) individual stories of home, migrations, and shifting relationships to the natural world, to land, water, and the non-human creatures that inhabit it. Ultimately, these stories will be woven together into a visual and sound installation where you may also add your answers to Dr. M's questions.

Out of the Shadows: A Team Holler Joy Solstice Celebration

Out of the Shadows (and other Team Holler Joy events)
 
During the pandemic, I have focused my creative and community-building energies on my most immediate, physically available community: my neighbors in the Sabina-Mattfeldt area of Mt. Washington, affectionately known by its event organizers as “the Holler”. With housemate and co-instigator, Juanita Rockwell, I have organized two events: Joy in the Holler, an offering on the evening of election day, to provide stress relief and a sense of community in a time that has led to many bitter resentments and divisions between people, and Out of the Shadows, a Team Holler Joy Solstice Celebration, pictured in the images included here. For both events, we gathered a team of neighbors, some with artistic and other skills to contribute, others who wanted to help by building fires and providing warm beverages. Both events used current Covid guidelines, all participants were masked and we maintained distances of six feet or more with anyone not from our immediate pod or household. Our next event will likely be in April, on Earth Day, and other events to follow. These productions offer us an opportunity to build community with our neighbors, and also to experiment with new forms, skills and technology.
 
For Joy in the Holler, which we planned with co-conspirators Jean Grae and Gavin (Quelle) Tenille for the evening of election day as an invitation to unglue from the results coming in, and from political conversation altogether. There were three Fire pits, distributed in three places in the neighborhood, with adult drinks, a silly hat parade with noisemakers, led by a resident flugel horn player, and a singalong of “The Times They Are a Changing” with the extended Scally family. One mom from the neighborhood rallied the kids for some sidewalk chalk drawing and other activities. We erected a community drawing board for people to write or draw their dreams for the future, which people continued to contribute to and enjoy over several days after the event. Jean and Quelle shared some Old Timey Music, and socially distanced dancing that Jean Dj’d from her porch. 
 
For Out of the Shadows, a guided audio tour of the neighborhood, and festival of lights with video-recorded musical contributions from the Team Holler Joy Jazz ensemble, we provided an event that was both virtual and live, and followed the safety protocols put in place in mid-December. In the process of creating the event, we discovered hidden talents of some of our neighbors. Our Visual Design Committee created an array of decorations for our neighborhood field, where the spiral back into and out of 2020 took place. We invited colleague Ursula Marcum to make a shadow puppet show, Glenn Ricci to provide additional music, which we ended up recording. At the center of the spiral there was a fire for people to burn their “shadows,” – difficulties from 2020. Upon emerging from the spiral, they met a wish tree where people whispered their wishes People made cookies that were available for the taking Our festival of light was an opportunity both to embrace the darkness, literal and metaphorical, and to welcome the coming light of spring. We were graced with an unusually long lasting snowfall a few days before, the convergence of Jupiter and Saturn and a bright sliver of moon in the sky, so the elements conspired to make it a wintery and beautiful evening.

Here is a link to our audio tour (you may need to copy and paste into your browser): https://youraudiotour.com/tours/1185/
Here is a link to Ursula Marcum's shadow puppet piece, The Return: https://youtu.be/xU0AcwLbwUQ
Here are links to the videos of the songs: 
La Vie: https://youtu.be/ofsez-pvnnw
Frosty: https://youtu.be/SQKrfV-XJK0 
 
After a contemplative walk through the neighborhood, participants were instructed to leave words or phrases based on their experiences in a box, which we constructed as a kind of poem: Messages from the Salt Box.
 
The Out of the Shadows Team:
 
Visual Design Committee: Elaine Champion, Nicole Lamont, Ruth Scally
Cookie Committee: Peggy Israel
Wassail/Whiskey Committee: Ruth Scally, Alden Caldwell-Gaines, Natalie Novak 
Fires provided by: Alden Caldwell-Gaines, Ruth Scally, and Juanita Rockwell
 
Music Videos (coming soon!): Team Holler Joy Jazz Ensemble
Daniel Zaltz (horn & keys), Linda Bucay (bass), Matt O’Conke (drums) Owen Lang (Omnichord)
Vocals: “La Vie en Rose” Jean Grae & Juanita Rockwell
“Frosty the Snowman”: Jean and the gremlins of her mind
Special Thanks to David Reich for helping get the music off the ground!
Grand Poobah of video editing, audio mixing, and puppets: Jean Grae
 
Reading: of “Joy and Sorrow” from The Prophet, by Kahlil Gibran: Alonzo LaMont
 
Glenn Ricci on Guitar, recording & editing for “Sound of Silence”
Vocals: Juanita and Michele 
 
Guest Artists Ursula Marcum (Shadow Puppetry) and Glenn Ricci (Music and Video) for The Return
 
Documentation: Aaron Levin
 
Your Audio Tour Makers and Co-Instigators: Michele and Juanita
 
Solstice brought to you by Earth, Sun, and The Real Space Force

  • The Hong family warms up by one of the fires along the journey

    Out of the Shadows Enjoying a Fire
    A family enjoys one of the fires provided by neighbors for Out of the Shadows. Photo by Aaron Levin
  • The "shadows" fire, at the center of the candlelit spiral

    As participants walked this spiral, they were encouraged to walk back in time through 2020, remembering joys and sorrows. When they got to the center fire, they were invited to whisper a "shadow," something difficult or dark that they wished to release, into a little black piece of paper, crumple it, and toss it in the fire. Photo by Aaron Levin.
  • Ice ornament made by Ruth Scally

    Ice Ornament
    Ruth made many of these ice ornaments, and decked an entire small tree with them. The ice gradually melted, dropping seeds and branches to the ground. Photo by Elaine Champion.
  • Messages from the Salt Box.pdf

    This "poem" was compiled from the phrases and words left by participants in Out of the Shadows, after completing the first part of the journey through the neighborhood.

    PDF icon Messages from the Salt Box.pdf
  • The Dream Wall

    The Dream wall was a place to write and draw dreams, hopes, and visions for the future during our election night event "Joy in the Holler." All ages were invited to take up chalk, markers, crayons and contribute. It stayed up for several days and people continued to add to it and stop and read it as they walked their dogs around the block. Photo by Juanita 'Rockwell.

BATS!

BATS!, a solo work which premiered at the Marquee Lounge, Creative Alliance, in Baltimore in 2018, is a multimedia performative contemplation of fear and madness in American culture, structured by personal experiences of psychosis, anxiety and depression. The piece was produced by Submersive Productions (of which Michele is an associate artist), and features sound and video projection by Glenn Ricci, puppets, object and environment design, and puppetry by Ursula Marcum, original drawings by Chelsea Demitras and original text and songs for accordion and voice by Michele Minnick. The piece was performed for audiences of 20-28 people in the intimate space of a small bar. Michele's performance persona, Dr. M., (who, like Michele, is a doctor of philosophy), engaged audience members directly throughout the show about their experiences, moods, and sense of what is real.

  • Audience w Emoticons

    Dr. M. asks the audience to rate their mood
    Periodically, Dr. M. asks the audience to rate their mood, by choosing or creating emoticons. Photo by Glenn Ricci.
  • Song: Strange Thoughts

    Song for accordion and voice: Strange Thoughts, sung by Dr. M
  • BATS! History of Madness Chalkboard

    Dr. M offers some background on the history of what is now known as "bipolar disorder." Photo by Glenn Ricci.
  • History of Madness Overhead

    Dr. M. shares images of devices used to contain the mad
    As part of the History of Madness lecture, Dr. M. gives examples of devices designed to contain mania in the physical body. Photo by Glenn Ricci.
  • BATS Lithium Song

    Dr. M. sings and plays Lithium Song on the accordion
    Dr. M. sings Lithium Song, an 8 minute humorous waltz detailing the history of lithium. Photo by Glenn Ricci.
  • Dream Autopsy Bat

    Dream Autopsy Bat
    The strange doctor pulls objects from Dr. M's body while she is asleep. This one is a bat. Photo by Glenn Ricci.
  • BATS! Sucking Poison.jpg

    Sucking out the Poison
    A moment at the hospital during Michele's psychotic episode, in which she could feel that she was sucking the poison out of the environment and the people around her, transmuting it. This crawing, by Chelsea Demitras, is part of a series of drawings that were incorporated into a short video by Glenn Ricci, that played at about the midpoint of the show, after Dr. M experiences a "break."
  • Minor Depressio Puppet

    M.D., or Minor Depression Puppet (A Marionette)
    M.D., or Minor Depression Puppet (A Marionette). Photo by Glenn Ricci.
  • Lifting Bats

    The audience releases their paper bats
    At the end of the show, audience make paper bats and hang them in the air to release their fears. Photo by Glenn Ricci.
  • BATS! - Book of Mad

    This video was created from images drawn by Chelsea Demitras based on actual moments during Minnick's experiences of madness. Glenn Ricci created the sound and video editing. The video played on a screen at one end of the bar in a moment of "emergency," in which Minnick's lecture on the history of madness leads to a "break."

ReDress

ReDress is a solo work commissioned by Vertice Brasil, a Florianopolis-based branch of the Magdalena Project, an international network of women theatre and performance artists (https://themagdalenaproject.org/). It was first performed at the Vertice Brasil festival in 2012, under the title "Mulher, Sem Titulo," (Woman, Untitled). I have since performed it in Ecuador, Uruguay, and Natal, Brazil.

Born of my personal frustration with gendered street harrassment, and my pedagogical urge to address my undergraduate students', particularly my female students' cynicism and dismissal of feminism as a thing of the past, I created ReDress as a way to bring attention to connections between verbal sometimes seemingly "harmless" harrassment on the street and the continuum of violence against women. 

The performance always takes place in a public square or other public place of foot traffic and meeting. It begins with an image, of myself, in a red dress, red heels, white sweater and hat, sometimes coat, and a suitcase, walking onto the scene and setting up my space. Once I have made a circle around myself with corn meal or a similar substance, and set up my things, I gather a crowd around the circle and explain to them with written signs what I'm doing there. I've come to make visible the everyday violence of street harrassment, and do so by inviting the women in the crowd to step inside the circle and write things that have been said to them in public places that made them feel violated, lesser, afraid.

I end the piece by having the audience (men and women) write hopes for the future, which I pack up in my suitcase. Before I leave the scene, I tell them that this is a performance I do not want to do, but that I will keep doing until it is no longer necessary. I leave them with my calling card, and invite them to take some for their own use, to inspire their own resistance. With each iteration I have also become interested in how this figure, the woman dressed elegantly with nasty comments written all over her body, then interacts with the local landscape. I have enlisted photographers to document me in different parts of the city.

The Mesmeric Revelations! Of Edgar Allan Poe

This was Submersive Productions' inaugural show (First run in spring of 2015, second run with a second cast in fall of 2015, performed at the historic Enoch Pratt House in Mt. Vernon), for which I provided the ensemble training, choreography, and co-direction. Glenn Ricci had won a Ruby grant to develop his concept of an immersive show that would be populated by both real and fictional figures from Edgar Allan Poe's life and works. I was invited onto the core team. Although we worked with some text, much of the piece was to be movement based. I conducted a two week intensive workshop based in The Performance Workshop and Rasaboxes, as well as elements from Viewpoints, Body Mind Centering and other psychophysical and somatic practices, to ground the ensemble's work in a common language, to begin to establish ways of working in intimate proximity with audience and in response to actual artitecture, and to plant seeds for the devising process that would take place over the next several months. My more notable contributions to the show included: developing the character of the Barkeep together with the three different actors who played this strange character -- Barkeep was somewhere between dead and living, between genders, and had quirky movement patterns and strange ways of moving around the space; and conceiving of and choreographing the Ballroom scene, which included a "Mesmeric Waltz." 

Mesmeric won a Baltimore City Paper Best of Baltimore "Best Theatrical Experience" award.

Here is a link to a preview of the show that captures some of its flavor: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eUzlWcShssI&feature=emb_logo

  • The Mesmeric Waltz Entrances Virginia and Barkeep

    The Mesmeric Waltz
    The Bartender(Lisi Stoessel) and Virginia (Natanya Washer) dance a Mesmeric Waltz. Conceived and choreographed by Michele Minnick. Photo by Glenn Ricci.
  • Auguste with an Audience Member

    An audience member examines some of Auguste (David Brasington)'s clues more closely. Photo by Glenn Ricci.
  • Eliza descending the stairs

    Eliza descends the stairs, performing Ophelia's "mad scene," while guests look on. Photo by Glenn Ricci.
  • Barkeep in a strange stillness

    Barkeep, here played by Jessica Ruth Baker, stayed for an eerily long time behind the reception desk, barely moving and having strange, slow interactions with the guests. Photo by Glenn Ricci.

Sotoba Komachi

I directed and choreographed this project with students in the theatre and dance department of James Madison University in 2019. I worked closely with Japanese theatre artist Naoko Maeshiba to understand the subtleties of Mishima's text, simultaneously working closely with designers to develop a vision for the show. I cast the ensemble before casting roles, and then conducted a weeklong workshop together with  composer/sound designer Nathan Leigh, in which the actors were introduced to the Rasaboxes, elements of Butoh, the waltz, hiphop, and other movement elements that would be crucial in devising the opening for the show, the building of character and scene work, and the waltz sequences. Sophomore Caroline Buddendorf choreographed a hip hop sequence that was the centerpiece of "the park scene," a prologue to Mishima's play, for which the actors developed their own characters. The show was framed by the presence of four actor/percussionists, whose live soundscape and movement accompanied the scenes between Poet, Old Woman, and other characters, and accentuated elements of the recorded sound design. The Poet's death was choreographed with an additional character, Morita, who had figured prominently in the playwright's life and suicide. The result was a layering of contemporary music and movement idioms with historical images and themes surrounding the writing of the play in the 1950s, and an oblique reference to traditional Japanese theatre forms that make use of percussion as an integral part of the dramaturgy.

LUNGS

Lungs, by Duncan Macmillan, directed by Michele Minnick at The Kitchen Theatre, Ithaca, NY (where I have also directed four other plays under the artistic direction of Rachel Lampert: Julie Johnson by Wendy Hammond, Cloud Tectonics by José Rivera, The Gene Pool by Christi Stewart-Brown, and A Body of Water by Lee Blessing, which also played at Geva Theatre in Rochester). This play follows the life of a couple (She and He) from the moment they first start discussing the possibility of having a child to the end of Her life, when He is already gone. It is clear that environmental degradation and climate catastrophe are the backdrop of the lovestory. For this play, which is written without any indication of time or setting, and which involves radical shifts from one life moment to the next-for example from a heartwrenching breakup to their first reunion several years later-the Rasaboxes served as an essential framework for making quick transitions between emotional states and moments in time. There was no set for the production other than a platform. The staging was breath and movement-based, a choreography of intimacy over many years.

Lamatown

Lamatown, a new play written by Clotilde Tavares, with music by Gabriel Souto, was co-directed by Henrique Fontes and Michele Minnick as part of NatalEmCena, a municipal grant for the production of plays in multiple outdoor locations in Natal, Rio Grande do Norte, Brazil in 2014. Michele led the cast through a 2-week Rasaboxes workshop at the beginning of rehearsal, developing a vocabulary for the creation of the larger-than-life characters, and tools for shaping scenes which had to project in outdoor spaces. 

Kid-Simple: A Radio Play in the Flesh

Kid-Simple: A Radio Play in the Flesh by Jordan Harrison, Directed by Michele Minnick at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC), 2013. Set by Greggory Schraven. Lights, sound and projections by Adam Mendelson . Costumes by Rebecca Eastman. Kid-Simple tells the story of Moll, a girl inventor who wins the school science contest with her noise machine, only to have her invention stolen by an evil shape-shifting mercenary. What follows is the fable of her adventures to save sound as we know it. The play requires over 1,000 live Foley sounds, and all actors except those playing Moll and the Narrator, to play multiple roles. We used the first week of rehearsal to do a Rasaboxes workshop, which gave us tools for creating each character, and shaping the mood of each part of the play.

The Bacchai

I was movement and ensemble director for this 2012 production, directed by Ryan Clark with students from the undergraduate department of theatre arts at Towson University. I led a two-week intensive workshop based in The Performance Workshop and Rasaboxes, which laid the foundation for my work directing and choreographing the chorus, and gave a psychophysical foundation for the character work of the principal actors. 

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