The first question is, who am I?
Well, I'm a musician, performing artist, and cultural curator in New York City. I'm from Oklahoma/Kansas/North Dakota, basically all of the midwest. And I am a professionally trained clown.
The more important question is, "Who is Michael?"
Michael is a host at the Olive Garden in Fargo North Dakota, a board member at Spotlight Media, an ambassador for the United Way, and my big brother. He also has Down Syndrome.
Look! That's us!
Now the question is, "Why write a play about Michael?"
This is a play about my brother Michael, who is, in fact, the greatest character in my life. He is complex and moral and selfish and conflicted. He is a hero who struggles with depression. He wants a better life, but it doesn't seem available to him. He is also hilarious, charming, sassy, and a very good dancer.
The 'Michael Show' is as much about me as it is about him. Maybe even more so. When I went to Dell'Arte international School of Physical Theatre to study clown, my understanding of my older brother changed drastically, and I think sharing that could open a new and important dialogue. When I started working on this play with a theatre group called Fresh Ground Pepper, I said "I don't even know if I should be making this play, like if I am actually allowed to." And to that, Andrew Neisler, one of FGP's directors said, "Make this show!" So I did.
The show is about the joy Michael brings into my life, as well as the fear. He is the most essential human being, and I want to be able to talk about the openly. For years I was inhibited because I was afraid of getting too honest about my brother, of coming to terms with my feelings regarding him and the special needs community as a whole. I want the play to form a space where we can all ask the questions that lurk in our minds, but we avoid because we might sound stupid or offensive.
I want to show the audience how they are like Michael. To see that they can relate. That Michael is just like us. But better.
After writing this piece, I ended up sitting on it for a year. When Rosalind Grush, artistic director at The Tank Theater, reached out to see if I would want two weeks in the spring for 'The Michael Show', I had to take it. The Tank is a wonderful place, hosting over ten shows a week, giving free space to artists, and curating exciting brave work. I've admired them for years. It would be a perfect home for this play that, admittedly, terrifies me.
Okay, more questions. Why all this money?
The money you give will pay for: rehearsal space, design elements, advertising, and all of the things big and small that go into making a play.
It is essential to my ideals that the director, designers, and technicians who are working on the show are paid a competitive wage. It takes time to build a show. Time and energy and talent. So often artists, especially theatre makers, are not offered competitive pay, which means we start to value ourselves less. I would like to change that in whatever small way I can. Your contribution will help that change.
There will also be special budget set aside for things like cookies and sparkling grape juice - because I want to acknowledge that this play would be boring for Michael and if he had to sit still for an hour while I talked he'd need those things to stay focused and happy.
What if you go over your goal?
Then I'll use that money to form a Buddy Walk team and fly Michael out to New York for it!
What's the Buddy Walk?
Now THAT is a great question. The Buddy Walk is an annual event created by the National Down Syndrome Society to celebrate Down Syndrome Awareness Month. Every year, Michael hosts a group at the walk in Fargo, affectionately calling themselves Michael's Minions (he LOVES that movie) and they all proudly walk with him. I have already decided that if we raise more than the goal, every dollar more will go toward flying Michael out to New York City for our Buddy Walk, so he can form a group of minions here to raise the banner with him.
If we get Michael out in the fall, I will also do a reprise performance of 'The Michael Show', so Michael can see the show himself. He is already very excited. He calls me every day to say, "Amy! My Good Sister! THE MICHAEL SHOW! IN TIMES SQUARE!"
Yesterday he asked if 'The Michael Show' was going to be on Good Morning America. He would like for Robin Roberts to see it. Considering that Michael has met Robin Roberts twice, I would say that this is not a bad idea.
Risks and challenges
The risks. What are the risks? Well...
This isn't particularly marketable show. This is a weird risk, but it's true. If someone said, "Hey! Do you want to go see a show where a girl talks about having a brother with down syndrome for an hour?" you would probably respond, "Nah. What movies are playing?" Getting people to the theatre will be a challenge. But once they are there, it'll be great!
I might say something stupid. Scratch that, I definitely will say something stupid. But it will be from my heart. And maybe it will make you say something stupid from your heart too, but that might mean we can all finally talk about Down Syndrome, special needs, and the truths about ourselves that make us human, and maybe even be a little brave about it.
In all of this I'm afraid of exploiting my brother for my own artistic gain. What is the balance? I want to make art that is about something important. Something real and relevant. And I want it to honor my brother. To introduce him to a world of people who have never met him, and represent him so truly that, by the end of an hour, everyone feels like they know him. I am a good artist. The team I have gathered are also good artists. So I am not too worried, but it's up to me to keep watch of that balance, and up to you to keep me accountable.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
- (20 days)