Fringe Artist Snapshots: Michelle Soicher & Calla Wright

Interview series with artists from the 2021 St-Ambroise Montreal Fringe Festival


As an official media partner of the 30th annual St-Ambroise Montreal Fringe Festival, Montreal Theatre Hub brings the #FringeBuzz in 2021 with an all-new interview series with artists from this year’s edition of the fest! In this Snapshot, we present a special double feature with the co-creators of Michegas Theatre’s SPIRAL: playwright and performer MICHELLE SOICHER and playwright CALLA WRIGHT. Read our joint Q&A with the artists in anticipation of the show’s world premiere from June 11th-19th at Petit Campus.


Q&A

MONTREAL THEATRE HUB: What is Spiral about?

CALLA & MICHELLE: Spiral is a dark comedy about mental illness and creation. An all-powerful being brings the audience into her workshop to help her build a complicated and fantastic machine to balance our broken, hateful world. She creates and pontificates in an elevated state, inspired by Michelle’s real-life manic episode. She is brilliant and she is mad. The Creator tinkers with dominos, furbies, lightbulbs and garbage while cracking jokes and charming the audience. She is perfect, but she is clearly unwell. Mania is misunderstood and stigmatized. It’s scary as hell but it’s also fascinating. Our brains are absurd, the world is absurd. This show is a celebration and exploration of that absurdity. The play demonstrates the danger of trying to play god, and argues there is merit in listening, waiting and collaborating. This play came out of our frustration and fatigue with trying to be perfect, moral people. We think the quest for perfection is hilarious. We promise the show is funny… well…it’s something.

MTH: What can audiences expect from the experience of seeing it? 

CALLA & MICHELLE: Audiences can expect to go on an emotional journey filled with surprises. We have aimed to portray the rage of emotion and energy caused by bipolar disorder, which is, as the media suggests, big and scary, but it’s also amazing. We’re excited for audiences to explore that. It’s going to be a lot of fun. The Creator is unhinged, she’s totally charming and unexpected. Our brilliant director, Birdie Gregor has orchestrated The Creator’s journey which is full of peaks and valleys that will challenge the audience. And then of course, there’s the machine! When we envisioned this show we imagined a beautiful, complex Rube Goldberg machine and the brilliant Ted Stafford is going above and beyond our wildest dreams to create it. Audiences will be captivated by this second character on stage. 


Michelle Soicher in Spiral (Photo Credit: Rach Klein)


MTH: What was the idea and inspiration behind the piece? 

MICHELLE: In January of 2020 I had a manic episode. I was able to get treatment quickly thanks to the help of a few concerned friends. It was a wholly unique experience and as many people who have experienced mania will tell you, it was intoxicatingly fun. I was on top of the world. I thought I was privy to information others weren’t. I became profoundly spiritual. I’m Jewish and all my Hebrew school teachings and songs came back to me.I thought I understood the whole world, in all its complexity and how to solve all my problems. I remember thinking that for the first time in my life, I wasn’t spiralling down into depression, I was finally going up! I had a million creative impulses a minute and I thought, one day I will make a show about this. When I was stable, I parsed through my, largely incoherent, notes I left from my mania. I found some themes I liked, primarily the notion of Tikun Olam, the Jewish value of repairing our world. I connected with Calla to help form my thoughts and feelings into the play that is now Spiral.

MTH: Why did you choose the Fringe as the place to premiere this work?

MICHELLE: The Fringe is the absolute perfect place to premiere Spiral. The Fringe encourages experimentation and self expression. Solo shows with personal narratives can really thrive at the Fringe. I knew this fest would be different and more intimate so I felt safe creating something so personal, SO QUICKLY to share with a supportive community. 


Michelle Soicher in Spiral (Photo Credit: Rach Klein)


MTH: What has it been like trying to create a show during a pandemic?

MICHELLE: Creating a show in a pandemic has been a good experience overall. It just feels good to be working on something with people again. I really fucking wish I could hug those people and show them how much I appreciate their hard work. I also wish we could leave our giant machine at the venue each night but these are small potatoes. I’ve kept the team small so I come into contact with fewer people, but that has the added benefit of making communication a breeze. The pandemic got me in touch with Calla, who now lives in Edmonton after attending Concordia with me. If not for COVID, we may not have gotten back in touch and I may not have thought to engage her to write this. AND BOY, do we need Calla on this piece. 

CALLA: It’s been a little bizarre on my end, to help make a show that I don’t get to see! As an emerging creator, I’m usually VERY involved in the production of anything I write, and it’s been a really unique experience to cowrite a piece and then release it into a rehearsal room that I’m not in. I’m so grateful to Michelle for bringing me onto this piece and letting me help tell her story – I only wish that I could see it in person!!! 

MTH: What’s kept you driven to keep creating during this past year? 

CALLA: Right at the beginning of the pandemic, I lost my second day job. I was TERRIFIED at the lack of stability and the ocean of unstructured free time I suddenly had. But being forced away from my routines really gave me the energy and the time to experiment, to try things I’ve never attempted before. I wrote the longest play I’ve ever written. I’ve been animating a stop-motion piece for the Saskatoon Fringe. I think I’ve been writing more than I ever have during the pandemic.

MICHELLE: Honestly, for most of this year, nothing drew me to create. I didn’t teach myself guitar or write a play. I hid for most of this year and waited for the storm to pass. The short turnaround from lottery to performance at the Fringe kicked my butt into high gear and I am so thankful for that.

MTH: How does it feel to be back presenting on a live stage? 

MICHELLE: I am worried I’m going to cry on opening night. This is my first solo show, my first time back on stage in years and one of my only COVID projects. I’m so excited to share and to play. I think this is going to be really special. 

MTH: How does this show/story speak to our present times? 

CALLA & MICHELLE: Spiral addresses feelings of hopelessness and powerlessness in the face of the seemingly insurmountable problems of the world. During the pandemic we have all had time to reflect on our personal and collective battles. Spiral dramatizes this breaking point. This year has challenged everyone mentally. We all relate to mental illness, whether we know someone with mental health challenges or we face them ourselves. Bipolar is a stigmatized illness and we’re trying to work against that. 


Michelle Soicher in Spiral (Photo Credit: Rach Klein)


RAPID FIRE ROUND

What have you missed most about the Fringe?

MICHELLE: I have missed how fringe brings everyone out and everyone together. It’s the time of year when I can count on seeing my whole community around the plateau

CALLA: I’ve done quite a few Fringes across Canada, and the thing I love the most is the reunion of it all – for ten days you get to meet up with your Fringe family from across the country and make art and see art – it’s not called “Theatre Christmas” for nothing! I think that’s what I miss the most, the camaraderie, the creation in concert with others. 

Favourite Fringe show you’ve ever seen?

CALLA: Far too many to choose from – some special favorites include Berlin Waltz by Devon More, and Fool Moon Komming by Sam Kruger. 

MICHELLE: Naked Ugly Dancing by Tasha Diamant. Exactly what it sounds like. The most honest, connected, vulnerable piece of storytelling I’ve ever seen. 

#Fringebuzz: which show(s) on the 2021 lineup are you most stoked to check out?

MICHELLE: Ooh so many! GlenMary Kate Moss, The Celebrity Obsession and Blxck Cxsper: No Justice, No Peace.

CALLA: As I can’t be there in person, I’m excited to check out the Fringe TV options this year! Some shows I’m looking forward to include: Holding Waterways, How The Fables Have Turned and The Captain. 


ARTIST BIOS

MICHELLE SOICHER is excited to produce her first production which she also co-wrote and stars in. Originally from Toronto, she has been living and working in Montreal for the past 9 years. Being queer and Jewish, Michelle has a unique perspective of being an invisible minority and aims to create space for stories that have been pushed to the margins. Soicher is an accomplished stage manager and director having worked for Black Theatre Workshop, The Segal Centre for the Performing Arts, Dora Wasserman Yiddish Theatre, Talking Dog Productions and Teesri Duniya Theatre. Her previous creation credits include: Playwright Eat/Fast (Revolution They Wrote Festival 2015) and Co-Creator Games I Don’t Want to Play with Joseph Glaser (Museum of Jewish Montreal/Segal Centre JAM).  Spiral is unlike any of her other creations. A personal and revelatory story, Soicher reflects on her own experience with mania.

CALLA WRIGHT. Currently located in Edmonton, Calla holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Playwriting from Concordia University in Montreal. Past writing credits include: Home Again (The Alberta Queer Calendar Project 2020) Witts: Ballad of Queer Cowboys (2017 Ergo Pink Fest, Edmonton Fringe 2019) The Wright Sisters Present: The Wright Brothers (Edmonton Fringe 2019/This Is Not That Theatre Festival, 2020) Christmas Play (Dammitammy Productions, 2018-2020) One Too Many (Montreal and Edmonton Fringe Festivals, 2017) The Blood Harmonic (We Are One, 2016) How I Show Love, (Mainline Student Gala, 2015) The Blood Countess (Revolution They Wrote, 2016) Pig By Roger (Edmonton Fringe Festival, 2014) ; the musical (Edmonton Fringe Festival, 2011). She won the 2015 Kit Brennan Playwriting Award for her play The Wind and the Rain, which went on to tour the 2018 Regina, Calgary, and Edmonton Fringe Festivals. She’s currently working on a stop-motion digital play for the Saskatoon Fringe titled I Love You Corporal Micro-Luke.


SPIRAL presented by Michegas Theatre runs from June 11-19 at Petit Campus (57-b Rue Prince Arthur E.). Tickets ($12.00) can be purchased online at www.montrealfringe.ca

FOLLOW
Facebook Event: https://www.facebook.com/events/845919456006545/
Instagram: @spiralfringe



SPIRAL TRAILER


Read here all of the interviews in the Fringe Artist Snapshots series:
www.montrealtheatrehub.com/fringe-artist-snapshots
#MTLFringeSnapshots


Related Content



Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.


*