INTERVIEW: Michelle Drozdick

Pic by Leslie Bowen

Hi Michelle, welcome to VENTS! How have you been?

Thank you for having me! I’ve been well, and far too busy. I’m currently preparing for the final 2019 run of my solo show ‘Message in a Bottle’, while getting ready for the first run of my next show, ‘Ducky’. They’re both very, very different shows (one is a very intense dark comedy, while the other is much lighter and sillier), so it’s been a lot of fun getting to explore the worlds of both.

So let’s kick off with the basics – how were you drawn into the acting world?

Way back when, a guy I was dating took me to an improv show at the PIT in New York on one of our early dates. It quickly became a place we’d go to a lot, and although that relationship didn’t work out (probably because I was in the closet), I kept going to see shows afterwards, and eventually got up the nerve to take a class. Since then I’ve been in love with improv and comedic acting, especially things that are a bit surreal but rooted in reality.

How does your theater background influence your acting as a whole?

So far my acting has been entirely comedy theater-based, with some video sketches and some extra work on a television pilot. So I suppose it’s led me to stick with what I know, though I do definitely want to branch out and try new things. Having that background has definitely shaped my style though. I especially enjoy playing with the fourth wall (though I don’t in ‘Message in a Bottle’) and using a theater’s space in non-traditional ways.

How did you come up with the idea for Message In A Bottle?

I had wanted for some time to create a show about my struggle with alcoholism, and a glimpse at (my much more functional!) life after. That being said, I didn’t want to just do a straightforward show where I listed off everything that happened as it happened. I wanted to do something unique, and perhaps more interesting to watch as an audience member.

I’ve always loved using personified objects in my comedy, so it only seemed natural to turn it into a show about a woman dating a guy who is literally a talking bottle of vodka named Tito with plastic forks for arms, googly eyes, and a necktie. Weirdly enough by giving it that surreal slant, I think the show is more relatable to a wider audience than if I’d just told my story as-is. Although I doubt anyone who has seen the show has actually dated a bottle of booze, we’ve almost all met a ‘Tito’ in our lives.

During the brainstorming process – was this always meant to be a dark comedy or it rather evolve into it?

It was always meant to be a dark comedy, definitely. One of my goals from the very start was to create a show that was both comedic and dramatic, without sacrificing one for the other. My director, Adrian Sexton, who is incredibly talented on and off the stage, worked with me to figure out how to find this balance, and I’m incredibly grateful to her and so happy with what we ended up creating.

How did you get to balance the dark aspects of the topic with the somewhat uplifting tone?

The show does get very dark as it goes on, but it’s based in reality– one where I haven’t had a drink since 2016. I won’t spoil the ending, but it does touch on life after Tito, and it’s a much brighter, happier place than life with him.

The drunk comedy has been a format and subgenre, if we can call it that, which has been around for a while now – how did you go on somehow standing out and bringing something new to the table?

Making it a literal romance between a woman and a self-aware bottle of vodka definitely helps make it stand out! Despite being a show about alcoholism, the words ‘alcoholic’, ‘alcohol’, ‘drunk’ and ‘sober’ are never actually said. It’s clear what the show is about, but by looking at it in a different way than most would I think (and hope!) it gives a new, fresh perspective.

Was this always meant to be a one person show?

It was!

Why did you choose to go with this format?

At the time of the first performance of ‘Message in a Bottle’, I’d been doing an entirely improvised solo show for a year and a half. I wanted to try something scripted for SOLOCOM, a solo show festival I was going to be in, so it just evolved from there. Actually, my very first plan was to do a show about Clippy, the paper clip from Microsoft Word. No offense to Clippy, but I’m glad I went with the other idea.

Would you say this helped the whole play go smoother than having an actual full cast or was rather challenging?

I do want to produce a larger show at some point, but for this particular subject I’m very glad I stuck to a solo show, especially since this way there’s no distraction from the increasingly toxic relationship between the protagonist and Tito– it is a show about the two of them, from beginning to end.

Where and when can people catch the show?

There’s a three show run at Q.E.D. in New York from 8/18-8/20, all at 7 PM! It’s the last run of 2019, which is both exciting and bittersweet.

Can fans expect any references to The Police?

There aren’t any, but I was so tempted to slip ‘Message in a Bottle’ in there somewhere.

What else is happening next in your world?

My next show, ‘Ducky’, comes out in September! It’s about a bunch of rubber ducks who become alive when they’re hit by a passing witch’s stray spell, and have to deal with what it means to be self aware. It’s going to be weird, silly, and fun!

About RJ Frometa

Head Honcho, Editor in Chief and writer here on VENTS. I don't like walking on the beach, but I love playing the guitar and geeking out about music. I am also a movie maniac and 6 hours sleeper.

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