Dallas — Audacity Theatre Lab's fourth Dallas Solo Fest returns, after taking a break in 2017. The event runs June 6-10 in the smaller studio space at the Dallas Children's Theater. Look for interviews with each performer, and reviews of each show, coming on TheaterJones.
Next up is John Michael, a Dallas native who started his solo career here, and relocated to Chicago several years ago. His latest show, Meatball Seánce, in which he tries to conjure the spirit of his mother, was performed in Chicago in 2017. Now he brings it to the Dallas Solo Fest for performances at 8:30 p.m. Thursday, June 7; 10 p.m. Saturday, June 9; and 3 p.m. Sunday, June 10.
The show is directed by Janet Howe.
How has this piece changed since you debuted it in Chicago?
Since this show debuted in Chicago, my approach to crowd work has altered. There are only 10 minutes of the 60-minute show when I'm alone onstage. At the beginning of development, I was focused on being as direct and clear as possible with my participants onstage, who take pictures with me, chop vegetables, tend the hotplate and dance. As I continued dulling out instructions to my Sous Chefs, I realized the moments that sizzled and sparked were the moments of mistakes. The kind of mistakes you make when you are actually cooking with your mom. The kind of mistakes that are universal, hilarious and real. As opposed to saying direct statements, I do open-ended statements that give as much wiggle room so that the audience and I stumble together as we do all the steps necessary to do an actual seance. This allows me to give the reins to the audience member as much as they want.
How is Chicago working out for you?
Chicago is my second home. It's affordable to produce there and rewarding in all the challenges that blow my mind. Over the last year or so, I started immersing myself in Chicago’s variety show scene, which is booming. It’s how I’m developing my next show currently called The Me In You in ten-minute segments. Instead of casting the audience as my boyfriend like I do in Meatball Seánce, I cast the audience as myself so that I can understand what it might be like to be the people in my life I’ve let down and get better at empathy.
What are you looking forward to in coming home?
Making eye contact with Dallas audiences is what I'm looking forward to most. It has always been a defining attribute of my work. During techs, I request to light up the audience enough for me to do this. Matt’s [Tomlanovich, who directed John Michael’s early works in Dallas] first notes to me on my work was that each new thought needs to land with eye contact because it grounded me. He's right. It's almost as if when I eye vibe with someone, I use their energy to ride, which creates a unique rhythm to the show that night. To be honest, eye contact is usually my favorite element of every show, but this will have the special element of my hometown vibing back at me! Apart from people I don't know, the audience will be filled with those who taught me, encouraged me and love me.