We had the good fortune of connecting with Michael Alvarez and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Michael, what led you to pursuing a creative path professionally?
Theatre has always been part of my DNA. From my earliest memory, I always knew it was my calling. So, I never questioned the “why” of it – I just did it. As I got older though, the why began to reveal itself.
All through my childhood, and well into high school, I took part in every theatrical project I possibly could and hoarded every cast recording for every musical I could find! Looking back now, I see theatre was an opportunity to partially escape from my small-town reality, to explore worlds and cultures beyond my own. I could step outside myself and learn what it’s like to see the world through someone else’s eyes. Through a play or musical, I could be First Lady of Argentina, the phantom of the opera, or some hero from a far-off land. I saw parts of myself reflected in each character I encountered, developing empathy and respect for others. Along the way, theatre helped me discover who I was and who I wanted to grow to be.
The seeds of exploration grew, and by the time college came, I wanted to spend several years in London, traveling in body where I’d only before glimpsed in my head. My time abroad unlocked new reasons to continue pursuing a life in the theatre. To date, I’d only experienced traditional performance practices rooted in our Western approaches to Realism. However, my work in London challenged me to expand my notion of what theatre was and could be. I began to see how our dominant Western performance approach had stopped evolving itself decades ago!
My drive to create theatre was now ignited by a need to innovate form and to make people see that theatre could be relevant and cool! I wanted people like my sister, friends, and family to feel as much excitement over the art form as I felt. I was tired of plays set in a living room, meticulously recreating the same old interpretations of the same old texts. I needed to make people see the myriad of theatrical possibilities that exist outside our norm. I was eager to explore how theatre could intersect with other art forms, such as visual arts, fashion, dance theatre, music and technology. This need for innovation is something that still drives me to this day.
In the last several years, I have become more acutely aware of how people of color are represented on stage. I grew tired of seeing my own Latinx heritage depicted on stage exclusively in stories of trauma, as people forever poor, pregnant, or in need of saving. I got to thinking – who were these stories actually for? My own personal experience as a first generation Latinx American has been more than stories of collective trauma. When I look at my family and my friends, I see a myriad of stories–family, celebration, successes, overcoming personal hardships, and, like many in America these days, survival. I long to see more of these stories–stories that reflect the home I know and the people who make it home.
I think back to little Michael as a child, and all the other little Michaels out there, and ask what I want them to see. As theatre was a way for me to learn about myself, I want these children to see that people like them could succeed in this world, find acceptance, and live in joy, celebration, and the hope that this world can heal. My mission to inspire young artists and offer them something to aspire to fuels the choices and art that I create today.
My “why” in choosing, and staying with, a career in the arts is always evolving. It began with something inside myself, then grew into a force driven to serve others in my various communities. Being an artist today is more than creating innovative works of artistic excellence; it must include finding pathways towards creating a more equitable, empathetic, and loving world.
I remain an artist because I believe in the power of art to heal. As Jonathan Larson says in Rent, “the opposite of war is not peace, it’s creation!”
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
I’ve been very fortunate to have an international career spanning a wide range of performance disciplines such as: new play plays musical development, site-specific and immersive events, performance installations, concert, performance art, devised work, dance theatre and film.
Currently, I am Artistic Director of The Muse Collective and will be directing our upcoming virtual production of Peter Gray’s satirical new play, The Karens. Here’s the synopsis:
In high school, being a Karen meant prestige, style, and popularity. Now, a different sort of “Karen” has gone viral: neurotic, entitled women demanding more than their fair share. To save the good Karen name, three former mean girls are ready to reconnect for their most important mission yet: Holding “The Privileged White Women of America” to task.
In this wild, delicious, and biting new comedy, follow three unconventional Karens through the haze of Summer 2020. As they tackle the privilege of others with style and flair, will our fabulous trio face their own shortcomings, or sacrifice everything to keep their online personas as flawless as their makeup tips?
It’s hilarious! And features the incredible talents of LaurenSage Browning, Morgan Danielle Day and Felicia Santiago! These three woman are dynamite! John Millerd, who I’ve collaborated on several projects with, is designing sound and Brad Davies, who I recently collaborated with for Learning to Read by Moonlight by Gavin Trinidad, is editing.
This show is a must see!
The Karens will be available to stream August 13th-August 28th. For tickets and more information please visit: www.the-muse-collective.com
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
Gosh! There are so many places! I’d start our days by grabbing some coffee at some of my favorite places such as Dinosaur Coffee, Coffee Commissary (where’d also grab a chocolate cookie for later!), and Verve; then get pancakes at Du-Pars. And we would absolutely need to get doughnuts at SideCar and eat until we were sick – they are that good! Once we felt better we’d get ice cream at Salt and Straw. And, somewhere in the mix get some tacos from one of the many amazing taco trucks! Oh, and drinks at Good Times at Davey Wayne’s.
We’d go hiking in the palisades, get some sun at the beaches in Malibu, do some shopping at the Grove and check out what cool shows are playing across the many great theatres in LA! I’d also take them to The Broad and LACMA.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
Here’s a shoutout to some of the people/companies who have been a source of support and inspiration: (In no particular order) Peter Gray, Bobby Mittlestadt, Mara Driscoll, Anna Driftmier, John Millerd, Ella Grace, Roger Q, Mason, Linda Chapman, Travis Preston, Mona Heize, Joana Knezevic, Chris Fields, Carolina Vargas, Morgan Camper, Margot Mejia, Melissa Chin-Parker, Hunter Gause, Raquel Figuerora, Saska Rakef and so many more…!
Other: My Theatre Company: www.the-muse-collective.com
Eden Estephan Lawrence Dryfus Harvey Kingsley-Elton Brian Hashimoto