We had the good fortune of connecting with Michole Biancosino and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Michole, why did you pursue a creative career?
It’s a joy to be part of a family where creativity is valued. From a young age I knew I wanted to lead an abnormal life, even though I had no idea how to go about crafting one for myself. In middle and high school, I felt most myself when I was in the playground of arts classes and after-school activities. Band, choir, drama and English class were my favorite parts of the day, as they offered a chance to make something with a group of people that was greater than our individual selves. Like many theatre people, I found “my people” in my college theatre department and I could never go back to the humdrum conversations of the more parent-pleasing majors. Being an artist means you deal in big questions and big ideas on an everyday basis. You’re constantly chasing the edge of what is possible so that you can step beyond it. In theatre, you’re asking questions about every choice made and unmade on a stage. You’re responding in the moment as your most truthful self. It can be scary, humbling, as well as euphoric and exciting. You’re seeing people’s bodies, hearing their voices, and experiencing their movements in space in a given moment, and you’re trying to figure out the most meaningful way to put these – and many other technical – elements together to produce an experience for an audience.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
I’m most proud of the work Project Y has done in creating the Women in Theatre Festival in NYC. For 6 seasons, we have given productions of plays by women playwrights/creative leaders their world and NY premieres. We’ve also grown the festival through the years to now include multiple paid commissions for women writers, an artist-centric ticketing model, and the support of stage management, Press, and technical staff so that each artist in the festival gets to showcase their work at it’s best. This past season during a theatre shutdown, we commissioned 20 writers. I was really proud of this initiative because it allowed us to support theatre artists to continue writing for theatre in a devastating time in the industry.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
Women in Theatre Festival is based in Manhattan and has had different venues throughout the years – let’s skip Broadway and take a tour of the hip, the brand-spanking-new, the nitty gritty theatre spaces hidden around NYC. We can start at the iconic The Kraine downtown on east 4th street, then head over to the West side to Chelsea where IRT Theater is hidden, then head up along the HighLine and end up atTheatre Row on 42nd street, before finally landing at the ART/New York Theatres on West 53rd street.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
I started Project Y Theatre Company 22 years ago with Andrew W. Smith. The only reason I have a multi-decade history of producing theatre is because I co-created this with him. Andrew and I often have vastly different views on things – artistic and otherwise – and through our conversations, through hashing it out, we often come to a better decision than either of our original ideas. Suddenly there is some movement in arts organizations to have multiple people share the Artistic Director/Leader roles, but when Andrew and I started it was maybe a cause for concern, a sign that a company wasn’t functioning at highest capacity. People couldn’t conceive that a company with two leaders might indeed be better served than one with a solo voice at the decision-making top. Andrew and I discussed it but eventually settled that we couldn’t be categorized otherwise. We relied on each other’s strengths in different areas, we both were artistic leaders with visions for the future of theatre, and we both were making the decisions that strengthened Project Y.