Tuesday, May 7, 2019

Q-and-A with Mel Moseley

Melanie Moseley [credit: M Moseley]

Guest Contributor Grant Knutson of Minion Productions offers a brief Q-and-A with solo performer Melanie Moseley.
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Melanie Moseley is a Portland-based musician and storyteller. I met her when she performed at the 'Come Inside: Sex-Positive Theater Festival', and I was immediately impressed with how she made a very unique topic relatable for everyone. 

She's really jumped into festival touring. She will next be appearing athe the 2019 Dallas Solo Fest. You'll likely be seeing her name all over North America over the next few years.

Q: Give us a bit of background. Where are you from and how did you you get started in theatre/performance? What brought you specifically into the world of solo performance?

A: I currently live in Portland, OR. When I was a kid I wanted to grow up to be a clown. I wanted to go to clown college. As it turned out, I got my BA in theatre at the University of Oregon and then started touring nationally with an improv comedy group - which, I guess, is pretty similar to being a clown. About 10 years later I went back to college to get my graduate degree in theatre thinking that I might just teach. Instead, I discovered devised theatre and solo performance and that changed my trajectory in terms of my creative life. I performed my first devised solo show, How to Swallow and Still Keep Your Girlish Figure, as part of my masters program. That show focused on body image for women. My current show, Sexology: The Musical!, focuses to alternative relationships.

Q: Could you tell us about your particular kind of solo performance work? 

A: I'm a theatre artist, improviser, and musician. I combine all of those skills in my solo pieces. I want to connect with the audience so that we are having a conversation in the hour that we share. Some of it may be funny, poignant, or uncomfortable. I love the fact that we are all together sharing a space for a short time. I love that exchange. It's rough, it's playful, it's not polished, every show is different on some level, and that is inspiring to me. 

Q: Your current show Sexology: The Musical! Could you tell us about it?

A: My show Sexology: The Musical! is what it sounds like. It is a one-woman musical about, well, sexuality. Specifically, my personal journey from monogamy to solo-polyamory.

When I was young, I thought a person was supposed to find his or her one true love and then ride off into the sunset. Before I even knew the term monogamy, that idea was burned into my brain. I didn't know there was any other option. In the suburban, hetero-normative world I grew up in during the 70s and 80s, it was all about "getting your man." Yet, all of my fantasies as a teen were about women.

I discovered there is actually a huge world of possible relationship structures. Men, women, dyads, triads, and more. In fact, a person can create his or her own structure and do it ethically and transparently! So off I went exploring. And that exploration became the basis for my show. 

And I set it to music.

Q: What inspires you to keep going and how do you keep yourself motivated?

A: Meeting people and hearing about their experiences as they relate to the story I am sharing is my favorite thing. I love it when the work I do sparks conversations - with me or others. In my mind, performance is a space where we can share time and maybe even change minds. I'm inspired by the audience members that come up to me after shows and talk about their experiences. Making connections is my motivation.

Q: What is your approach to the development process when putting together a new project? Do you create a lot on stage, improvising? Draft after draft of scripts? Tape or video record yourself? Bring in collaborators? Hold multiple readings? Lock yourself in a hotel room?

A: It varies. This show was a three year project. That said, several of the songs are songs in the show are ones I wrote 40 years ago. I do improvise some of it. As I developed the show, I took pieces and tried them out on stage at various storytelling events to see what worked and then I honed my work from there. I invited friends (other artists, directors, folks I think are awesome) to watch and give me feedback. 

I took some of what they gave me in terms of feedback and continued the creation process. For this one, I have to give big props to Tony Sonera (Badass Theatre), Eleanor O'Brien (Dance Naked Theatre), Leah Carey (Good Girls Talk About Sex), Sydoney Blackmore (Theatre Artist), Charity Benham (partner, lover, singer, psychologist), and Cliff Rees (partner, lover, supporter). It takes a village to make this work.

Q: Who are some of your influences or people that inspire you?

A: Tim Minchin, Bo Burnham, and Mike Birbiglia - and I'm bummed that there's not a woman in that mix. It's because they are combining either music or improv into the solo shows they do. Women that do/did solo performance that I love include Lily Tomlin, Rachel Rosenthal, and Whoopi Goldberg (they didn't tend to do music the way I do...and still the way they rocked their work is inspiring).

Q: How do you bridge the gap between the creative and the business side of solo theatre?

A: I don't do that well. I mostly have to ask my partner Cliff about the business side. And I am still learning. I can rock the art side....mostly. If I'm honest, I can't bridge that gap. I need someone else to help me bridge that gap. I wish I was that amazing, but I'm not... yet.

Q: Any advice for some aspiring artist just starting out in solo performance?

A: Solo performance isn't ever done on your own. Find your tribe. Get your community together. And tell your story. Make the audience part of your performance, so you don't feel alone up there.  Also, know that your story isn't original and that is okay. You're the one willing to tell it.

Q: What do you see in the future for you as an solo performancer?

A: My plan is to use solo performance as one of many venues to help connect people and change perspectives around how we view each other. I want my art to be a jumping off place. 

Q: Shout outs or links?

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