Our Co-Artistic Director, Michael Henry Harris chats with us about simultaneously growing a theater company and a human, the changing arts scene in Atlanta and InViolet’s journey over the past TEN years.
InViolet: How do you identify in the theater world?
Michael: As an artistic director/producer, an actor, and a writer.
InViolet: Did you ever imagine you would be Artistic Director of a theater company in NYC? How would you describe the job of an Artistic Director?
Michael: I supposed I must have, but only as the natural consequence of wanting to create an artistic home.
Lynn Meadow once described her job as being responsible for everything that happens inside and outside of the theater. That sounds about right. Thank God for Angela. For independent theater at the level we’re producing at, an AD plays a myriad of different roles depending on the needs at the time, anything from cleaning toilets, creating budgets, encouraging and listening to our artists, or choosing what play we’re going to produce. In all honesty, there is so much more to do than we (Angela and I) have time for. I’m still figuring it out.
InViolet: Your theater company and your amazing son are both turning TEN this year. Did you birth two babies at the same time on purpose? What’s it like celebrating those milestones simultaneously?
Michael: Thanks for the shout out for Hank! The births were mostly coincidental.
Having Hank and wanting him to be raised around an extended family caused us to leave New York, and knowing that I was leaving made it all the more important to create a great reason to return, so there is some correlation there. Having both Hank and InViolet growing up together is a constant reminder of how fleeting this all is. I am amazed at how lucky I am, and my goal is to be as present as I can in whatever role I am currently filling.
InViolet: You live in Atlanta. Apparently Georgia is now tied for 3rd place in worldwide film production. That’s sexy! Talk to us about how the art scene has changed over the years you’ve lived there.
Michael: It’s amazing what some tax incentives will do! The art scene is still changing, so we’ll see. One consequence of all the good paying Hollywood work is that crews now have the money to occasionally shoot the low budget “do it for love” project. It might be one of the few examples of the trickle down economy theory working in practice. On a personal level, it means I’m auditioning for better projects. Overall, there is a lot of enthusiasm in the art world here, at least from the tiny perspective that I view it from. I’d love to see Atlanta become known for the creative, vibrant arts city that it could be, and there’s a talented group of people working on that.
InViolet: What is your favorite InViolet memory?
Michael: Too many to name just one, of course, so here are a few:
Seeing my son climbing on the set of 40 Weeks, a play written in response to his birth.
Huddling with Angela in various corners at our first retreat. We each invited a separate handful people having no real idea if there would be chemistry present or not. Plus, we barely had more than an inkling of what we were doing. We’d whisper things like, “I think it’s going well, right?” And respond with, “Yeah, I think it is.” It was terrifying and exciting and joyful all at once.
The techs. All of them. They’re magical to me. Seeing all the work come together to create something never done before . . . I love that. It’s my favorite part of the production process.
Most of my memories stem from the company giving people opportunities that they richly deserved, but may never have had but for InViolet, or would’ve had years later.
InViolet: How would you say InViolet has changed over the years?
Michael: So many ways. We were brand new when we started. Of course we read everything we could get our hands on about doing this, attended CTI, had meetings with anyone who could/would teach us something, etc., but the truth is you have to try and fail, and do it all over again. So I like to think we’re making different, perhaps more sophisticated mistakes, along with some victories as well.
Something that hasn’t changed is the feeling of family and love that pervades the company. We have amazing people: extremely talented but equally kind and generous.
InViolet: What is your vision for the next ten years of InViolet?
Michael: I’d like to retain the feeling of being a small, tight knit company while expanding on our production opportunities, both the level and the number of productions. But that may change. Angela and I try to continually check in with each other and the company to be sure we’re serving the needs of the individuals and the company as a whole.
InViolet: What’s next for you personally?
Michael: I have a couple of plays in the Atlanta One Minute Holiday Play Festival, I need to raise some money for InViolet (it’s our fundraising season after all), and several new projects in their infancy that will hopefully come to fruition in 2017. A couple of auditions in the next few days too. A busy actor is a happy actor.
Links: I’m michaelhenryharris on Instagram. That’s where I’m posting the most. Facebook is a little much right now, but I’m diving in when I can stomach it.