Original InVi member, Michelle David tells us about getting married 5 times (to the same person), how the story of It’s a Wonderful Life is supported by Quantum Physics and what a dinner party would be like attended by all her characters from InViolet World Premieres.
InViolet: You are one of the original InViolets! Tell us about your journey with us (10 years and counting!)
Michelle: Oh wow, what an adventure!! I was invited to the first retreat quite accidentally, but I quickly realized that destiny had intervened!
I bumped into my friend, Francis Benhamou, at a wedding, and she says, “Girl you gotta come with me. My boyfriend is going into the woods with a bunch of actors to do some plays and camp or something. Please come!” I say yes, but then she calls and tells me there’s no room. Then the following week, my phone rings, and in his oh-so-recognizably booming voice I hear the words, “Michelle David. Michael Henry Harris.” (Michael and I studied voice and speech together for two years with Shane Ann Younts, but I have no idea why he’s calling because we haven’t spoken in ages.) Then he tells me that he’s one of the people leading actors into to the Adirondacks for retreat and that I must come. So! A few days later I find myself en route to a van rental place to meet a bunch of strangers and travel into the woods, but when I get there, I know everyone. I mean truly, of the ten people there, I probably know eight of them, and what’s more is that I know them from completely different areas of my life. Areas ranging from former co-worker to former classmate to current…coven member…. (different interview AND EVEN to the first person to ever write me a fan letter in NYC! Yup, true story. (A year prior to this moment, a man I’d never met sent me an incredibly beautiful letter after seeing me perform in Fool For Love, and his name was Michael Benjamin.) On this, the first morning of our first retreat, standing outside the van rental place, already in disbelief at how many of these ‘strangers’ I know, Michael Benjamin walks out of the crowd and introduces himself to me. Crazy.
My journey with InViolet? Meant to be!
InViolet: What is your favorite InViolet memory?
Michelle: Tara Westwood’s boobs. Obviously, Tara Westwood’s boobs. And I can thank you for that, Erin Mallon. Your brilliant writing gave me three minutes of unadulterated exploration of Tara Westwood’s boobs for three weeks in a row, running five shows a week. Yes, one of the MANY delights of portraying five-year-old Ben from your play, Branched, was family “lap time.” The sheer joy of mounting and straddling Tara every night to poke, snuggle, slap, nuzzle, coo into, squeeze and in-every-way-possible, fondle Tara’s breasts WHILE Andrew Blair stands behind her, rubbing her shoulders and staring at me, and AS she delivers a straight-faced monologue to a horrified Marguerite Stimpson… Well. There are no words for the gift you have given me. I will cherish it, as I will Tara Westwood’s breasts, for the rest of my life.
InViolet: You are performing right now in It’s a Wonderful Life: A Radio Play at Miles Square Theatre directed by fellow company member Mark Cirnigliaro and audiences are eating it up. What’s this process been like for you?
Michelle: Amazing!!! What an incredible group of creators, and it’s so fun to perform a classic story!
Sidebar: Though I knew it was a popular film, I must admit that I didn’t get it. When I first saw It’s a Wonderful Life, as a child, it confused me because it’s such a dark movie. It never felt very “Christmasy” to me, so I couldn’t understand why my parents, aunts, and uncles wanted to watch it every year. But they did watch it every year, and I have learned from this production that MANY people do. People come to the theater with a lot of memory, meaning, and tradition in tow, so maybe that’s why it’s having a big impact on audiences.
Of course, the impact may have more to do with the essential question of the story, too. Without getting too deep here, let’s be real: it’s about a man contemplating suicide. And if we’re honest, many of us have experienced at least fleeting doubt about how much we matter. (“Why am I doing any of this? What’s the point? Would life be better, or the same, without me?”) In this story, George Bailey faces this doubt. He sees what life would be like without him, and it’s grim. He sees that his kindness, decency, and love of man over money really do matter to a lot of people. And then, in an instant, a suicidal life becomes a wonderful life.
I mean (hahhahah uh oh here I go!) if we really want to take it all the way here, I think Jesus and Buddha would give this story two thumbs up with a twist! One of their greatest teachings is that heaven is at hand for those with eyes to see, that the difference between samsara and nirvana is, well, perspective. It’s a Wonderful Life tells the story of the very tiny and very important quantum leap in perspective between life as “suicidal” and life as “wonderful.” That’s a great story in my book! Because even though science tells us this story all the time (especially currently in the fields of neuroscience and quantum physics), I don’t know how interested people are in science, sadly. We tend to make decisions with our hearts and sometimes forget that we are the ones telling those stories in our hearts. So maybe that’s it. Maybe we love It’s a Wonderful Life because it wakes up the most important story for our hearts: the one about how much we matter.
InViolet: You hold the “record” for acting in the most InViolet World premieres. What would the dinner party be like if all your characters attended?
Michelle: HAHAHHAHAHAH!!!! That’s a good question!
Ummm….in brief, Anna of Sommerfugl would be the hostess with the mostess for this wildly inappropriate event, and Kira would be buttoned-up and judging Anna’s every move. Celia of This is Fiction would be sitting across from Kira, getting super drunk, and wondering if she might be looking at the only woman who has gone longer without sex than she has. Five-year-old Ben of Branched would be EXTREMELY overstimulated and thrilled to attend, and he would hold himself responsible for maintaining lively conversation between all the women in the group. He would also, of course, perform a spirited violin solo for the ladies’ pleasure and lead them in group activities after dessert. (Celia would unrelentingly stare at him throughout — totally over him, as it were, yet somehow rooting for the young freak.) Nurse would have her feet up by the fire this entire time, and Molly of 40 Weeks would be dancing on the bar. With everyone. (And of course, during the meal Ben would be touching Molly under the table. And she’d let him because she knows it’s important for people to explore their sexuality, especially children. Plus she’s getting warmed up for Anna, who she will obviously be making love with later tonight.)
InViolet: You directed InViolet’s very first production. How was that? Would you do it again?
Michelle: Hahah! Yes, I did, and yes I would. I would love to direct again, especially given the way we do things now (with actual designers, for example). At the time, we decided it would be a great idea to do everything ourselves, everything except stage managing. AND, at the time, I said ummmm….really?? Not sure that’s the best idea, but okay, if that’s the way it’s going down, I will lead this crazy train! It was completely insane. But looking back, it was also far and away the most fun of all the productions.
InViolet: You had quite a summer. You got married! Became an aunt! Built your coaching business! Big life moments! Tell us all about it.
Michelle: I sure did. I got married. I got married five times to the same person. Five weddings, five rings, five dresses, five sets of vows, you name it!!! I can’t get too into that here because there’s so much, but I will say this: I am obsessed with my husband. He is a Light on Earth, and each of our weddings, like my husband and I, were highly unconventional and highly aligned with our values. We got married in the eyes of the Law, Spirit, Nature, Family, and Friend. The festivities ranged from city hall, to my parents’ backyard, to five days of camping and canoeing down the Green River, and beyond. Each ceremony was magnificent, and we would feel incomplete without any of them. I’d encourage anybody wanting to get married to throw a big finger in the direction of the “wedding industry,” and, with the support of your family and friends, make something that is real for you. You can do it, and it’s SO worth it.
As for being an Auntie, IT’S THE BEST!!!! I am obsessed with my dear, sweet nephew, and I keep trying to get my sister to give him to me so that we can make millions in baby commercials. (I know you all say it, but he really is the cutest.
And yes, coaching is incredible. I love it so much. I get to use all my greatest skill sets simultaneously, and it’s incredibly fulfilling and super fun. I also love being coached. What a gift to have someone in your world who really meets you where you are and loves you as you are while holding you accountable to who you want to be. Friends and family are wonderful, but most of them aren’t trained professionals whose sole aim is to ask questions that evoke the best in us. Having a professional who’s well-trained in human development, mindset, creativity, motivation and more? Well, it’s pretty awesome. I employ both a personal coach and a professional coach, and while I would be absolutely fine without them, I don’t want to be without them. Without them, everything takes longer, there’s lots of accidental waste (wasted time, energy, effort) and so many blind spots.
Uh oh, now you’ve got me going, hahaha! I could talk about this forever!!
It’s just that I giggle when I think about it because life coaching confuses a lot of people. Like, what’s a life coach? A lot of us, myself included, hear those words and our eyes roll to the backs of our heads. But in other contexts, the logic is clear. If we want to be better at playing the piano, for example, we get a piano teacher. No-brainer, right? This reasoning doesn’t transfer as easily with “life.” People even get embarrassed by it, sometimes defensive. I don’t know, maybe it’s just me, but I think it’s hilarious that we seem to have an inborn belief that because we are alive, we are good at it. Which is obviously not true! Haha!! It’s pretty clear that being alive, in no way correlates directly to the skill of “Being Alive.” Sure, some of us are born good at it, but we all know people who are alive and unhappy, unfulfilled, or making the same mistakes over and over again. Coaching illuminates the blind spots so that you can get over your s**t and get on with your life. Plus, it’s fun and top performers in most every field have coaches. That’s probably not a coincidence, and there’s NO reason to be embarrassed by claiming a life you love.
InViolet: What’s your favorite Christmas movie, the one you gotta watch every year?
Michelle: Umm…White Christmas. No doubt. “Sisters, sisters, there were never such devoted sisters!!!”
InViolet: What’s next for you?
Michelle: Oh golly gumdrops. Hopefully a nap. Ha!
No, but really I have been going pretty hard, and I am excited for the holiday rest.
I am currently interviewing one-on-one coaching clients for 2017. Though I am ready for a rest, the interviews are actually super fun. They help me ensure that the relationship will be a good fit for both of us (which is important in because I only work with about ten one-on-one clients at a time), and for potential clients basically get an hour of free coaching. So that’s cool, too.
I will also be introducing group coaching in the new year, which I am very excited about. I will run both Personal and Professional coaching groups that will meet virtually and run in three-month cycles. While there’s definitely overlap between the groups, Personal coaching groups will center on fulfillment and activating the ideal, while professional groups will center on mindset and staying on track with projects and goals. In both cases, the aim is accountability, making sure you are feeling alive, engaged, and connected to what matters most in your world. Though I love working one-on-one and going deep with people, I am also eager to start the groups because they provide a way for me to work with more people at a lower price point while also creating community, which is very important to me.
People need people, y’all. For real.