I’m an optimist: talking to Michele Travis

Michele and Lucy.

Michele and Lucy.

Michele is a new producer to Sticky, and is one part of the Sticky 552 triumvirate: Michele Travis, Eliel Lucero, and Ali Ayala. Libby Emmons, Sticky co-founder, talked to Michele about the basics: being alive, making art, and time travel.

Libby
What’s your favorite thing about being alive?

Michele
Every aspect of it is preferable to the alternative, at least so I imagine. There’s only one way to find out, right? And I’m not interested in exploring that.

Libby
There’s this old trope that if a person was immortal they would regret it, having to watch people they loved age and die, watching the world do whatever horrible things the world will continue to do, never being able to move on. Would you take immortality if you had the chance? Do you think there’s something essentially human about mortality?

Michele
I would absolutely not take immortality if I had the chance – I function considerably more effectively with deadlines, ha ha. The combination of losing all my favorite contemporaries and having endless experience and knowledge, witnessing the generations of humans making all the same mistakes over and over, would most likely make me a monster. Isn’t that what’s so awful about vampires? It’s not the blood drinking; it’s the lack of empathy.

Libby
What’s your favorite thing about theater?

Michele
The way we all have to be in the same place at the same time, both to make it and to watch it. I love the immediacy, and the control we have over the audience’s experience. Everything – the volume of the pre-show music, the level of the house lights, even the temperature – is up for consideration in service of the storytelling. As you know, I recently had my first tiny experience with making a short film. While it was lots of fun in the moment, since everyone involved was delightful company, I find the amount of time it takes to complete what is essentially the telling of a 10-minute story distressing. I mean, this thing still isn’t finished! Not to mention how weird it is to imagine it out there someday randomly unspooling without help or guidance from any of us. That doesn’t happen to a production onstage.

Libby
I know you’re directing a Brooke Berman play for Sticky, and her plays are very atmospheric. Is that part of why you picked the play? Do you have ideas about how the Sticky atmosphere will work with Brooke’s?

Michele
Now that you ask, that quality is probably what attracted me, but it wasn’t a conscious thing. Years ago I directed a reading of one of Brooke’s short plays that was pretty much set in the central character’s imagination. I loved how she was able to make that a clear element of the work, and yet the play was full of high stakes interactions between very delightful, earthy characters.  This play is lyrical and not at all naturalistic, yet full of quotidian detail – I think it is both set in a bar, and someplace else entirely. I have a lot of ideas about it, but I don’t want to give too much away. Everyone should come see it and tell me if it works or not!

“The Sticky atmosphere” is a great phrase. I’m fascinated by private behavior in public, which is a huge factor in New York City life in general, and in just about every play set in bar anywhere.

Libby
If it was frontier times, would you head out West or stay home?

Michele
One of the best things about being a woman is that we do not have any “good old days.” There was nothing great about being a 19th century woman, except possibly hats.  However, having watched DEADWOOD (which was brilliant), I would choose the lawless and terrifying frontier, to have a greater degree of autonomy and possibilities for reinvention. Being Kitty Leroy or Calamity Jane would have been a lot more entertaining than being a wife or a servant in the settled and civilized part of the country. Even being a frontier prostitute was probably better than being an urban whore back then — seller’s economy!

Libby
Ah yes, hooking in the good old days of the wild west. I’ve often thought that if I were thrown back in time to the old west– because I have spent a fair amount of time thinking about it for unknown reasons– I would want to open a restaurant, with entertainment, which would probably include the whole brothel thing. When women imagine living in the past, sex and how to use it plays a huge role. Do you think that women in the future will imagine time traveling back to the 21st Century in the same how-do-I-make-sexual-subjugation-work-for-me centric way?

Michele
I’m so glad we have the same notions about imaginary life in the old west (and have spent considerable time thinking about it)! I would absolutely go into business with you and help run the restaurant/dance hall/brothel. I hope women living in the future have a harder time entering into this imaginative exercise than we do. I would like to think they will be completely fascinated and appalled by 21st century sexist bullshit, that they won’t be able to relate to that aspect of our lives at all because they have no experience of a non-egalitarian society. I’m an optimist.

Sticky 552
Beauty Bar, 249 5th Avenue, Brooklyn, 11215
Thursday, February 5, 7:30 pm
$10 advance, $15 at the door
via www.stickyseries.brownpapertickets.com

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