Anthony J. Piccione
For many artists, there comes a time where they are forced to make a painful choice in their lives: continuing to pursue their art or move toward starting a family. Some, however, refuse to ultimately choose, and attempt their best to balance their creative life with their parental life. Such appears to be the case with the woman known simply as “Meshelle,” who returns to the NYC indie theatre scene with her latest performance at Theatre Row as part of the United Solo Theatre Festival, after past successful runs at festivals such as the Midtown International Theatre Festival and the Atlanta Black Theatre Festival.
When asked about how she first, she says that it had started for her after having dropped out of Temple University – where she had been enrolled in a doctoral program to become a school psychologist – to pursue standup comedy full time. “It was a gigantic leap of faith,” says Meshelle, “yet I was a single woman without children and believed that I could make it happen all within my 1-year leave-of-absence!” Of course, that was before she eventually had her children, or when, as she puts it, “…life shows up!”
Describing herself as the so-called “Indie Mom of Comedy,” she explains why she uses that title: “I am indie, independent, innovative, with individuality. I am a mom, because while marriage and friendships come and go, once you become a mom, you are ALWAYS a mom.”She goes on to say, “I was told that “Indie-Mom” makes no sense, [and] quite honestly, neither did Google, but what do the naysayers have to say to counter its success?”
In her solo production Diary of a MILF – which Meshelle says stands for “Mom I’d Love to FOLLOW” – she plays multiple characters, in a show inspired by her life of navigating life as both a mom and wife, while also trying to maintain her comedy career. “[The show] saved me from what could’ve been a spiral into post-partum frustration and ultimately a small trip around the depression Ferris-wheel,” as she puts it. “The play pulled the audience into a day of my life, doing all I can to manage the mania of marriage and motherhood during one of the most challenging times of year: the Yuletide season. All I want to do during this crazy day is get to my 10 pm gig at the Madhatter Comedy Club, but not until I cross the paths of five crazy characters whom I portray. It’s a whirlwind adventure that stems from a day in my “real life.”
When asked about playing various characters in one solo show, she says she “truly enjoyed taking the emotional ride from character to character,” going on to say that “they all have such distinctive voices, ticks, and needs. I worked so hard to maintain their individuality, and it takes an enormous amount of commitment. … I do have many moments that stand out, yet hearing the audience’s reaction to Miranda “Randi” Thompson, a particular character whose ticks and nonverbal interactions make her a force on stage; is always a gift within the show, [and] I especially love the final scene when I land in the one place I have always wanted to be, the Madhatter Comedy Club.”
Looking forward to this latest performance of her show at Theatre Row, she speaks about how what she hopes audiences will come away with, saying “I believe audiences will appreciate that I offer myself as the crash-test-dummy for any mom who wants to “Live her Dream” in the midst of family life. Not having a blueprint, yet willing to fail upward and live authentically and share all that I am learning through laughter.” Finally, before we wrapped up our brief chat, she offered the following words of inspiration for those artists who may be in similar situations like the one she was in:
“There are no expiration dates on dreams. As long as I am blessed to wake up one more day, I am that much closer to all that I have imagined for my ART and LIFE! Besides, my kids are watching, and that means “never giving up” is the only option!”
“Diary of a MILF” will run at the United Solo Theatre Festival at Theatre Row on September 22nd. For more information on Meshelle and “Diary of a MILF,” visit www.meshelle.net.