Tuesday, October 30, 2012

fourteen: michelle fritsche

  Tell us about your relationship to your art.
I am a freelance choreographer by trade, but I mainly run the Dinner Theater Production Company that my husband and I started back in August of 2010 – Artista! Players.  Aside from the lighting aspect, I am involved in every step of production and partake in acting in most of our shows.  This includes marketing, collaborative directing, props, sound, helping with set construction and painting, rehearsal schedules, casting, website development and maintenance, ticketing voice of the company, interviews, acting, hair, makeup, costuming, backstage work, program creation and advertisements; you name it, I do it.  Scott and I began this venture as a means of working together (which we love to do) and creating art for entertainment purposes.  Because of my role as a stay-at-home mom for our four children, my “roles” in this company are many so that our love of theater can continue while Scott remains employed full-time. 

I started out as a dancer at the age of 8 and eventually received my Bachelor of Fine Arts in Dance from the University of Minnesota.  Throughout those 15 years of dance, I choreographed for companies, high school theater programs and taught the art form as well.  Shortly after graduation, I became involved with a high school theater in Lakeville, MN – Lakeville High School.  There I met a wonderful mentor and friend who I still keep in touch with to this day.  I was with the Lakeville School District for 5 years before relocating to Wausau, WI.

What's a project (yours or another's) that has been exciting you lately?
I am overly excited to work on WHAT THE BUTLER SAW – our first production for the 2012-2013 season.  It’s farcical comedy, British humor, British dialect, and a timing challenge not with just words, but entrances as well.  Since comedy is not my strong suit, I look forward honing my skills on this production.

 Tell us a little of your motherhood journey.
Oh boy…I am sure my story is not unique by any means, but it is definitely not a traditional one. 

At the age of 26, I birthed my first daughter – Kathryn – who is now 8 ½.  I thought I was strong and could handle natural child birth… until I was 9 cm dilated and thought I was going to die!  I didn’t, and I made it through with a dose of Staydol (sp) to “take the edge off…” Uh huh… anyway, after 3 years of my ex-husband’s layoffs, poor choices, tension in the marriage, ignoring Kathryn and myself, having to sell our home, living with my in-laws, a personal choice to do something for myself by taking acting and modeling classes, Kathryn and I were uprooted and moved to Central Wisconsin in July of 2007 – 4 months after my ex-husband made the move because of a new job. 

Fast forward another year, and our marriage is in shambles; the marriage seminar doesn’t work, it’s too late for counseling, and I’ve moved on.  I end up moving out, and the divorce process starts.  But during the past year, I had met someone.  A friend.  A confidant.  Someone who taught me that living with negativity and mental abuse wasn’t healthy, for me or for my daughter.  Someone who taught me that love does exist and it doesn’t have to be forced.  Someone who helped me to understand that it was okay to feel the way that I did and that I wasn’t alone.  This someone was Scott.  And although I was judged for having an affair with him, and will always be judged for “doing” so, it is my belief that things happen for a reason.  There is a reason Scott and I  didn’t meet when we were both living in Green Bay in the mid 90’s… There’s a reason we didn’t meet while we both lived in the Twin Cities… There’s a reason why I ended up moving to Central Wisconsin… and that reason was to finally meet Scott… and two years after that move to Central Wisconsin, Sabrina was born.

Now, Scott has two sons from a previous marriage – Alexander and Nathaniel… and they will both celebrate birthdays at the end of this month and turn 9 and 8 respectively. 

I always wanted two children.  I was denied a second child by my first husband who flat out refused.  But, I was given the gift of a second child by Scott.  I also wanted girls – and I gave birth to two beautiful girls. 

I mentioned his two sons… It is no secret… I struggle with being the stepmother to his two sons.  Not only are boys different than girls, but since I am the main caregiver in our home with the children, and I am only the “stepmother” to the boys, there is not a connection to them mentally as there is with the girls.  I struggle with this on a daily basis… As if I feel “conditional” love verses the “unconditional” love I have for my daughters.  And I have broken down a few times… now add in the fact that Sabrina is developmentally delayed, and there is talk of the possibility of autism… well, last year in September of 2011, I had gotten as low as I had ever been, and was diagnosed with Depression.  I couldn’t handle my feelings that I had done something to slow down Sabrina’s development, nor could I handle the behavioral issues I was dealing with from the boys.  (I was also dealing with Kathryn’s emotional issues with her father moving back to Minnesota because he lost his job, yet again, only to move in with his parents, unemployed.)  The boys live with their mother 60% of the time, in an environment where they are not supervised; caffeine, sugar, R rated movies and a mélange of characters grace their home on a weekly basis exposing them to nudity, indecent behavior, alcohol, drag racing and lack of parenting.  I consider it a funny farm, but it is also “Disney World” in the aspect that their affections are bought and they are never in “want” of anything as all of their wishes are granted. 

I continue to tell myself… 10 more years… 10 more years and we won’t have to deal with ex-spouses, and our children will be considered adults… but that is also a scary though… and Scott and I are afraid that the boys will choose the wrong paths that they are presented with at the “other” home.  We can only do what we can and try to parent the best we can.  But it is a struggle, and that’s where we are today.  Struggling to right the wrongs the three oldest children are subjected to – in our opinion – and try to help Sabrina get back on track.  This motherhood is not what I had expected.  But I also wouldn’t change my decisions to get to where I am today. 

 What are some crucial elements of your process?  How has that changed since having children?
My process involves a lot of “me” time.  Luckily, I am afforded that time early in the mornings as all the children, including Sabrina, are off to schoolJ  As an actor and director, I choose to read scripts countless times and write about what I see and what I don’t see.  I fill in the backstory; I fill in different staging based on our spatial needs.  I also do much of my marketing and computer work during this time, or during Sabrina’s nap in the afternoons.  Since I was only involved in choreography before children, not much has changed.  Once Kathryn was born, I had a little Minnie Me tagging along to any gigs or jobs that I had acquired, and she was always an easy child to take along.

What are some of the ways your family and your art interact?
The children are always interested in our productions.  Kathryn loves to watch our rehearsals (they typically take place in our home,) and actually memorizes lines inadvertently, only to repeat them the next day, and the next, and the next.  Sometimes the children feel left out if we have a late night rehearsal while they are in bed, and sometimes they get tired of rehearsals the closer it gets to show time.  Kathryn has expressed interest in being a part of the shows, as has Alexander, but Alexander’s birth mother will never allow it.  The boys, unfortunately, probably won’t be involved in what we do because of their mother – and her reasons are purely selfish and vindictive towards Scott, as opposed to the boys’ artistic development.

Do you find your attitude towards your art might be different because of your parenting / has it changed since you became a parent?
I don’t think my attitude hasn’t changed.  I still believe in the passion of theater, but I also believe that there are certain communities that will not accept edgy material in the way that New York or Chicago would.  So, I wouldn’t say that my parenting has anything to do with it, just my perception of local rules of acceptance, and this hasn’t changed. 

Are your children ever subjects in your art? 
All of the children have been in local community theater productions with us at some point; never a part of our own productions as of yet.  Kathryn has been in more than the others, as well as being a part of a local ballet school that produces the Nutcracker and a spring dance/theatrical production every year.  Unfortunately, she has to take a break due to finances this year.

I believe that children learn from their parents and there is no greater classroom than the one they share together.  Artista! Players is a collaborative production company and I feel that our children see us all working together to create with passion.  This feeds a positive charge and gives them positive role models to help them in school and in the future.  As long children are kept abreast of inappropriateness, and that plays are not “real” nor do we repeat certain words or phrases, I believe theater, as an art form and a teaching tool, is a great venue for parents and children to work together. 

How does travel figure into your art?  Do/did your children come along?  How has that worked out?
We produce all of our shows locally so do not have to travel – we utilize family or babysitters on nights of performances, especially for Sabrina.  There is the possibility for travel in the future and I assume that either family will watch our children, or we will need to find sitters.  At this point, traveling with the family for theatrical productions is not an option – they are too young, and I am not one for taking my children out of school.  Our season follows the school year for two reasons – to keep our summers free for our children, and patrons in Wausau choose not to attend indoor events during the summer.

What about promoting the arts with your own children--any fun projects to share?  
The children help us hang posters and hand out flyers.  They actually enjoy doing this – as much as I loathe it.  :)

How do you escape?
I still don’t think I have found a way to escape… shopping (alone) seems to be a quick fix, but not an escape… If anyone finds an escape from a family, home, running a business and starting a part time job I’d be open for suggestions.

What advice do you have for expectant mothers in your field?
Theater is very accommodating when it comes to little children.  I have never run into a situation where my children were not welcome at a rehearsal.  And most people understand that theater is a hobby to some, a passion they would like to pursue on a part-time basis, and families are typically encouraged to support each other; at least they are in Central Wisconsin.  I also never ran into any problems when I was in the Twin Cities.  I am sure on a more professional basis this would not be the case – as it was when I was auditioning in Milwaukee and Chicago.

It is my opinion that if you find a group you enjoy working with, and they share your vision and passions for theater, you will find that your children are welcomed.  Yes, there are times when a screaming 2 year old can rattle the nerves of the entire cast, and everyone wants to scream as well, but theater is art.  And everyone involved is there because they want to be there, not because they have to be there.   That is why we started Artista! Players – to do what we love to do, and involve those with the same passions.

1 comment:

  1. Now that's what I call a family act. Working together in the same production company while taking care of SIX kids is one heck of a responsibility. Especially for people who consider the stage as a lifestyle.