By Austin Kaiser, Staff Writer, All About Solo
Marco Michel was born on November 2, 1984 and grew up in Bern, Switzerland. After receiving his Higher School Certificate and three years of work and travel all around the world (during which he worked as an English teacher at a Buddhist monastery in the Himalayas, a projectionist at a cinema in New Zealand, and a civil servant in psychiatry in Switzerland), he moved to Germany, where he studied Acting at the renowned University of Music and Performing Arts in Munich.
Since receiving his Acting Diploma in 2014, Marco Michel has been working as a freelance actor in theatre, film and TV. He works at theatres and acting companies in all German‑speaking countries. Theatre engagements and guest performances led him to work in many European countries, the USA and China. He starred in TV movies and motion pictures, and acted in many short films. In 2014, Marco Michel was the lead in the Swiss feature film, “Durch die Nacht.” In 2017, he worked with legendary US director Robert Wilson in Berlin. And in 2018, he performed the play “A Kiss” at the United Solo Theatre Festival in New York — and earned an award for Best International One‑Man Show. Marco Michel lives in Berlin.
Austin Kaiser: Tell us about Antonio Ligabue, how you discovered him, and what compelled you to perform in a solo show about him.
Marco Michel: Antonio Ligabue is one of the most underrated artists you’ll ever hear about. Only a few people have heard of him outside of Italy — even though he can be compared with van Gogh and other great artists. He grew up in Switzerland until he was 19, but being an immigrant’s child, he was deported to Italy after the First World War.
Having been abandoned as a child, deported as a teenager, and rejected and laughed at as a man, he always had to “rage against the dying of the light.” And that’s what he did — and that’s what is so inspiring about him. He never gave up, not even after a stroke, and found recognition and fame late in life. The only thing he didn’t find was love.
I didn’t know anything about Antonio Ligabue — until one day I got a call from the assistant of Mario Perrotta (the author and director of “A Kiss”) and I was invited to audition for another show of his. That’s how we got to know each other. And after that first collaboration, he invited me to audition for “A Kiss.” And I was lucky enough to get the part.
How much time and effort went into creating “The Kiss,” in terms of research, scripting, and rehearsing?
The play is called “A Kiss” and not “The Kiss.” This is absolutely essential, because the kiss never happened — and all Antonio Ligabue longed for was a kiss…
A lot of effort went into preparing for the role: learning about Ligabue’s life, studying his paintings, visiting the places in Switzerland and Italy where he lived, and talking to people who knew him personally. With all that in mind and with the text learnt by heart, we started rehearsals. During our first rehearsal period (we had three), the focus was on the drawings that I create during the show. I had to learn how to use charcoal and draw a face in one minute. That was quite a mission. Later, after the whole framework of text, movement and drawings became clear, we worked on the inner world of Ligabue. It was all about connecting to my own fear and hopelessness, and my own longing for love — and using those as fuel for the part.
How has playing Antonio changed over time?
I think I gained more courage to immerse myself into this role — without the fear of losing track. This role (with so much text and all the drawings) demands a lot of concentration, and with every performance, I have more confidence in the “framework” and therefore more freedom to focus on the inner movements of the role: Ligabue’s motivations and obstacles.
When someone sees your show for the first time, what do you hope they’ll think?
I don’t hope for certain thoughts or feelings. I just hope that people will open up to this character and listen to what he has to say. And maybe, when I do a good job, they will be touched within their own life and their own struggles.
What plans do you have for yourself in theater, short‑term and long‑term?
Being a freelance actor, it is a bit difficult to make plans. But being a realist, I have dreams, of course. I need them to keep moving forward. One of my dreams is to come back to NYC and perform “A Kiss” on Broadway. That would be wonderful!! And generally, I just hope that I can grow and evolve in this job and that I can continue to meet and work with wonderful people all around the world, and play interesting and complex characters.
How do you feel after a performance?
I feel like having woken up from very strange dreams… I’m not a person who falls asleep easily — and likewise, I have a certain routine to get into the role of Ligabue, to be able to think his thoughts and feel his guts. But when the performance is over, I wake up from that state, from all those feelings and fights and fears, and I’m back in my own reality and my own dream. And I feel deeply enriched because I was able to do something we normally can’t: live and feel without consequences. It’s the freedom of art that enables us to explore our human condition — and that makes me happy after every performance. And besides that, I’m very sweaty and exhausted.
“A KISS – ANTONIO LIGABUE”
Written and Directed by Mario Perrotta
Performed by Marco Michel
Saturday, Nov 23rd at 2PM
Photo credit: Jürgen Ruckdeschel
2019 United Solo Theatre Festival
New York City
AUSTIN KAISER, currently writing a book called, “100 Questions Every Artist Should Have The Answers To.” His other book, “How To Go Viral & Put Wings On Ideas: A Book For Content Creators & Young Artists,” explains how ideas travel and which ideas travel best. More at www.medium.com/@KaiserMane.