Acknowledging The Human Experience, an Interview With Mike Folie

Interviews, Lead Article

By Pat McAndrew, Editor-in-Chief, All About Solo
 
Mike Folie is an actor, playwright and monologist. As an actor he has worked Off-and Off-Off-Broadway and regionally at such theaters as American Jewish Theatre, Theatre Row, Boomerang Theatre Company, The Kennedy Center, and the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, among others. As a playwright, Mike’s plays have been produced Off-Broadway, regionally around the U.S. and internationally, winning several awards. Dramatists Guild Magazine named him one of “Fifty Playwrights to Watch,” and The Los Angeles Times called hi play, “THE ADJUSTMENT,” “The kind of play the American Theatre desperately needs.” As both writer and actor, Mike has performed his solo play, “3 MEN,” at Hudson Theatre Works, Stage Left Studio, Penguin Rep, and at both the 2015 and 2016 United Solo Theatre Festivals, where it won the Festival Award for Best Non‑Fiction Show (2015) and Best Encore Presentation (2016). His current solo play, “MY DEAD WIFE,” sold out two performances at the 2018 United Solo Theatre Festival, and will perform one more time at the Festival on November 4. Mike has studied acting with Frank Licato, Carol Rosenfeld, and Mercedes Ruehl. All About Solo caught up with Mike to discuss his successful show.
 
Pat McAndrew: How did you discover theater and, more specifically, solo performance?
Mike Folie: I’ve been involved in theater as either an actor or a playwright since I was in middle school, usually as either a playwright or actor exclusively. About five years ago I put the two crafts together when I began writing and developing my first solo play, “3 MEN.” That culminated in three performances of “3 MEN” at the United Solo Festival in 2015 and 2016. I took 2017 off from performing to write and develop my second solo show, “MY DEAD WIFE,” which I am presenting at United Solo this year, 2018.
 
What inspired you to create this piece?
I knew I wanted to write something about the sudden death of my wife in 2011, but I wasn’t sure what form it should take. My wife’s death plunged me into a kind of waking dream  state. I wanted to share with people how unique the experience of that level of grief could be, but without being at all maudlin or depressing. I also wanted to celebrate the long, happy marriage I’d had for 25 years. I knew I would need some distance on the experience, so I wrote “3 MEN” first and used that process to explore what worked in solo performance, and to jump-start my acting chops, which had gotten a little rusty over the years when I was focusing solely on writing plays. Shortly after “3 MEN” ran its course, I began to write short pieces about the weird time just after my wife died. As the pieces began to come together and grow into a narrative, I realized I was writing another solo performance piece.
 
Why is this piece important for today’s audience?
Death and the loss we feel when people close to us die are huge in the human experience. But today we mostly keep death and grief under wraps; we don’t like to talk about them too much. Modern science has allowed us to distance ourselves from death to some extent. I don’t think we need to dwell on death constantly or in a morbid way, but I do think we need to acknowledge and come to terms with it. We’re all going to have to deal with it at some point in our lives.
 
What is your favorite part about performing this show?
Getting my laughs. I think some people are surprised (and relieved) that a play with the title “MY DEAD WIFE” can be funny. I can feel the audience relax and begin to really enjoy the piece as soon as I get the first few early laughs.
 
What were some challenges that you faced in developing this piece?
Like “3 MEN,” “MY DEAD WIFE” is not linear when it comes to the time frame of the events being presented. So it’s a challenge to keep the audience oriented. Some of the pieces that form the mosaic of the play are very short and almost like poetry; some are two to three minutes long and more like a little story – a narrative. Fortunately, there are basically three time periods in the piece: the courtship and marriage before the death; the period of grief and recovery afterwards; and the few days leading up to the death. So it’s not too hard to keep the audience aware of where we are at each point as I jump around among all three.
 
How does this solo piece speak to other work you have done?
Well, I’ve only written and performed one solo piece before, so my experience is limited. But I think I found myself feeling more confident in writing this piece, having done one already. I don’t feel with “MY DEAD WIFE” that I have to be constantly tap dancing – metaphorically! – to keep the audience’s attention. “3 MEN” was three interwoven stories. This time I feel confident enough to stick with one story.
 
What do you hope the audience walks away with after seeing your show?
I hope they walk away feeling that death and loss are common, natural human experiences that are to be respected but not feared. We humans are resilient creatures, and we can recover from even the most devastating events.
 
My Dead Wife
Written and Performed by Mike Folie
Sept. 14 at 7:30pm, Sept. 16 at 4pm, Nov. 4 at 7:30pm
Director: Frank Licato
Photo credit: Bronwen Sharp
United Solo 2018
Theatre Row
410 West 42nd Street
New York City

Author: Pat McAndrew, Editor-in-Chief, All About Solo

Pat McAndrew is a NYC-based actor, writer, and consultant . As an actor, he has performed Off-Broadway, Off-Off Broadway, and in various locations throughout New York City, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania. His one-man show, REEL, was performed in the 2017 United Solo Theatre Festival and featured in the new documentary, Electronic Crack. Using his background as an actor as his foundation, Pat consults with individuals and organizations on how to communicate effectively and build deep, meaningful relationships in the digital age. He is the Founder of The Low Tech Trek, an organization devoted to discovering a better balance between human interaction and how we use technology. He is a member of Village Playback Theatre, Endless River Arts, and Svaha Theatre Collective. Pat holds an MA in Theatre from Villanova University. Check out patmcandrew.com for more information.

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