Michelle is an independent performance maker, teaching artist, mentor, arts worker, community organiser, yoga practitioner and mother living and working on Noongar Boodja. She has trained in devising, physical theatre, Clown, Butoh and Contemporary Dance with various companies including Teatro de Complicite (UK), Pan Theatre (Fra), Laban London (UK), Giovanni Fusetti (Italy), Café Reason Butoh (UK), Augusto Boal and Cardboard Citizens (UK).
2022 will mark Michelle’s 20th year working in Community Arts and Young People’s Theatre. Her practise as an arts worker began in 2002 at the Minawarra Festival, with a project to support girls towards body positivity through dance and performance.
From 2003-2011 Michelle was based at Pegasus Theatre as Youth Arts Team Leader and director with Oxford Youth Theatre. Her devising and directing projects include Walking on Eggshells (Children in Need, UK), Scarlet Ribbons: An Intergenerational Loneliness Project (Oxfordshire Touring Theatre), The Lorax (Oxford Contemporary Youth Dance), The Land That Disappeared (Peepolykus & Pegasus Young Company), Journeys To Freedom (Black Umfolosi & Afro Karibean Kultural Heritage Initiative), Street Theatre Weeks (Electric Cabaret), Winter of Discontent (Oxford Youth Theatre & the National Youth Theatre Festival, UK), Catalyst (the resident mixed ability company at Pegasus Theatre)
Since returning to Perth in 2012, while juggling care roles alongside her arts practise, Michelle has been engaged in various projects including The Giants for Perth Festival (2015) and as Education Manager for Sculpture by the Sea, WA. Michelle has developed ‘early learner’ play and movement programs for the City of Joondalup and facilitated educational workshops for ‘Children’s Week’ with Spare Parts Puppet Theatre at Meeralinga Centres across WA. In 2018 Michelle collaborated with Jay Emanuele, Mararo Wangai, Matt Edgerton and Barking Gecko Theatre to create Adventures in the Creature Garden, an immersive theatre experience to support children rising to Year 1 schooling.
Now in her fifth year as a senior teaching artist with Barking Gecko Theatre, Michelle continues to relish building worlds and stories with some of the freshest minds on the planet in the name of curiosity, joy and justice.
In 2021 Michelle became a mentor/dramaturg for Community Arts Network’s Dream Plan Do program and supported Colombian artists Lab Crea to realise their ‘social clown’ project ‘Migration of Me: why here, why now’
In 2019, as part of the Blue Room Theatre’s ‘Winter Nights’ program, Michelle organised an ‘occupation’ event at the State Theatre Centre of WA. MOTHERS OF INVENTION: OCCUPY! was a child friendly forum for artist caregivers to gather and discuss the barriers to participation for caregivers in the arts. The result was the Motherfesto: Rights, Access and Inclusion for all Mothers in the Arts and Culture.
The Motherfesto, a call for arts organisations to dissolve the barriers that make it hard for caregiver-artists to participate, made national news and was featured on Arts Hub and ABC’s Myf Warhurst show. Part of Michelle’s advocacy work includes Mothers Who Make Perth, an online community of over 200 artist caregivers and monthly peer support HUB sessions at Subiaco Arts Centre.
Michelle’s recent work The Dirty Mother premiered at The Blue Room Theatre for Summer Nights 2020 and was nominated for the Tour Ready Award (Fringe World), Best Theatre (Melbourne Fringe) and Best Actor (Performing Arts Awards WA). Michelle has written a soon-to-be published article for a book with the University of Brighton titled, Performing Maternities. Michelle’s article talks to themes of maternity and mental health and how she has explored them within the process of creating The Dirty Mother.
Michelle’s next theatre project Falling UP! is about maternal rage, the politics of care and domestic inequality. A parody of a 90’s action revenge film, Falling UP! will bomb the ubiquitous hero narrative while exploding taboos around Mom Rage alongside themes of the Shadow Pandemic and carer burn-out. As the child of a Vietnam Veteran (conscripted) she has experienced first-hand the intergenerational consequences of war. Michelle wants to scrutinise the links between the globally dominant narrative of patriarchy and war, the trivialisation of care work and the silencing of women who express resistance.
Michelle is mid-way through an MA Theatre at the Victorian College of the Arts, University of Melbourne.
“When I had Max, I quickly realised it wasn’t socially ok to talk about what happened during birth and this confused me. We talk about men going to war and heroes rescuing villages and going on Odysseys, but we don’t talk about the heroic and often dangerous act of a person bringing a life into the world, especially if that birth was difficult or devastating.
“Much of Motherhood is an invisible experience explained via stereotypical characters and binaries: good mother-bad mother, Glenda the Good Witch or Mommy Dearest aka Joan Crawford. I feel compelled to make stories that celebrate the lived experience of real caregivers with all their complexities. I want to make theatre that reveals the gritty, scary, unbelievable, messy, bodacious nature of birth and mothering. You think Full Metal Jacket is an intense film, try being in a birthing suite for 36 hours! I want the world to know more about that, to respect that, to celebrate that.“