Michelle Drozdick is an acclaimed improviser and best known in the US for her show The Gimmick And You which ran for over two years. Now she’s performing in her own one woman show, Message In A Bottle which was described by Stagebuzz as “A fun and moving show that resonates with the audience”, and is about to launch another, Ducky, which features sentient rubber ducks! Here she talks about all three of these shows, what inspired her to write Message In A Bottle, what she loves most about improv, how she’d like to develop a time travel comedy drama with Amy Poehler, and much more.
Comedy To Watch: How would you sell “Message In A Bottle” to some one who wasn’t previously aware of it?
Michelle: It’s a surreal look at real life– a woman’s descent and escape from alcoholism portrayed as a relationship between her and a sentient bottle of vodka named Tito wearing a necktie and googly eyes. It’s a dark comedy that swings between humor and drama, but it’s (ultimately, and after a lot goes down!) a story of victory.
CTW: And does it reflect your own life experiences or is it a fictional piece?
Michelle: It is based on my life– well, a slightly exaggerated version, one could say! I’ve done many strange things, but I have not dated a talking bottle of vodka with plastic forks for arms. That being said, I haven’t drank since December 2016 and plan never to again. I have found that portraying my own struggle to ‘break up’ with alcohol as an actual relationship has been much more fun and empowering (and likely more interesting to watch) than just telling the story as it happened.
CTW: What inspired you to write it?
Michelle: I’ve always loved writing about self-aware objects and other absurd things, and I’d also been trying to find a way to portray my experience with Tito that was both interesting and something people would want to see. I really wanted to find a way to blend drama and comedy so that one wouldn’t be sacrificed for the other, something my director Adrian Sexton (who is brilliant and is currently performing a run of her own fantastic ‘Beatlemania’ solo show) really helped me flesh out and develop.
CTW: You’ve just finished a two year run of your The Gimmick & You show, what can you tell us about that?
Michelle: Oh man! The Gimmick and You was my very first solo show, and it’s completely improvised– once a month for two years I’d interview a local improviser, stand-up comic, and/or actor, then perform a totally unscripted, unplanned solo show based on what we spoke about. After two wonderful years of monthly shows at the PIT and the Tank I’ve retired it to focus on scripted performance, but I plan to still put it up now and then.
CTW: And what was the highlight of performing the show over all of that time?
Michelle: Definitely the people! I was lucky enough to interview some of my comedy idols, and it was an absolute joy to get to share the stage with them and learn more about them. It was also really fun to see the development of the show and my own abilities over this time. I’m eternally grateful to my director Benjamin Jones for helping me grow Gimmick from an unpolished idea into something I’m really proud of.
CTW: What do you most love about performing improv?
Michelle: I love finding connections and heartwarming moments in the silliest of scenes. For example, there’s something really wonderful about playing a toaster and a kitchen floor tile that fall in love and, despite it being ridiculous, having the audience genuinely care about their relationship. It’s make believe for grown-ups in all the best ways.
CTW: In September you’re launching a new show, Ducky, can you tell us a little about that?
Michelle: I’m so excited for Ducky! When a passing witch’s stray spell hits the local rubber duck factory, all the ducks become alive and go forth into the world to discover just what it means to be self-aware. It’s silly and fun, and one of the ducks is based on my grandmother, Eleanor Drozdick, one of the kindest, sweetest women the world has ever seen. Her nickname was Ducky, and I even have a small tattoo of a duck on my inner wrist in her memory. She’d kill me for getting it. I’m really excited to start rehearsals with my director, Melissa Parker Caron, soon!
CTW: If in a strange twist you could only write for the theatre or perform improv, which would you choose, and why?
Michelle: Oh man, that’s a tough one. If I absolutely had to choose… I’d pick writing. I’ve been doing it far longer than performing, and I love doing it. That being said, I also absolutely love improv, especially the people I do it with, and I’d be miserable without it. So… I suppose I’d pick writing, but I wouldn’t be very happy about it! It’s a bit like deciding which of your toes you’d want cut off– neither would be fun!
CTW: Can you tell us what your plans are for the future?
Michelle: More writing and more performing, definitely. I’d definitely like to write and produce a larger play at some point. Until now I’ve been new enough on the scene that it’s been enough to just see where it leads me, but now I’m beginning to focus on something tangible for the future. Whatever it is, it’ll be weird and fun!
CTW: What’s the funniest thing to have happened to you since you started performing?
Michelle: Probably the guy who came to see Message in a Bottle one of the times I did it out of state. He came up to me after the show, told me he really loved it, then offered to buy me a beer. After thinking he was kidding at first and then realizing he wasn’t, I very gently had to explain to him that the show wasn’t just about a woman in an abusive relationship with a bottle of vodka. He was absolutely shocked, which still makes me smile, since it wasn’t an especially veiled metaphor! I really liked him, he was sweet.
CTW: If money were no object, and you could collaborate with anyone currently alive, what would you like to create?
Michelle: A miniseries that’s a time travel drama-comedy focusing on family relationships and what it would be like to meet your past/future self– as well as the past/future selves of the people you love. I’ve wanted to develop this idea for years now, and keep saying ‘Someday’, because I’d want to do it justice. That being said, Amy Poehler, I’m ready when you are!
CTW: And finally, if you could interview yourself, what question would you most like to ask? And what would the answer be?
Michelle: ‘What do you wish you could tell brand new writers and performers just starting out?’ – “Just do it. Stop worrying and second-guessing yourself– go out there and make your art. You’re going to meet some incredible people and do things you never thought possible.”