Edinburgh Fringe 2022 
Interview

Michael Lyons headshot - 8x10.jpeg
Michael
Lyons
Dickin' Around

What does it take to satiate a heartbroken 20-something homosexual with a penchant for deep-diving into the sensory stimuli he finds along the way? In this hour-long piece, Michael lets us into his private world, and invites us to confront and ruminate on the beautiful, the icky, and the confusing together. This show is about sex. This show is not about sex. This show is for anyone who’s ever felt lost at sea and exhausted themselves swimming to shore. Dive underneath the raunch of this show and you’ll find a universally relatable, tender underbelly.

 

Hi Michael, thank you for taking the time to talk with The New Current, how does it feel to be heading to Edinburgh Fringe & C Venues, C digital this summer?

 

I’m thrilled to be able to take this show to a festival as gigantic and exciting as Edinburgh Fringe, even if it’s just digitally this year.  I’m feeling very proud that I drove this project to completion, and now I’m getting to see how others respond to it in festivals.

 

With this being your debut solo show are there any nerves about sharing your show during the fringe?

 

I do have some nerves about how an audience outside of the US may respond to my show’s content, comedic style, overall aesthetic.  Not that I expect it to be poorly received, but simply because I’ve only performed in front of American audiences so far.  That being said, some of my biggest influences in writing my show are from across the pond, so maybe aspects will feel familiar (but still exciting).

 

You just had a run at Hollywood Fringe and the audience reviews are amazing and really inspiring, what has it meant to you to get this type of reaction to Dickin’ Around?

 

It has been extremely uplifting to say the least.  For nearly 2 years, the show (in clunky, partially finished iterations) had only been shown to other members of my solo collective, Unmuted Participants, and a few close friends.  The responses from friends, acquaintances, and complete strangers were everything I could hope for, but beyond what I could have expected.  The most rewarding forms of feedback were when others shared how deeply it resonated with them, and that some emotional experiences/situations of the show were intimately familiar to them--and they were surprised to get that from a show called Dickin’ Around with a dildo on its poster.

 

What did you take away from performing Dickin’ Around in front of an audience, did you allow yourself much flexibility or did you stick to what you had written/panned?

 

I largely stuck with my writing within each performance, as I really nitpicked every little word in the writing and rehearsal process.  However, I did allow myself the much-needed flexibility in the physical comedy bits.  Each show was slightly different, and between shows, I did change out a couple things I was lukewarm about.  I got braver each performance about leaning into whatever was happening for me, with the audience, during the physical bits.  I owe the ability to lean into my body and spirit in the moment and really “go there” to my clown training.

 

What does Edinburgh Fringe mean to you?

 

It means taking power of your artistry--creating and sharing something that is fully, passionately, and unabashedly your own.  It’s a chance to feel what creative expression can be without industry expectations, trends, or financial/contractual obligations.  And for me this year, it’s helped me begin to discover the kind of artist I want to be.

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Can you tell me how Dickin’ Around came about, where did the inspiration for your show come from?

 

I was taking a solo performance class via Zoom, as it was July 2020.  I had no previous desire to write a solo show; I took it because it was taught by Ann Noble, and I love her and will take any class she teaches.  I had no idea what story I wanted to tell, but I did know that I had just developed a case of tennis elbow secondary to my sex life being shuttered.  I started writing about it because I thought it was kind of funny, and eventually it become an existential springboard, and forced me to confront how I handled a past relationship, the break up, and the sexploration that followed.

 

What was the experience like developing the show through Unmuted Participants, is this something you would recommend?

 

Unmuted Participants was the warmest, most supportive, loving, creative (virtual) home during the workshopping of this piece.  It was special to start from a place of patchwork vignettes and complete uncertainty of how to write and perform a solo show via Zoom, to finish and share our pieces virtually, and to bring mine and see others start to bring our shows on their feet in-person.  I’m so grateful to have had this group to lean on, learn from, and feel elevated by.  This show simply would NOT have finished being written, have been developed to place where it is now, or gone on up if it weren’t for Unmuted Participants.  It would be a sad, half-baked mess of a word doc that I remember and feel guilty about from time to time.  I absolutely recommend that anyone looking to start, finish, or otherwise develop a solo show, or any piece of writing, find/build a supportive, committed accountability group.

 

What would you say have been the most valuable lessons you have taken from creating this show and what have you discovered about yourself during this whole process?

 

I’ve learned that for a piece of writing to really ignite, you need to give it room to breathe.  Work on it, talk about it, think about it, rehearse it, and then f**k off for a little while.  I made the decision to intentionally carve out as much free time as I could, more than I “needed” so I could really breathe during the last stage of writing/the early rehearsal process.  As a participant of the capitalist grind culture, it was difficult and came with some financial consequences, but it was worth the new ideas that came because I gave myself and my show some breathing room.

 

I’ve discovered that writing and performing my own work is an excellent way to call myself out on my own BS.  If I failed to get painfully honest in a section of writing, or chose not to fully confront the situation in piece of the performance, I felt it deeply and personally; in a way that I should have and hope I now always feel if I am failing to fully serve another writer’s words.

 

What does this show say about you as a writer/performer?

 

I hope it says that I am willing to delve deep to find honesty, and I’m okay with getting sticky while I do it.

 

Have you always had a passion for theatre?

 

I would not say that I’ve always had a passion for theatre in particular, as much as I would say that I have always had passion for art whose creators are committed to marrying their hard-earned skills with creative abandon.  Things that are unhinged, but well-crafted.  It just so happens that Fringe is filled to the brim with that.

"...I’ve learned to let my own quirky uniqueness, my essence if you will, parts that I used to be ashamed or in denial about, fully come through."

Has your style and the approach to your writing and performing changed much since you started out?

 

I can’t speak much to my writing yet, as this is the first thing I’ve written of this length that I’ve gone onto to fully develop and put up.  However, I do think my performance style has changed.   Earlier on, I had certain aesthetics that I admired, and wanted to be like.  I wanted so bad to be a silky smooth, dark, mysterious Cillian Murphy type.  I would try as hard as I could to act in these styles, which often made for cringey at worst and lukewarm at best results.  Via writing and performing my own story (as well as countless hours in other forms of training) I’ve learned to let my own quirky uniqueness, my essence if you will, parts that I used to be ashamed or in denial about, fully come through.  And in that lies self-trust and artistic freedom, which can be so hard to wrangle as an actor when we’re frequently waiting for a “yes” from someone else to do our work.

 

Do you have any advice, tips or suggestions you would offer fellow theatre makers?

Find/build a group of other actors/writers you admire, you’re excited about, and you enjoy being around.  Join a class!  Hit up your favourite classmates from other classes!  Find a deadline of some kind if you’re like me and benefit from outer accountability.  And go from there.

 

And finally, what do you want your fringe audiences to take away from Dickin’ Around?

 

I want to them to know it’s okay to have, in sex, felt vulnerability, excitement, fear, regret, heartbreak, disgust, joy or a mixture of all of those, combinations at different times.  They don’t need to feel alone and ashamed of their messy journeys, because I had one too.