BITESIZE FESTIVAL 2024
"...I’m trying to be brave enough to share the truth, good and bad, and hopefully help others who have gone through something similar."
FROM PARIS WITH ANXIETY
February 5, 2024
Melinda Mayor is anxious. She is also a mother, an artist, and a Jew--in constantly revolving order--who hates to cook, misses being onstage, and eats bacon (when someone else cooks it, of course). With original songs and somewhat original kvetching, Melinda invites you into her world of music and laughter, direct from Paris!
Hello Melinda, thank you for talking to TNC. How does it feel to be at the 2024 BITESIZE Festival with your show From Paris with Anxiety?
It’s a real pleasure, I’m so glad to hear from you! And I’m excited to be part of Bitesize, I can’t wait to get to London and finally meet everybody.
Your new show debuts at BITESIZE in the 21st Feb, any nerves ahead of opening night?
One part of me is too busy for nerves, and another part of me is feeling the fear! (Mostly because I have so much to do.) But as I like to say, “Feel the fear and sing it anyway.”
How important are festivals like BITESIZE in creating this unique platform for theatre and comedy?
Festivals like Bitesize are really important, it’s fun and exciting to have a supportive space to try new things and invite audiences along for the adventure. It’s a real credit to Riverside and the festival that they’re giving creatives a chance to have their voices heard, and to share their work in such a special venue.
What are you hoping to take away from the experience of being part of BITESIZE Festival?
My favourite part of performing is connecting with the audience. When you share your story, often it inspires others to do the same, to allow themselves to feel, to own their own stories. So I’m hoping to have moments of connection, and opportunities to keep telling this story.
Can you tell me a little bit about your show, how did From Paris with Anxiety come about?
Well, a hundred million years ago I wrote a one-woman show for a Fringe festival in Canada, and it was about the experience of getting married, questioning how Jewish am I really, and also worrying about flower arrangements and why there wasn’t a Jewish Barbie…you know, the important issues. Some life-changing moments have taken place since that time, and I felt compelled to dive into how life is now that I’ve had children, been living in Paris for many years, and have been married for all of those years plus about 85 more. And I was fortunate enough to meet a fantastic composer who has helped me give life to these songs that are really something special. I’ve been so lucky to work with her.
Did you have any apprehensions about creating a show that draws from you own life and experiences?
No, none at all, next question!
The serious answer is, yes, of course. The show is full of laughs but also deals with some serious events. I experienced a major fall-out after telling my story with that one-woman show from years ago, and I feel like this is the other side of that: I’m trying to be brave enough to share the truth, good and bad, and hopefully help others who have gone through something similar. A lot of my favourite writers and performers, from David Sedaris to Maria Bamford, create humour and connection through telling their stories, and I take inspiration from that.
"...I encourage you to create the opportunity yourself!"
Has it been cathartic in a way the writing process?
I think I’ve been so focused on the craft of it, of weaving together multiple different themes in a way that takes the audience on a compelling, enjoyable journey, that I haven’t really sat back and thought, oh yes, I feel better now. I’m still very much in the creation/rehearsal process at the moment…also, I’m too busy practicing my (ridiculous) Barbra impressions.
When a show is running are you always tweaking it or do you like to leave it as it is?
I always do my best to incorporate a director’s notes throughout a run, and obviously if something doesn’t work it’s important to take a look at why. Unfortunately, I won’t be able to have a band with me, so Yali (Arbel, my composer) has created these beautiful tracks that I love so much, and those won’t be changing during the show because they’re exactly right as is…and also, we can’t!
What has been the biggest challenges you faced bringing From Paris with Anxiety to the stage?
This show has been through many drafts, and many forms…there are some scenes I was looking forward to bringing to life but Keauna (Miller, my director and dramaturge) had to be strict with me otherwise you’d all be sitting through a five-hour show (slight exaggeration!). And, of course, singing a song just because it’s sounds nice isn’t really enough, there has to be a reason why the emotion and story are expressed through song at that moment. It’s solving the creative problems—or challenges—that put you to the test, and ultimately make the work even better.
Where did you passion for theatre come from?
I was performing in plays in elementary school, and nobody else in my family wanted the spotlight on them, so it’s kind of a mystery! Yes, I like the attention (is there any point in denying it?!), but in terms of the art and craft of it…I can’t really say. Being creative is the only thing I know how to do. I love being swept up in a story.
How best would you describe your show in 3 words?
Oy. Oy. Oy.
Or how about Love, Laugh, Latkes? Just don’t ask me to put it on a wall stencil.
Do you have any tips or advice you would offer anyone wanting to get into theatre and what has been the best advice you’ve been given as you started your own journey?
Advice is a tricky thing; what works for one person won’t necessarily work for somebody else. And I’m not exactly sitting at the top of some big successful heap ready to spout words of wisdom! I think you should keep advice that speaks to you close to your heart, but don’t be afraid to do away with what doesn’t sit well with you. It’s how you figure out your own voice.
I would add to keep learning, and if you want to do roles that others won’t cast you in, I encourage you to create the opportunity yourself! In theatre school I was told I wouldn’t be cast for this or that, they’re only looking for this type, etc etc… Well, now gender, “type”, and all the rest of it is going out the window, and I think we’re all better off for it.
And finally, what do you hope you audiences will take away from From Paris with Anxiety?
You’re not alone.
It’s okay to laugh…in fact, it’s essential.
I could really, really use some chips.