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Q & A With Local Actor/Director/Choreographer Michael C. Flores

IN THE June 20 ISSUE

FROM THE 2020 Articles,
andLorie Lewis Ham,
andTales of Diversity,
andTheatre
SECTIONS

by Lorie Lewis Ham

In honor of Pride this month we wanted to interview a local LGBTQ+ performer, so we chatted with one who does a little bit of everything in the theatre community, Michael C. Flores. Michael was born and raised in Madera, CA and has been very involved with Selma Arts Center since 2015.

KRL: What schools have you attended?

Michael: Well, I graduated from Madera South Highschool in 2013 (yikes, time flies), and I am currently attending Fresno City College, as a Theatre Arts Major, to which I will be transferring next Spring. I chose to go back to school last year, and it’s been one the best decisions I made.

Michael C. Flores in “Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time” at the Selma Arts Center

KRL: When did you first get involved in theatre and why?

Michael: So, I started in dance first, and wasn’t fully exposed to Musical Theatre until I was fourteen (freshman year of HS) and decided to audition for the spring musical, which was Willy Wonka, in 2010. I was in the ensemble, and I loved it so much that I did every musical after; now here we are!

KRL: What was your first role?

Michael: My first “role” in community theatre was Mr. Topper, in Good Company Player’s production of A Christmas Carol, at 2nd Space.

KRL: What are some of the shows you have been in, and the parts you have played, and with what companies?

Michael during a production of “Crazy for You” at Roger Rockas Dinner Theater

Michael: In 2014, I discovered Good Company Players via a Google search that I typed in, something along the lines of, “Auditions for stage productions in Fresno,” and found my first audition! I was in shows like, The Grapes of Wrath, West Side Story, The Addams Family, 9 to 5: The Musical, and Crazy for You, to name a few. In 2015, a friend was putting on a production of In The Heights. It was a show I was very passionate about, so I decided to audition, and got the chance to play Sonny in the Selma Arts Center production. This began my relationship with the company, which I am very grateful for. In addition to these two companies, I have had the opportunity to work with CMT, Fresno City College—where I did a production of American Idiot—and Fresno State where I choreographed Heathers: The Musical, while also filling in as a cast member for a last-minute injury. Last year, I was also a part of StageWorks Fresno’s closing season, with their production of La Cage Aux Folles, playing one of the six Cagelles, Phaedra.

KRL: When did you first get involved in directing, and why and how?

Michael: Being involved as a choreographer made me want to eventually direct a show of my own, but I wanted to make sure I was ready. I have always artistically gravitated toward being a storyteller above anything, especially the idea of infusing my concept through movement, and how that would look with transitions and blocking. I started to daydream of shows I would want to direct one day. So, when the opportunity presented itself, I felt ready and passionate to put something on of my own, that I would be proud of.

KRL: What was the first show you directed?

Michael: The first show that I directed was Bring it On: The Musical, at the Selma Arts Center; almost immediately following, the council approved my second show that same year, which was The Rocky Horror Show, so I kinda count that one as well!

KRL: When and how did you first get involved in doing choreography?

Michael: Community-wise, my first choreography gig was for the same production of In The Heights that I was in. It was only one number at the time, a lyrical piece. I was taking an advanced lyrical class at a dance studio in Fresno and posting videos of myself in class. The director (who was a friend) saw it, and wanted the same feel for one of the ballads in the show. And that’s kind of how it started; this was also before I decided to audition for the show.

KRL: Do you have a favorite type of show, both to be in, and to direct?

Michael: I don’t really have a “type” of show. Music-wise, I like to connect with the music, and how it drives the story. That being said, I do tend to gravitate more toward contemporary theatre styles, especially musicals that sound a bit more pop, because I grew up on that style along with Gospel, rap, R&B, and hip-hop. I have a soft spot for all of those influences, and it does seem like those influences are reflective in more contemporary theatre nowadays.

Michael during a production meeting for “Cabaret” at the Selma Arts Center

KRL: What do you like best: acting, singing, directing, dancing, or choreographing?

Michael: I suppose it’s safe to say I love performing in general. I was definitely that kid who put on concerts with my sisters, and put on shows for family members, all while being afraid to truly be who I was as a queer kid. All that is to say, I am fortunate enough, and understand the privilege that I did have at that time, to even be able to express myself in that capacity. I am lucky that no one dimmed my light enough or discouraged me to the point where I suppressed my feelings; I was able to eventually find my identity as a queer individual.

Michael in “35 MM A Musical Exhibition” at the Selma Arts Center

KRL: What is the hardest?

Michael: I would love to improve in all areas. Each aspect of performing, I feel, has its own challenges. For me, I am most insecure about singing just because it’s the area I’ve had the least practice with, and I don’t consider myself much of a soloist. But I am getting more comfortable, maybe I’ll sing more in the future.

KRL: Future goals and dreams?

Michael: As I continue with college, and map out where I want to be, I really have cemented the idea that I would love to direct more than anything. I hope to pursue my education in directing, and tell stories on a larger scale outside of Fresno. Maybe Southern California, maybe New York. No matter where I go, I know I will do this for the rest of my life.

KRL: Heroes?

Michael: I am not sure about heroes but there are definitely people like directors (stage and film) and choreographers, who I admire and look up to. Some being, the works of Michael Arden, Luca Guadagnino, and Bob Fosse (obviously) to name a few. But also, I admire the community of people I am surrounded by here in the Central Valley. Many of us are advocates for equality, and I find it to be admirable to say the least. We all marched peacefully in the Black Lives Matter protest recently, although there is more to be done. I’ll never forget that feeling of togetherness, unity, and the reassurance that I was surrounding myself with peers who want to be the change they see in the world, just like I do.

KRL: What do you feel has helped you the most in growing as an actor, etc.?

Michael: What has helped me most as an actor has been finding my identity as a queer man, and how I want to use my art form in a way that reflects my morals as a person. This also helps for knowing what stories I want to tell. Now that I am coming into my own, it makes it easier to empathize with different characters, from all different walks of life. It makes it easier to discover the objectives of a character, and channel where they may have suppressed thoughts, similar to my own.

KRL: What advice would you have for someone wanting to get involved in theatre?

Michael: I don’t have the best advice to give, since I am learning every day myself, but I can say, from what I see and what I’ve experienced, that if anyone wants to do musical theatre, try your best not neglect your weakest area. Don’t miss a voice lesson, an acting or improv class, and if you can, take a dance class. The class that I would recommend is ballet as a starting point; ballet is the base in dance. You’ll learn so much about your body’s capabilities and become more comfortable with finding your physicality onstage.

Third from the right-Michael as Sonny in the Selma Arts Center production of “In the Heights”

KRL: Any funny and/or inspirational stories to share?

Michael: I am not sure about funny or inspirational, but something that people may not know is that typically for a show at the Selma Arts Center it usually falls on the director and their staff to paint the floor for the show, so for me, it’s usually me and my stage manager, Sami. I vividly remember us half asleep at 1:00 a.m. painting the circle for Cabaret. It’s a tradition at this point, and kind of therapeutic amidst the chaos of tech week on top of everything else!

KRL: What is your dream role? Dream show to direct or choreograph?

Michael: I would actually really love to play Seymour someday, in Little Shop of Horrors! Speaking it now into existence—ha-ha. A show that I would love to direct and choreograph—which would come to no surprise to anyone who knows me, is Once: The Musical. I just have always felt a deep connection to that show, and remember the first time I saw it on tour in 2014. Speaking that also into existence!

KRL: What is your current day job?

Michael: I have two jobs actually. In the morning you can find me at Starbucks, and in the afternoons/evenings I work in the Theatre Department at Madera South High School, where I mostly run the TYA (Theatre for Young Audiences) productions with the ROP (Regional Occupational Program) Theatre students.

KRL: Before the pandemic, was it hard balancing a job and acting/directing, etc.?

Michael: You know, before everything, I really didn’t know how fast life was going until it all stopped. Working, school, rehearsal, repeat, was all I knew. During this time I have been able to find a silver lining in self care, and get reacquainted with what inspires me—how I want to tell stories as a brown, queer artist. It’s been a needed pause, but like everyone else I am sure, I can’t wait to play again once it’s safe to do so. I look forward to many other important/inspiring stories to come out of this, especially from people of color during these dark, and unprecedented times.

KRL: Have you been doing anything creative during the pandemic since there are no shows on stage?

Michael: Yeah! Fortunately I am working with my virtual dance class at the Selma Arts Center (SAC), where I teach contemporary/lyrical dance. It’s been a nice escape during the week and makes me feel some sense of normalcy. We’re working on a video of a piece that I am excited to share.

KRL: Do you feel you have faced any special challenges as an LGBTQ+ performer in this area?

Michael: Most of my work, directing-wise, has been through the Selma Arts Center which has, for me, been an experience that has been 100% supportive and encouraging. I have been fortunate to feel safe, and have never felt such comfort in a space in my entire life. Expressing my art in a way where I try to be raw and honest, has been the greatest reward as a young, aspiring director.

I wrote an LGBTQ+ piece a couple of years ago that was from the heart, about an experience I called “Little Boy Blue.” The last thing I thought was for it to be produced in any capacity. And when it was produced at SAC, I was in shock since it was so unfiltered, and so queer. The community has been nothing but accepting. Sometimes, I worry about audience perceptions, but lately I’ve been more unapologetic, which was probably noticeable in my most recent production of Cabaret. On a side note, I think we’ve taken steps in representation, but of course, there is a long way to go.

In the future, I would like to continue to advocate for inclusivity in the theatre (especially community theatre) in regard to any stereotype that has been implemented from linear perspectives that find it hard to see things in a non-linear way. Like everyone, I am itching to get back to the theatre, but I know it will be soon, and when we do, there will be so much more to say. I am thankful for this opportunity and the support of my community. Thank you.

Thanks so much Michael for talking with us as we celebrate Pride this month, and for all you contribute to the local theatre community!

Check out more theatre reviews & other local entertainment articles in our Arts & Entertainment section. Don’t miss the recent article we did about Theatre in the Valley during shelter-in-place.

If you love local theatre, be sure to check out Mysteryrat’s Maze Podcast, which features mysteries read by local actors–many of whom you will have seen on local stages. You can find the podcast on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and Google Play, and also on Podbean. A new episode goes up next week!

Lorie Lewis Ham is our Editor-in-Chief and a contributor to various sections, coupling her journalism experience with her connection to the literary and entertainment worlds. Explore Lorie’s mystery writing at Mysteryrat’s Closet.

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