by Lorie Lewis Ham
This Valley is filled with incredible talent that often is overlooked. It can be easy to forget that there is great theatre, music, literature, and film right here where we live. At KRL, we desire to raise that awareness and one way is by doing profiles on local actors, directors, writers, and others. Our first actor profile was on popular Fresno actor Peter Allwine, and this one is on long time Reedley actor Michael Angel.
Michael, 26, was born in Reedley and introduced to performing in elementary school, thanks to a summer program put on by the Kings Canyon Unified School District (KCUSD) called K.C.’s Showcase. “In all honesty, I wasn’t too interested in doing it because I was really into sports, baseball in particular, and that was my thing and that’s what I wanted to do.” However, a friend of Michael’s wanted to perform with him so Michael conceded. He continued to perform all through high school, never really thinking the acting bug would get him. “I am so thankful it did.”
His first part in a play was during his freshman year in a Reedley High School production of Arsenic and Old Lace, where he played Dr. Einstein. “This is an experience I will probably never forget. I had such a fun time with my fellow actors and director Mark Norwood and made lasting friendships that are still strong to this day.”
Jeff Lusk is one of those that he learned to know that first summer. They have remained friends and fellow actors ever since. “We have been in over 15 shows together. He and I have also performed together as members of RHS’s Madrigals and of course we still perform together with [Michael’s a cappella group] Vocal Experience.”
“Working with Michael is easy, and I think that is the best compliment a performer can give to another,” continued Jeff. “I trust Michael when I am on stage with him. He can improvise with the best. If he is ever in a jam on stage during a performance, he figures a way out of it. At times I am truly impressed with his abilities even though I have witnessed those abilities many times before.”
Some of the many shows he has been in at Reedley’s River City Theatre Company (RCTC) at the Reedley Opera House, and RHS include: Grease (Kenickie), Godspell (Jesus), Little Shop of Horrors (Seymour), Big River (Huckleberry Finn), and Guys & Dolls (Nathan Detroit).
Local actress Stacie Hall has also worked with Michael at both RHS and RCTC. Her first show with him was her first show as a freshman. Michael was a senior. “The show was Hold Me! and Michael was a big bad senior, as well as the funniest and probably most talented of the theatre pool.”
Over the years Michael’s love of theatre has continued to grow and what he loves most is how it gives him a chance to express himself in ways you can’t do out on the street. “Singing soothes the soul and acting takes you places you’ve only dreamt about.”
What he has found the hardest is memorizing. “At times I have more then a full plate with singing for school, acting in shows, working with my a cappella group. I don’t really have a solution to this madness … it just happens. Thankfully.”
Busy may be an understatement for Michael’s life. Currently, along with majoring in music education at Fresno State and performing in shows at RCTC, he holds three jobs: teaching music theory and drama at Wellspring Academy, working as a driver for Central Valley Operations, and a year ago he formed The Vocal Experience. In his rare off time, he still enjoys sports.
Though she hasn’t acted with him as many times as Jeff and Stacie, Lindsey Jones has known Michael most of her life. Now she knows him not only as a fellow performer, but also as his girlfriend. “Biased or not, I know Michael is an amazingly talented person. Obviously to anyone who’s ever heard him sing, he’s one of a kind.”
“One of the greatest things about my job has been the fact that I get to continue to work with my students after they graduate from high school,” said Mark Norwood, who has worked with Michael as a director at the high school and RCTC. “In Michael’s case, I met him when he was in the 4th grade, when he first participated in The K.C. Showcase with Kings Canyon Unified School District. That was 15 years ago. Today, Michael is a co-worker as well as a fellow actor and most importantly, a great friend. It has been such a privilege to watch Michael grow into an exceptional young man. He is a great example of just how powerful the combination of talent, dedication and hard work can be.”When asked what he feels has helped him grow the most as an actor Michael said being able to take direction and criticism with a grain of salt, and learn from his mistakes and learn from people around him. To young people interested in pursuing acting he tells them not to get discouraged. “Just like life, acting has its ups and downs but don’t let that stop you and don’t be afraid to have a back-up plan. Things don’t always turn out the way you want them to so having a back-up plan is the best thing you can have in your back pocket.”
“I owe all my theatre schooling to Mark Norwood,” continued Michael. “As an actor he trained me on the stage and has made me the actor I am today. He has great knowledge of theatre and anyone who has the opportunity to work with him is very lucky. I also want to thank Randy Lepp because without his love for music and his love of teaching music and having it a part of his everyday life, I’m not sure if I’d be singing today, majoring in music or have my own a cappella group. Thank you for expanding my musical palette.” Michael also credits his family for making him the person he is today.
RCTC has also become like a family. One memory particularly stands out from his first show that made him first feel that way. “There was a scene that consisted of Mark and Matt Wiebe on stage. As the scene went on they began to lose track of where they were and lines were being missed. Myself and two other actors were blocked to go on at the end of this scene but we all knew our debut was going to be a little earlier that night. We went on, we fought through it, the audience loved it and seven years later we’re still here. The point of all this is the show wasn’t perfect that night but when we went on stage to “rescue” Mark and Matt, it was at that moment that I knew we were all a part of something that was bigger then us as individuals; we were part of a family.”
Michael doesn’t have any specific goals for the future; he simply wants to keep doing what he’s doing for now and see what comes. “I like to be optimistic about things, I enjoy everything I do, and who knows what’ll come from all of this? I’m happy with what I’m doing and I believe it reflects in my acting, singing and work.”