From Laval to the Big Apple, Michael Musi seems headed down the right path.
Musi wrote, directed and starred in I Do.I Guess, which played at the Strawberry One-Act Festival in New York, this past August. Competing against 38 plays he came out on top, winning best play.
Plays in the festival were shown at the St. Clement’s Theatre, on West 46th, off of Broadway. Audience ballots and judges’ votes determined which play moved on in the competition, and Musi’s play was a crowd favourite. Competing against theatre veterans, few would have expected a first-time playwright to have audiences bursting in fits of laughter.
I Do.I Guess is a comedy about a guy who has horrible luck when it comes to the ladies. He is finally set up on a date with what seems to be the perfect woman. All seems to be going great, until his future was served before his entrée.
After attending John Abbott College’s Professional Theatre program, Musi was accepted into New York City’s American Academy of Dramatic Arts in 2007. He graduated last April.
Musi said he knew the wanted to be on stage at seven years old, when he saw a variety show at his cousin’s high school.
When he reached high school himself he began acting and writing for the show.
Musi said his transition from small town Chomedey to big city Manhattan was made easier with the support of his family and friends. He rented an apartment in Queens and said he quickly adapted to the city that now feels like home.
Q: How did you feel when you won best play?
A: I really didn’t expect it, especially being one of the youngest playwrights in the festival. I was standing on stage with people who have done this for over thirty years. I felt it was a mistake. But it was a great feeling knowing I was being appreciated for my work.
Q: Any slip-ups during the performance?
A: The first moment of the play: I got in place and gave the very subtle cue to my lighting technician to hit me with the spot and after a few seconds, I looked up and saw her struggling with the lighting board and mouthing the words “I’m sorry” to me. For about another thirty seconds, which felt like thirty hours, I stood there shaking, hearing the audience whisper, seeing my lighting technician panic and I felt completely naked. I was about to begin the play in darkness when I finally got my spot.
Q: Where did you get the inspiration to write I Do.I Guess?
A: With the way the economy has been, I wanted to make sure I had something to do when I graduated. I searched the Internet endlessly looking for acting jobs, and there are opportunities but the majority [are] non-paying. Mostly, I wanted to showcase my abilities as an actor, incorporating all that I had learned at the Academy.
Q: How did the concept for the play arise?
A: The first thing that came to mind was that I wanted it to be a comedy. My favorite kind of comedy is when the character is suffering. Right off, I knew I wanted this guy to be put into a situation that he definitely did not want to end up in.
Q: How was the writing process?
A: I started about a year ago, I had one year of school left. I was so busy with schoolwork, I would seldom go back [to writing]. I didn’t feel pressured with a deadline, so I just wrote when I had an idea. That meant a month without writing or two straight days of writing.
Q: What was the highlight of this experience for you?
A: Mid-way through the festival I realized another competing play had an actor who was in a Broadway show entitled Irena’s Vow, which I had seen about a month before. I remember being so inspired by his work and the play, I couldn’t fathom sharing a stage with this man. I don’t know why, but I couldn’t gather the courage to approach him. At the reception, after having won best play he came up to me, shook my hand and told me how much he enjoyed my work. I finally expressed my feelings towards his beautiful performance in Irena’s Vow. We then spoke about theatre, New York City, what it was like working opposite actress Tovah Feldshuh and just simply about life. I will hold onto that conversation for years to come.
Q: What did you do with the prize money?
A: Because we weren’t in Canada I got taxed on my $1,500, so a third of my prize money flew out the window. With the remaining half I chose to compensate my cast and crew, for without them my play would have never come to life. It cost $250 to partake in the festival, and with renting rehearsal space, buying props, I basically broke even.
Q: So, what’s next?
A: I have recently been cast as the title role in a production of Rumpelstiltskin at the Florida Studio Theatre in Sarasota, Fla. I’m really excited. I think it’s an amazing opportunity and it will be a great learning experience. I will be flying in at the end of the month to begin my two month commitment. Besides performing and writing my next play I plan to enjoy the hot weather, beautiful beaches and my life as an artist.