Native Forest Hills resident Michael Brody may have been your classmate at Forest Hills High School or a fellow English major at Hunter College. Now at age 29, he is an emerging playwright, producer, and director with big dreams, who discovered his niche as a playwright in June 2011, as a result shortcomings in past romantic relationships.
Brody’s first play, SURVEY, will debut as a one-night engagement on February 15 at 8 p.m. at LaGuardia Performing Arts Center at 31-10 Thomson Avenue in Long Island City. The performance is free. Coming the day after Valentine’s Day, the debut of SURVEY couldn’t be timelier, but its message is beneficial throughout the year.
“The dust has settled, so ask yourself, did I do everything that I could for my Valentine?” Brody said. “My play is not just for couples, but shows how you listen to your family and friends.”
In SURVEY, lead character Tom Lawrence, a boisterous talk show host is heartbroken and baffled when he and his fiancée go their separate ways. It motivates him to turn to atypical sources, his three ex-girlfriends, for answers. This overshadows the predictable.
Some of the best artists are self-taught or react on the basis of experiences which molded their talents and work ethic. Brody never studied playwriting or directing, but took some writing courses in school, and wrote as far back as he can recall.
He also had some experience in theater arts and is a movie buff, but neither ultimately prepared him for his journey. He attributes his major inspiration to “circumstance.”
In early 2011, when Brody experienced a serious breakup, he reoriented his disheartening energy and began to reflect upon his behavior during past relationships. He refers to his experience as an “epiphany.”
“All of my ex-girlfriends’ complaints and grievances slipped through the cracks, so I started writing this as an attempt at catharsis, to help myself romantically and personally,” he said. “Then the story became more about the importance of listening. I thought about the questions I wanted to ask, and I kind of knew what the answers were.
“Everyone has dated a person like this, so if we want to grow as human beings, we need to listen,” he added. “Our personal, professional, and romantic lives will be better if we listen to feedback and absorb it.”
Brody began writing SURVEY in June 2011. For three months, he outlined ideas, its structure, and what he hoped to achieve, before resuming in January 2012. His play was complete in April. The next phase was the casting call, where 300 prospective actors inquired, but only 150 had the opportunity to audition last November.
“I put a lot of heart into telling a story as if it was happening right in front of me, so I needed actors who could feel like real people,” Brody said. “You need to put it in their hands to bring it to life, and once you do, there is no more playwright or director, since the actors tell the story with much versatility.”
Michael Munoz joins Brody as co-director. The cast features Sergio LoDolce as Tom Lawrence, Sasha Diamond as his fiancée, and Bianca Garcia, Amanda Rodhe, and Kasey Lee Huizinga as Tom’s three ex-girlfriends.
Brody expects the audience to form an opinion of their own.
“I want my audience to hear a story, look at Tom Lawrence, and see both sides of his relationships,” he said. “In most disagreements, two people have a valid point, so the audience will hear what Tom has to say, and what his ex-girlfriends will say to him.”
Brody said the process of writing SURVEY was therapeutic.
“If you have something to say, you will get out what’s on your mind, and learn something about yourself,” he said.
Unlike Lawrence, Brody never actually approached his ex-girlfriends to question his shortcomings, but he continued to uncover characteristics of his personality as he wrote.
“I hypothesized and played out how it would happen,” he said. “This helped me feel better and become a better person.”
Brody offered advice to up and coming artists.
“As an artist, your best bet is to have a good combination of a vision and accept constructive criticism,” he said. “If you check your ego at the door for the sake of the idea, you will likely create the best story possible. Everybody is learning from others, but you also need to have some innate talent.”
When asked where he visualizes himself in a decade, Brody responded with much enthusiasm.
“A playwright is the plan!” he said. “I enjoy writing from personal experience and fictionalizing it, and taking real-life scenarios and heightening the drama. And I am already drafting ideas for a follow-up.”