bret shuford 0:09
Michelle Bruckner 0:12
Hi Bret, how you doing? I'm good. I'm so happy to see you and talk to you and and catch up. We've known each other since 2004 Summer of 2004 mainstage music theatre. Can I share the first thing that I said to you? Please? Okay, you, you and George Nieves were in the mirror. This is the first day of rehearsal. And you were very close to the mirror doing some like, show girl moves crossing your arms as if you had very heavy headdresses on. And I was the dance captain that summer. So I walked up to you boys, and I said, Hey, what are you guys doing? And you looked at me and you said, being gay? And I said, carry on.
Unknown Speaker 0:57
On we were friends.
bret shuford 1:00
I remember you saying, carry on
Unknown Speaker 1:06
what is summer that was so much fun, and so much joy. We had such a great ensemble of dancers and we had parts but it was just a wonderful working experience.
bret shuford 1:19
I that was a summer I never expected to have to be such a transformational summer. You know, it was like just supposed to be a job but like between us and then like Robin herder and Clyde meeting and falling in love that summer who are now you know, she's Tony nominated. And they're Yeah, raising raising their son and and George, you and I remember, you know, gosh, your little cute little Angelica Jelly Belly.
Unknown Speaker 1:53
And three that summer. Yeah.
bret shuford 1:56
Yeah, so I remember just being sort of marvelling at your your ability to be such an amazing mother, that she got to be surrounded by so much fun and joy and love and creativity and because remember, we've been theme our opening night outfits, we would do like for Brigadoon we all work
Unknown Speaker 2:21
and remember the girls only party I had that you and George crashed and you came I not there was a knock on the door and I answered it. And there you and George Nieves are in towels on your head, baby doll pyjamas, pink baby doll pyjamas with the ruffled panties. You had flip flops with toenail polish with the toe spreaders in your toes. And you just burst into the party. I thought, Wow, this took some planning. We had everything we had the masks
bret shuford 2:55
do and the green mats.
Unknown Speaker 2:59
And you had a beard at the time for Kiss Me, Kate. So you had the mask, but not in your beard? Oh, my goodness. It's so fun. You just burst into the party.
Unknown Speaker 3:09
And I think we had pillows, I mean,
Unknown Speaker 3:14
yes. Just hilarious. And, to me, those moments, I love being onstage and I love performing. I love rehearsing. But those extra backstage moments in the housing, I remember we had one rehearsal where it was rough. And one by one, you all came over to my apartment, because my apartment was kind of like the meeting central because I had a child. And when she was in bed, everyone would just come over and hang out in the living room. Instead, we didn't really go out. And one by one, you all just stood in the doorway after that exhausting rehearsal. And then we all just came in.
bret shuford 3:55
You know, for me that summer was huge, because I remember we started rehearsals, like the day after my birthday. I don't remember how old I was that summer. I could probably figure it out. But why? And, and I had made a decision on my birthday that I was going to stop drinking that summer. And that was really my like, first path into sobriety. And, and so I was going through this huge kind of awakening realisation, you know, of dealing with my addiction. While doing that, that season, being surrounded by George George, who was such a drinker party are so much fun, but it was really, it was really, you know, internally it was I was definitely going through like, a challenge of like, it was just growing up, you know, it's just like it was I think I must have been maybe 25 Maybe 2425
Unknown Speaker 4:52
But do you I don't even think you know this. You have touched so many lives because there were people in that company. He who saw you getting sober, and then saw your subsequent success. And now people are choosing myself included, to not drink and do the work necessary. So you don't realise that your actions back in oh four, they are still having a ripple effect. And it's 2022 and your choices, you didn't even really talk about it that much at all, you know, just you would always just say, No, thank you if someone was, you know, passing out the drinks, but people saw what you did, and they saw how it changed your life. And that has inspired people, I just want you to
bret shuford 5:40
know that. Wow, that really means a lot. Thank you. Yes, so let's talk a little bit about, we're going to talk more about that on your podcast, because I'm going to come via Yes. And we're going to talk about your podcast a little bit today. It's called for those of you who are like, can't wait, it's called the show real Tip of the Day. And I'll have a link in the show notes down below. But let's kind of rewind a little bit and talk about because you know, I'm going to be a dad any day. Now, probably any day, like literally. And I remember really always been so inspired by your ability to balance motherhood and in your career, and your ambition, your creativity, your entrepreneurial ship. I mean, like, you've, you've been able to manage all of this in such a beautiful way. Your daughter's now an adult, which is crazy to think about. She's 21
Unknown Speaker 6:35
Yeah, she'll be 21. And as a person, I couldn't be more proud. There's such an amazing feeling. I went to visit during the week between Christmas and New Years, and watching how organised she is. And her beautiful apartment, she's got a really good eye for interior design, and the choices she makes in terms of furniture and decor. Just gorgeous. And she and I like to thrift a lot. So we did that. And we found some things for her apartment. But it is so much fun to see someone that you used to live with living on their own, and thriving. And I always begged her I say Could I please live with you again? And she promises me that I can have a tiny house in her back. Wait, don't you think that
bret shuford 7:32
go ahead. But you raised her mostly in Connecticut, or New York,
Unknown Speaker 7:38
New York. So yeah, so her dad and I, her dad and I had this whirlwind romance, getting married way too quickly before we knew each other. And he was a sound man. And we spent four years total on the road. But then when we got back to we bought a house together, and we just weren't compatible. It wasn't anything. I have nothing else to say about him. So we split when she was two. I was pre I was still dancing. I had her when I was 32. So I still had a bunch of good dancing years left. And I knew I needed to dance while I could. So I took her with me on every job and on a couple of jobs. I had someone come with me as a nanny. And then I found in Maine, I found this wonderful lady, with whom I am still friends. Her name is Carmen Turner. Shout out to Carmen, I love you so much. I called her I got a list of people in Maine who had in home childcare places like they were certified. So I called her and injalak. His middle name is Carmen. So I called her and she answered the phone. And we just started talking. And she became Angelicus caregiver while I was at mainstage for five years without Carmen support, I couldn't have done what I did. Because as you know, a show starts at eight o'clock at night. It's very hard to get childcare at that time of night. So I did have that support. Of course, my parents were always willing to pitch in. And my brother and his wife, they have kids now, but they were always coming to visit and supporting. So having that family support is key. Or if you don't have a family that is close by you got to just find your people, because you can't do it alone, especially if you're a performer. The rehearsal hours, and then as you know, sometimes we rehearse and have a show. So it's crazy. But I knew
bret shuford 9:44
I just sorry, go ahead.
Unknown Speaker 9:47
I was just gonna say I knew I didn't want to stop dancing. I had to dance during those years because it's a time there's a time limit on that, you know?
bret shuford 9:57
Yeah. So how did you decide how To choose jobs, because when you're talking about hiring caregivers, or even asking your friends, you're gonna want to given, you know, some sort of monetary incentive for their time or whatever. So you see, you're, you're factoring in that expense in taking jobs, which probably limits the kind of jobs you can get, because let's face it, especially regionally, you're not going to make a tonne of money doing theatre. How did you choose that? Was there? What did it help having? Like, a little bit of support from the dad? Like how, and you know, really love to know how you negotiated co parenting any of that if you were able to do that at all?
Unknown Speaker 10:40
Yeah, that was a tricky one. We basically ended up losing money, honestly, on gigs like that, like I basically it would basically cost me money to perform. But I also knew that when I was I always make decisions. I always say to myself, when you're 80, are you going to wish you had done it? Or are you going to be glad you said no. And with performing, I knew I still perform, there wasn't a choice. Especially I was getting some really good roles like Charlotte and A Little Night Music, I didn't want to pass that up. And I also knew that it wasn't forever, I knew that there would come a time where I was gonna stop doing shows momentarily, when she went to school is where I drew the line. Because I want it to be home at night to put her to bed and you know, feed her dinner, etc. So I knew that it was just a couple of years of it. And honestly, I lived really frugally. I just we didn't really eat out, I made food at home, you know, watched my budget saved when I could and then childcare. Carmen did not charge me a lot of money. I know there are other places or other people that charge more, which they should because it's you're doing something you're providing a service. It's a very important thing. But I worked it out. It ended up costing me money, though I'm not gonna lie like it. I was not bringing home and saving any points from those jobs. Yeah, I
bret shuford 12:16
think it's important that people know that and understand that when they see working moms in the arts, working dads in the arts. Yeah, they're
Unknown Speaker 12:25
so good. You and Steven are partners, and you're going to work together. There's a lot of people who end up becoming single parents, and that was my situation. But I just refuse to be a victim. I was like, You know what, and wanted to acknowledge the artist inside myself. I loved being a mother, I still love being a mother. But that is not my whole identity. And neither is being a performer. But I just knew that like now, years have gone by, I cannot book the same work I booked 20 years ago. So I while I was getting offers, and there was a point in my career where I was getting phone calls with offers. So I didn't want to like that's a situation I did not want to pass by either. You know, when someone calls you and says, Here's a season, I would love to accept it. I didn't want to say no, thank you. I'm busy right now with childcare. So I just was like, You know what, you're gonna have to work it out. And I did. And it was challenging, but also so much fun and so much. It fed my artistic soul. And that is still resonating today. All these years later, I'm glad I made those sacrifices, because I can say, you know, I danced until I couldn't dance anymore, which I still can dance by the way. So if you're a producer listening for this, I still really good.
bret shuford 13:55
We're just talking about how she's still very leotards to teach. So. I know the it's hard of this
Unknown Speaker 14:07
Oh, boy, it's a constant thing, isn't it? The physical maintenance? If you're a performer, you still have to look a certain way. You know, there's no way there's no two ways about it. You still have to train?
bret shuford 14:19
Well, it's interesting to see, you know, things shift a little bit in the industry. You know, you do see more body positivity happening. You see them being more opened or to casting people who aren't, you know, svelte and muscley and, but you also see, you know, that there's, there's apprehension around it. I think it's, it's an interesting time, you know, especially when you look at shows that maybe are historic in nature, and you see, you see people doing shows, it's been interesting, I just saw production of South Pacific, you know, and it's like World War Two, and there was is that you know, and cables going through this huge section. You know, awakening and all this stuff, right? I did the national tour. So I know this are pretty well. And I saw this production locally and they hired a the lead who is just a little bit bigger. Like it's, you know, it's like what she really in 1940 to be fighting in the South Pacific and there was zero sexual tension, there was zero fear of a war starting, they kind of, they took all the misogyny out, they took all the racism, all the text racism out, because they're trying to be more sensitive. But you're like, this was the reality of the time. This is like I understand you want to make people feel more less offended of a timepiece, but like, this is actually history. There was a war happening in the South Pacific, it was super frustrating to watch. And it's like a sign of this wokeness that's happening, which I'm, which I'm all for, like, let's find ways, but you also can't just erase history out of pieces. And I don't even know where I'm going.
Unknown Speaker 16:05
First of all, I know I hear you, I'm shocked that the Rodgers and Hammerstein organisation you know, you can't cut those pieces by law like you have, if you're going to buy the rights for those pieces, you have to perform them as they're written. And Natalie's racism is part of the message. She realises during the show, that she doesn't even know that she she's a racist. And then she discovers it through this relationship that she has with the man that has these biracial children,
bret shuford 16:39
right. So they keep that in the story, right? Like that's still happening, but they tried to soften it and make it so that she like they took the words out, like when she says the word coloured, which is a moment in the show where the whole audience just goes, they took that out.
Unknown Speaker 16:58
They're not supposed to that's honestly like, there's another
bret shuford 17:01
this where the captain, the captain bracket is referring to the Japanese as the jabs, which was something that they said it became a derogatory term, of course. But that's how they talked in the military in 1942, about these people that were threatening the United States. And they took that out. So it didn't, when I remember when we did the show, when they said those words, it stung it like made the it made that impact of the racism that much greater. And I just think that what's happening, as we're talking about this is like, I'm all for, like shifting things. And you know, and I think that we all need to ships because I think that what training has done to so many people in performing arts is it's messed us up, you know, like, I, I know so many people with eating disorders. And absolutely, you know, I know so many people who are so over the top about maintaining their bodies in an unhealthy way. Yes, I agree. But it's, it's like it, at some point, we have to figure it out how to do it in a way where you can still be impactful in your messaging, right? Or, it's the same thing, like we do need to take the racism out of what theatre has become. We do need to take misogyny out of some of these classic pieces, because it's just doesn't serve the times anymore. But at some point, when do we, when do we stop berating people for showing reality, especially when it comes to a certain time in history? You know, it's interesting, yeah.
Unknown Speaker 18:47
And also just about the physicality of people. So if you're in the armed forces, you get ration food, right, you don't get to eat whenever you want, there is a lack of sugar being given to you. And you are, you are doing all of these physical training drills. So if you're playing a character like that, you are, you just are physically in a different zone than if you are normally not a physically active person. And you do consume, you know, sugar and whatever. So I just think that if you're going to play a period piece, like if I was playing a period piece of the 1900s, and I was being corseted, I would probably start training, wearing one before I was on set or in the show just to get my body acclimated to that because I currently do not wear a course it. So it's just if you're an actor part, and this is why I don't personally have tattoos, because I try to make a blank slate for myself. And if I get a tattoo on my arm or on my chest or on my Shoulder, I feel like if I were cast in a 1600 piece that just creates more work for everybody, like, sure if it was a film, they could erase the tattoo and post, but I just like to maintain some sort of like neutral canvas. Yeah, I tried to anyway,
bret shuford 20:19
I mean that. So I think that there's the, you know, Broadway's for all bodies, and everyone's blocked them. But it's certainly an interesting time to watch. And to sort of, in this kind of gonna lead into what I'm talking about. You're an educator as well, you've been an educator for years in helping young performers. And that's one of the inspirations for you starting your podcast, right is to help young performers understand the realities of the industry in the business. But it's an interesting time to watch this evolution happen, because because the industry has historically been elitist, and has historically been, you know, undervalued performers. You know, we're talking about how you were losing money doing shows, and you're doing, you know, eight shows a week working six days a week getting one day off. I mean, it is it is a challenging industry. So, as an educator, have you noticed this evolution of mindset that's happening? And what sort of surprises you about about that time this time?
Unknown Speaker 21:25
Okay, that's a great question. And I do see a major shift. One thing I just want to make young performers aware of is that, yes, you can use your voice to help change things. However, I just want to let everybody know that there's a hierarchy of respect. And in the theatre, there is a way of speaking, that is civilised, and very just respectful. So when someone gives you a note, I taught a class yesterday in Manhattan, and it was I rented a studio, and I just said to everybody, Hey, I'm teaching a class, because classes in the big studios have gotten so expensive. So I wanted to give an affordable option and people came yesterday. And when I gave notes, it was so lovely to hear them say Thank you, Michelle, like because to get a correction or to get some sort of instruction or direction in our industry, everyone is working towards a larger goal of putting a production on or creating a piece of work. And when you're the performer, you have to decide, are you the Creator, or are you the interpreter, and if you're the interpreter of someone else's material, when when there is a director above you or a choreographer, there is a level of respect that is so appreciated. So if you want to make yourself valuable, I'm not saying accept any sort of abuse, you know, if there's a director who's yelling and screaming, that is not acceptable. But when someone is really trying to work with you to create something that is larger than all of us, that is something that is one of my favourite things about the industry is how, when you get a job, you're part of this big picture and you doing your job helps create this beautiful thing, but it's not about you, it's about the beautiful thing. You know, and I just love how we're part of this whole and we're one little piece, but yet, we can just keep making an impact and impact and I love that people are speaking up now, I love that people are, you know, not just taking it when someone's being really cruel. And, you know, there's, there's just a level of professionalism and when someone crosses a line, yes, please speak out. But I have noticed an Uber sensitivity, where someone is just trying to work with someone else. And there's a little bit of, you know, just like if everyone would just give each other the grace and always assume people are have the best of intentions, intentions, like the best of intentions. Yeah, I
bret shuford 24:13
think that's the thing that I'm noticing is like people are afraid. Like people the top are very afraid to do it wrong. Which the only way you get good at doing anything is by trying and probably failing in order to get better. I mean, that's the truth, right? You You have to try to get on your leg to do multiple parallettes in order to be able to do multiple pirouettes, you have to try and if we don't create space for leaders and people to at least try it's the people who don't try that are the problem. Right? Yeah. And yet I yeah, there's
Unknown Speaker 24:52
a lot of resistance. There's a lot of resistance and you and I know there's a lot of boys club, you know There's a lot of this is the way we've always done it. And we know what we're doing and who are you to try to tell us what to do, there's a lot of that. And my advice for people is to really create your own content really work on having something that you have 100% control over. And that way you can start perhaps hiring people. And then you can open up the hiring pool to everyone. And if you, you know, if you want to talk about stories that are important to you, then create, you know, create a podcast. That's why I created my podcast is because I wanted something that was mine, that I could record and edit and put up and share. And I didn't have to be young to do it. I didn't have to be, you know, fabulously gorgeous to do it. There's it has nothing to do with how I look. It has nothing to do with you know how high I kick. It's, it's just my opinions and my views and my heart really that I'm sharing?
bret shuford 26:05
Yeah, so. So you've started your own podcast. And then, you know, when you're working with young people who are wanting to maybe even say like, I want to create my own content? How do you work with the people who are going, I want to create my own content? But I don't know, I like how do you push through some of that resistance of people who were that young, and help inspire action?
Unknown Speaker 26:31
Well, I'm developing a course, actually, that I'm prepping right now. And that's going to be available on my website. So I am developing a course about how to create your own shows. So I don't know if you even knew this. But when our season ended at Maine State, one of the things I did to support myself and my daughter was, I created a one hour musical show that I took all over the tri state area, New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, and my daughter would come with me, I made Saturdays and Sundays available. And I would perform them at assisted living facilities, hospitals, nursing homes, because those places have budgets for entertainment. And sometimes they will bus people to a local community theatre or regional theatre for a show. But more times than not, the residents in those facilities really can't get dressed and get out and travel. So what I would do is I did a classic Broadway show, I did a show about Hollywood in, you know, the golden age. And I would go and perform. And my little daughter would just sit and watch it. And she would also help me set up and break down my sound equipment, she was amazing. And I got paid because there's a budget for those things. And it kept my voice in shape. So that's what I'm creating the course about how to create content, be your own boss, wherever you live, because I think the pandemic taught us, you don't necessarily need to live in one of these major markets, especially if you want to have a lifestyle. Like if you would like to live in a house instead of an apartment. If you would like to have a backyard if you want to live in a small town. Some people love a small town. And there's nothing wrong with that. 100% Do you want to have a baby? Hey, exactly. And I'm so thrilled that you moved because you don't need to be in New York City anymore. You've spent a lot of time there. And I'm so proud that you don't feel tied to a place that's no longer serving you. Which you can also go back.
bret shuford 28:51
Yeah, it's always gonna be there. And I think that's something I always try to. It's interesting when we made this transition, which feels like a never ending transition. The the biggest the first question all of our friends asked still friends on Broadway who are like, Are you staying there permanently? Are you staying there forever? Are you never coming back to New York that those are the questions people ask. Like, it's so interesting how we're all groomed that it's so black and white, that it has to be one way or the other. And it just doesn't have to be that that nothing is forever. Nothing is permanent. Nothing is we can choose. I could choose today to move somewhere I could. You know, it's interesting, too, because I think we're all groomed this way culturally. I think our parents were taught you know, it's Stephens parents are here. It's interesting. We were talking about how we're going to a wedding in California in July My Best Friend's Wedding, huh? And we're gonna bring the baby so the baby will be a little over three months. That's probably gonna be our first fact. But the baby yeah. The judgments, the judgments. You're not their babies? Well, of course not bad. It just shows you that the culturally we're all tired. It's like you have babies, you get a job for 50 years, you make a home you like it's all it's also interesting too, because these are people who are probably I pretty sure witnessing a same sex couple having a baby for the first time in their lives. Yeah. So you know, it's interesting. We're breaking a lot of rules and in their minds, and that right, everyone, I just want who's listening. Michelle is the perfect person who has proved you don't have to follow the rules. You can. You can, you don't have to follow the rules, you can create your own rules.
Transcribed by https://otter.ai