by Sandi Durell
Theater Pizzazz is always interested in getting to know about young theater companies and artistic directors on the rise not only in New York City, where so many blossom, but in the other boroughs. We seek to help get the word out and introduce them to theater-going audiences.
Many of us know and visit the list of fine restaurants in Astoria, Queens, NY. Now Meet Michelle Orosz, creator and Artistic Director of Headwall Theatre Company in Astoria!
Q – How long has Headwall Theatre Company been producing and when did the company come into existence?
MO – I started this theatre company in August of 2018. And we have been producing since October 2018. I have Produced and Directed the following shows: Absolution by Brian C. Petti, The Other Place by Sharr White, and Other Desert Cities by Jon Robin Baitz. And have also Produced the following 2 shows: Prelude: An evening of Dance choreographed by Dara Jenel, and Echoes of Ireland by Brian C. Petti.
Q – Are you the sole person responsible for the birth of the company?
MO – Yes. I was deeply moved by the death of two people I greatly admired. My former high school theatre director Jodi Davis and the director of the theatre program I attended at East Carolina University John Shearin. I had departed from theatre for a while to pursue fitness training trying to convince myself that I loved it. The deaths of the two most influential people in my life made me realize that what I truly love is theatre and always will. So I started a theatre company.
Q – Who else was involved?
MO – I was telling my Dad I wanted to find a name that fits what I was tying to get out of the actors and WHY I chose to start a theatre company. Words like: risks, vital, “do the scary thing” would come up and they were inevitably taken or just didn’t work as a title. Then my father, who spent his younger years as a mountaineer said: what about Headwall Theatre? I was like, what the heck is that?! And when he explained how it is often the steepest and most difficult part of a climb and you have to figure out a way to get past it. It finally clicked. So of course I asked him to create a website and handle the graphic design as well. My husband John Orosz does the technical aspect of things. He has a background in lighting and I absolutely love getting to create art with him. He always seems to find a solution when I hit a wall. Ashley Ware has been a part of every single production I have done, helping as an assistant director and stage manager. She has been a backbone for me and everyone always jokes about how she can, often times, finish my sentences. And now she will be starring in the principal role of “Ruth” in Hunting and Gathering by Brooke Berman.
Q – Can you give more insight into your own background?
MO – I started out as an actor/performer/dancer years back after receiving a BFA in Musical Theatre with a minor in Dance at East Carolina University. And I also completed the 2 year Meisner Training program at Matthew Corozine Studios. In my pursuit of theatre I had a handful of roles, but got a little frustrated with the process and decided to try fitness training. I still like the one on one of personal training, but as I said before, the death of the two mentors in my life made me realize how much I missed theatre. What finally clinched it for me was having a child who is now three and a half with a personality of a stand up comedian. I started to think about what my purpose in life should be. I started to think about my mentors who had passed and the mark they left in this world, with their own children and myself. And I just decided I want to follow in their footsteps.
Q – Any others who may hold important positions in the company?
MO – Family has always been important to me. And my father has been one of my greatest supporters no matter what I chose to do. He always pushed me to go for what I am passionate about not what is safe. He helps me out with whatever I need from creating my website, ticket sales, and graphics design. This last production I asked if he would be willing to research ways to go about advertising and he said: YES!
Q – When Headwall became a concept, what was the specific purpose/goal ? – producing new works, revivals, plays, musicals, etc. and any other information that would provide more specifics that audiences want to know about the company. Is this a resident acting company?
MO – When I first created it, I wanted to give actors an opportunity to work on their craft. As a former actor myself I always had a soft spot for how difficult it is to find work and go on endless auditions. I wanted to give them a safe place to do the “unsafe” things to achieve the full essence of their characters. Right now it is not a resident company. I have been bringing back a few actors to perform in multiple shows. I am enjoying the idea of doing a combination of things, lesser known plays and possibly some original works as well as established plays.
Q – Is Headwall a subscription based theater company? Where do the productions take place? How many seats? How do you gather an audience?
MO – We do have a mailing list but right now its not subscription based. I still have some research to do. I have been renting space at: The Greek Cultural Center off the 30th ave stop in Astoria Queens. It’s a small intimate black box theatre and seats around 65. We started advertising beyond social media and word of mouth with Event. But even after all of that, I cannot believe how POWERFUL word of mouth still is. It accounts for most of the ticket sales.
Q – What is your ultimate goal? And how do you plan to achieve it?
MO – I realize that like other successful theatre companies we will have to go the non-profit route once we finalize a mission statement and assemble a team of committed artists. I hope to have a team of artists who are both passionate about acting and theatre, but will also bring an additional skill to the company whether it be bookkeeping, marketing, set design, or any other skill that can cut down on some of the overhead. But I think my ultimate goal is to do my part to help bring to Queens the same passion for the arts that Brooklyn has. That would also mean a multipurpose establishment that can be opened up to other artists to rent and create their own art while at the same time housing my indie theatre company.
Q – Any additional information you want to add for readers to know about the company?
MO – If I can get an actor to walk away after doing a run and say, “I CAN do this,” I will feel like I have done my job.
Michelle P. Orosz, Artistic Director, Producer (914) 469-6614