Melissa Birch Studio
Writer, vocalist, director and live artist, Melissa Birch creates interdisciplinary performance works that transpose social contexts into live installations.
Melissa's physical theatre has been produced and reproduced throughout the Twin Cities, US, and abroad since her first live performance at the Walker Art Center in 1993.
At 19, she trained in improv comedy and commedia dell'arte with Elaine and Dennis Kern at the Ark Theatre (Madison), who produced her first written works in popular feminist revues. After two years in San Francisco, she returned to the midwest to join a burgeoning Minneapolis comedy and cabaret scene, with early performances at The Jungle, Southern and Bryant-Lake Bowl. Her solo characters, singing style, and one-woman shows courted the mainstream while suspending conventional rules of spectatorship, working with jazz wunderkinds Drew Jansen, Eugene Huddleston and Dan Chouinard.
In 1997, cabaret bookings brought her to New York's midtown clubs then moved to downtown venues Here, PS122, Cornelia Street Cafe, and Dixon Place. As a teaching artist in the NYC boroughs, she taught playwriting and theater skills to elementary and middle schoolers. In late 2001, Melissa returned to Minneapolis to produce the new performance revue Red Curtain Cabaret at Bryant-Lake Bowl. A few months later, she was joined onstage by pianist Stevie Pomije, with whom for over two years she would re-codify dozens of signature country, jazz and B-side innovations and the soft-rock success The Elton John Show.
Since 2007, an empirical physicality has taken up permanent residence in Melissa's performance theatre, as a result of immersive training in Margolis Method and physical improvisation forms. Over the next 9 years, her focus shifted towards directing 6 ensembles and a evening-length solo show.
In 2016, Melissa directed the 2016 BareBones Outdoor Puppet Extravaganza You Were Once Wild Here. Also in 2016, her evening-length work-in-progress, Who Moved My Child, was presented by Right Here Showcase, co-directed by Sharon Picasso and choreographed by Deborah Jinza Thayer.
In late 2016, Melissa Birch began The Presidensity Project, a 4-year research residency addressing complexity (American) through performance research & studio practice. The project builds on Birch’s reputation for delivering vanguard performance ahead of mainstream articulations.
"For who can blame a man waiting, the doors open, the windows open, food offered, arms stretched wide? Who can blame [him] if the visitor does not arrive?"
---Louise Erdrich, Tracks