Melissa Birch / Presidensity Project
Writer, vocalist, live artist, and director Melissa Birch creates interdisciplinary performance works that transpose social contexts into live installations.
The Presidensity Project is a four-year performance residency in development.
Melissa's physical theatre has been produced and reproduced throughout the Twin Cities, US, and abroad since her first live show at the Walker Art Center in 1993.
At 19, she trained in improvisational comedy and commedia dell'arte with Elaine and Dennis Kern at the Ark Theatre (Madison), who also 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 new venue 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. Within a year Melissa was writing and performing in such downtown venues as 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 Tuesday night 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. A commission from Open Eye Figure Theatre in 2009 (with Molly Van Avery) introduced new media, collaborative, and dramaturgical influences. As several ensemble works remain unfinished (Flying Nuns 2014; Post Post 2013), Melissa considers directors for her solo startups (Duet w/Noise/WQPS, 2011-14), and the merits of emerging as a mid-career hybrid artist in a shifting US market.
"Which artists are most poised . . to think outside the boundaries of permissable thoughts and dare to say things no one else will say?" -HowardZinn