Blog By: Christian David Tinajero, Marketing Intern
Monique L. Midgette is a seasoned writer, director, performer, and storyteller. At Lyric, Monique has been a part of projects like DENISE LEE: PRESSURE MAKES DIAMONDS (director/playwright) and HAVING OUR SAY (director). Recently, Monique served as the Associate Artistic Director of Theatre Under the Stars in Houston, TX and more recently, directed AIN’T MISBEHAVIN’ there at the end of 2022. Currently, she will act as the Associate Director for BIG RIVER playing February 16-March 11 at the Lyric at the Plaza Theatre located at 1727 NW 16th St., Oklahoma City, OK 73106.
In the first Backstage Blog with BIG RIVER, we wanted to get a bit of insight from Monique about what makes Lyric’s production so exciting for today’s audiences. Monique states “this production is like a conversation for people who want to change the world.”
We wanted to know Monique’s perspective on BIG RIVER and a little more detail about her current position in the production.
“For a little background, I was on the original team for BIG RIVER (with Theatre for Young Audiences) with Michael Baron in January of 2019. The cool thing about that show is it started my directing career because I had only directed one show before. The theatre we did BIG RIVER at was Adventure Theatre in Bethesda, Maryland and they had an Assistant Director of Color fellowship that pairs Assistant Directors of Color with established Directors so you could have an in-the-room view of the process. Michael Baron and I really hit it off here and he is a good friend and mentor to me now. The process gave me a lot to work with and because he was in Oklahoma and I was in Maryland, I was on the ground doing some casting while Michael was in talks with the original writers trying to adapt the show for a 2019 audience. I acted as the Assistant Director on the original production and was so excited when Michael asked me to act as Associate Director of this production at Lyric.”
We wanted to know Monique’s history with the Lyric Theatre of Oklahoma and dive into her seasoned resume as a director extraordinaire.
“After the first BIG RIVER production with Michael, I was invited to direct HAVING OUR SAY with Lyric in the 2020 season. In 2020, Michael asked me to write a piece with Denise Lee, who has done several things with Lyric, and I directed DENISE LEE: PRESSURE MAKES DIAMONDS which was played at the Myriad Water Stage at the Botanical Gardens in Downtown OKC with the ducks! That show went on to be at the Circle Theatre in Dallas, TX. I was the Artistic Director at Theatre Under the Stars in Houston, TX and just recently left. As a director, before the pandemic, I had a huge slate of shows. Post-pandemic, I was excited to rebuild theatre after the stop. I was learning so many things – having the ability to cast mainstage shows, planning, etc. However, I realized my role at TUTS didn’t include a lot of directing which was what I loved to do. I wanted the opportunity to be in the room creating the art, so I chose to leave after MARY POPPINS to be able to direct more!”
Since Monique and current Artistic Director of Lyric Theatre, Michael Baron, have worked on this piece before, we wanted to get a glimpse into the process of the current production.
“We haven’t started the formal rehearsal process yet, but I know the first week will be a lot of looking into the work. There were a lot of reworks and rewrites from the original Broadway production to 2019. But the world has changed so much even from 2019 to now. Having the opportunity to look at the script and make sure it still feels relevant to today – I’m just super excited to be a part of those conversations.”
Monique has a very clear intention for this production and is excited to share this story with the audience of Oklahoma!
“This version of the show shows conversations of young African American people in spaces where they did not have the freedom to be who and what they are. The smart decision to make the character of Jim a young person can show the juxtaposition of the free life that Huck had and the suppressed life of Jim, having that conversation openly. The original piece almost felt wrong having Jim be older than Huck because having a similar age means being able to interact in a way the audience can relate to. Both coming from loving families, who had the same opportunity, except the color of their skin, is something that should be looked at and we still deal with today. The same is true with Alice and Mary Jane. Seeing people of color in a space in the show having real conversations about how unfair life was based on circumstance hopefully will be relevant and let people see the show in a new way.”
We wanted to see what is in store for Monique in the future at Lyric Theatre.
“I will be directing AIN’T MISBEHAVIN this summer at Lyric which will play at the Civic Center Music Hall. I first directed this at TUTS so it will be a lot of the same performers, set, and elements of that show. This is a project I’m super excited for!”
Monique is an incredibly multi-faceted human being and we wanted to get to know more about her everyday life.
“I read Huckleberry Finn when I was younger. I also read a lot of Nancy Drew. I’m a Virgo so I love mysteries and figuring things out! I love seeing the journey of those types of characters. My favorite book now is ‘The Alchemist’ which is about trusting that inner voice, taking yourself on that journey, and knowing that you must let go of fear to find your treasure. I like movies. I like to travel – I went to Mexico for New Years, and it was wonderful to be in that space. I traveled a lot in my early career, and I miss it!”
Lyric Theatre of Oklahoma is so excited to welcome back Monique Midgette for this production of BIG RIVER.
For tickets visit: https://lyric theatreokc.com/shows/big-river-the-adventure-of-huckleberry-finn/