BWW Spotlight Series: Meet Michael Mullen, An Award-Winning Costume Designer and Actor
With the current theatre world on hiatus, I have created a Spotlight Series on Broadway World Los Angeles which features interviews with some of the many talented artists who make our Los Angeles theatre community so exciting and vibrant thanks to their ongoing contribution to keeping the arts alive in the City of the Angels. And like all of us, how are they dealing with the abrupt end of productions in which they were involved? This Spotlight focuses on Michael Mullen, an award-winning and always busy costume designer, writer and actor who often steps onstage in a variety of roles, both male and female.
Shari Barrett (SB): What would you like readers to know about your theatrical background?
Michael Mullen (MM): I'm a costume designer, actor, and writer who lives in Hollywood with my dog Choo Choo. I've worked in the L.A. theatre scene for many years now, and have received several awards and nominations for my work both onstage and off from such organizations as Ovation, L.A. Drama Critics Circle, L.A. Weekly, N.A.A.C.P., Scenie, Stage Raw, Robby, Broadway World, Ticket Holder, Eddon, and Desert Theatre League. I hope to keep working and doing what I love for many years to come, and I'm very happy to be a part of L.A.'s wonderful theatre community.
(SB): I know you are always busy costuming shows around town, so what production(s) were you involved with when word went out that those shows had to be closed or postponed?
(MM): I was involved with a few shows when this whole Coronavirus pandemic started directly affecting theatre. I costume designed Andrew Lippa's "The Wild Party" at Morgan-Wixson Theatre (directed by my good friend Kristin Towers-Rowles) which was slated to open March 14th. I was at the theatre for final dress rehearsal on March 12th and the show was in great shape and ready for an audience. After the performance was over, Michael Heimos, the President of Morgan-Wixson's board, came onto the stage to address the audience, cast, and crew to announce the run of the show was being postponed until later when it would be deemed safe to do theatre again. Everyone involved with the show was very sad over this news, but we all knew that this was the necessary and safe decision to make.
That night, the cast and crew stayed in the theatre and had an impromptu pizza Karaoke party to console each other that went on until the wee hours of the morning. Kristin (our director) organized a nice dinner for all the cast and crew at a restaurant called The Upper West for Friday, March 13th - which would've been our first and only preview performance. It was a lovely night of yummy food, drinks, and bonding. And now everything is on hold.
Across town, I had a production of "Romeo and Juliet" (directed by Dana Martin) and "All's Well That End's Well" (directed by Nike Doukas) at a school called Art of Acting that had both just opened on March 11th. These two productions (which I costume designed) were both great, but unfortunately had to close early due to the Coronavirus situation as well. Everyone involved was sad of course, but understood why that decision had to be made.
That same weekend, I had "In My Mind's Eye" (which I costume designed) close at Group Rep Theatre, but the production was scheduled to close that particular weekend anyway as it had come to the end of its scheduled run. The show was directed by Bruce Kimmel and written by Group Rep's Artistic Director, Doug Haverty. It was sad to see the show end, but at least it was able to complete its full run before everything started shutting down.
(SB): You mentioned about the way in which "The Wild Party" cast and crew found out about the postponement. But what about the other productions at Art of Acting?
(MM): As I recall, the cast of the two shows at Art of Acting were notified by email from the School Director, Johnny Yoder. I personally learned that the Art of Acting shows were closing early when I went to the school on March 12th during the afternoon to deal with some costume repairs for both productions. It was sad to receive all of this news about all three shows which I had costumed that were opening in mid-March. My heart broke, especially for all of the actors.
(SB): Are plans in place to present the productions at a future date, or is the cancellation permanent?
(MM): The plan for "The Wild Party" is for it to open and have a run later this year when it is safe to do so. Everyone involved is very happy about that and I think audiences will love the show since it's fun, sexy, and very entertaining. It's weird to think that the set, props, costumes, wigs, and lights are all just sitting there in the theatre like a ghost light waiting to be used, but they will all get their glory and chance to shine eventually!
"Romeo And Juliet" and "All's Well That Ends Well" at Art of Acting are sadly done for good. They were truly deserving of much longer runs.
(SB): What future productions on your schedule are also affected by the shutdown?
(MM): I was costume designing several other productions that were supposed to open over the next few months, but unfortunately all have been cancelled and/or postponed until later (yet to be decided) dates when it is safe to do theatre again. Among these projects are "A Little Night Music" with Knot Free Productions, "Guess Who's Coming To Dinner" with Ruskin Group, "Imogene" at Parson's Nose, Art Of Acting's productions of "Distracted," "Our Lady Of 121st Street," and "Landscape Of The Body," and "Love's Labour's Lost" with Shakespeare By The Sea, as well as a few Hollywood Fringe shows. It has been announced that The Hollywood Fringe Festival (which was scheduled to happen in June 2020) is tentatively postponed until the month of October this fall. My 19-week-long costume design class at A Place Called Home has also been cancelled due to the building closing down until further notice.
(SB): That was quite a packed schedule! I don't know how you manage to work on so many shows at the same time and do them all so well. So for now, how are you keeping the Arts alive while at home by using social media or other online sites?
(MM): I'm teaching acting/improv classes for kids on Zoom now, reading plays, following the news, Facebooking, talking with family and friends on the phone, watching a lot of T.V. and film, hanging out with my dog Choo Choo, and eating A LOT! And since the Hollywood Fringe Festival is now postponed until the fall, I've decided to try and write a play or at least find one to produce and act in myself. I mean, why not, right?! And masks! I should be making masks for people to wear! Bedazzled themed masks would be fun, huh?
(MM): It's tough to be alone and not see people because I'm a social person, but I'll be okay. We'll all get through this tough time, and I can't wait to hug everyone when this Coronavirus nightmare is over.
I just want to remind all my fellow theatre folk that we are all in this together and that we will all be making theatre again when it is safe to do so. In the meantime, it's important for all of us to stay healthy and safe, practice social distancing, get plenty of rest, and wash our damn hands! It's also important for us all to connect with each other and reach out if we get lonely. I'm here for anyone who wants to talk. And I guess people are starting to do play readings on Zoom! I think that's great! I encourage doing that for sure! Zoom Zoom, baby!
What I'm looking forward to the most after this Coronavirus nightmare is over is the resurgence of theatre across the world and especially here in Los Angeles. Theatre makes the world a better place. a??i?? Much love, everyone.
(SB) I am on the same page with you and can't wait to get back to reviewing shows. #TheatreInspires
Included in this Spotlight are photos from a few of the productions with costumes designed by Michael Mullen
Andrew Lippa's "The Wild Party" at Morgan-Wixson Theatre (Photo credit: JDC Photography)
"In My Mind's Eye" by Group Rep at Lonny Chapman Theatre (Photo credit: Doug Engalla)
"Cabaret" by Celebration Theatre at The Lex
"The Legend of Georgia McBride" at Secret Rose (Photo credit: Chris Greenwell)
"The Importance of Being Earnest" at Crown City Theatre