SoloWeek Interview: Michele Carlo

We’re coming down to the wire on SoloWeek. Here’s the latest one, with Michele Carlo. Her show, There Goes the Neighborhood, will be performed on Wednesday, December 9th at 7pm. Get more info and tickets here.

What’s your show about?
There Goes The Neighborhood is a comedy about gentrification — and the tipping point of one Brooklyn neighborhood. Two years ago, I suddenly learned I had to move from the block where I’d lived for over 20 years. My frantic apartment search led me to discover that some of that tipping point may have been my doing — along with the impact of another incident — but you’ll have to see the show to find out what that was.

Why did you create it?
To give those long-time residents impacted by the hyper-commodification and “branding” of their beloved neighborhoods a voice — and a face. To present differing points of view as best I could and to portray what it’s like to live in constant fear of being “priced out” and under the mercy of those who get to decide where and how everyone else is allowed to live. 

Who is your show for?
For anyone, anywhere, who has ever had to unwillingly leave their neighborhoods/apartments/homes, because of gentrification, eminent domain — or any other form of cultural displacement. Of course, New York City is not the only place where this is happening, but is perhaps among the best documented, thanks to groups like SAVE NYC and others.

Have you done anything like this before?
Actually, no. I mean, yes, of course I’ve told stories and done solo work before. But this is the first time I’ve created a show that consists of four interlocking stories — only one of which is my own! Many thanks to my director, Tanya O’Debra, and to Peter Michael Marino from the P.I.T., whose influence and eagle eyes (and ears) helped There Goes The Neighborhood become more than just another story. 

How are you making use of theatrical or technological elements?
Theatrically, I’m telling stories as characters other than myself, which I’ve found is a bit different than the acting and reciting of dialogue in a regular play. Technologically, I’m using lights and sound in a typically theatrical way, which you don’t usually see in a regular story show. So I guess I’ve found a way to make a hybrid of the two, which I’m sure has been done before — but is a first for me! 

What else have you done in storytelling?
I’ve told stories across the U.S., including the MOTH’s GrandSlams and MainStage in NYC, on NPR with Latino USA, with RISK and other podcasts, and am featured in the Emmy award-winning PBS documentary Latino Americans of NY & NJ. I’ve curated/produced NYC’s first (since 2005, currently on hiatus), all native-New Yorker storytelling shows, It Came From New York,  including the Five Boro Story Project’s “I’m Tawkin’ Here” series. I also co-curate/host two current story shows: The No Name at Word Up Bookshop Super Storytellers Edition and The New York Story Xchange shows at Cornelia Street Café.

Where do you think storytelling is headed? As an art form? As a commercial medium?
Well, I’ve heard (and read) that storytelling is the new standup — and that seems to be true. When I first started doing The Moth (12 years ago!) storytellers were…storytellers. They may have had acting or writing backgrounds but few came from the comedy world per se. That, of course, is completely different now as many of the newer story humans have comedy backgrounds. I think a great comedic story more than “stands up” to an equivalent stand-up routine — as great stories also have the “why?” and “so what?” factors that make them more accessible. And I’m also excited that our personal narrative style of storytelling has finally been embraced by some of those in more “traditional” story groups. Robin Bady, Barbara Aliprantis and Phillip Giambri are bridges to and champions of both genres. So, yep, I kinda think stories — in any form — are here to stay! And I’m curious (and excited) to see where we go next. 

What else should be know about you and what you’re doing?
One thing not too many people might know about me: I was a performance artist and burlesque emcee for over a decade, under the name Carmen Mofongo, New York City’s “One and Only Latin Lady with Stuff on Her Head.” I’m also a published author with a book about guess what — growing up as a redheaded Puerto Rican in an Italian/Irish neighborhood in The Bronx, back in its “boogie-down” days. It’s called Fish Out Of Agua and it’s also about a family secret, one that impacted the relationship between my mother and me for 40 years. You can find it on Amazon, but you can also get it (and I hope you’d rather support one of these independent businesses) at La Casa Azul bookstore in Spanish HarlemWordUp Community Bookshop in Washington Heights and Q.E.D. in Astoria

Where can we find you (web, Twitter, etc.) and

Say hello, drop a line, follow me and I’ll follow you right back — I want to support what youse all do too!


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