My name is Michael Vitaly Sazonov, and I grew up near Washington, D.C. in a multicultural and multi-generational home. As a family we all loved music — on car trips or at home or at parties (dancing as a kid — I used to love doing the Twist!) — music shared from both my mom’s and dad’s heritage, music from their youth, and music from their adolescence. I grew up with an abuelo who loved playing cassette tapes of pasillos (or Ecuadorian folk music), and an abuelita whose Locros kept me strong, and whose cuentos, poesías & chistes would have me in stitches or on the edge of my seat! On my dad’s side there were also jokes and stories, but music issued from balalaikas instead of guitars… I was so blessed to have a strong family who loved getting together, sharing stories, music, and dance, and I hope to carry that tradition on as an uncle, brother, and son — but also as a Theatre-maker.
My Theatre experience officially started while I was a sophomore in high school. I played soccer, tennis, and some golf growing up, but I had a very unique fun doing Theatre. I didn’t know at the time, but Theatre provided me access to massive feelings and life choices before ever having to actually encounter them. Maybe it was also really fun to play games(!), but either way, as a shy, scrawny kid, Theatre helped me off with my shell and into the strength of my imagination.
While studying international politics, history, and peace & conflict resolution at American University, I also had the opportunity to work with Brett Smock and Michael Rupert on a new musical Michael was writing. Before classes started up that summer I remember being in a room with a full-throated, open-hearted, beautiful soul at the piano, learning the craft of singing a song, and the emotional power one can attain through music. Because of those two artists I fell in love with this art form for good. I continued to work in the theatre in and out of school, and was honored to join the Actors’ Equity Association in April 2004.
I love finding out how things work through observation, deduction, and process; and, as a professional performer for over 14 years I started paying special attention to the staging of a musical or play, the cohesiveness between design and direction, script and story – discovering how to harness both the limitations and limitless aspects of live theatre. Over the last 6 years I discovered a passion for theatre-making, directing, and devising across multiple mediums, but especially theatre, concerning communities who don’t often get to speak for themselves, or whose voices are sometimes portrayed in differing lights. Henceforth I aim to give voice to the disenfranchised through my style of theatre, from their own experiences as source material. Building a performance like this is both solitary and collaborative work, and one filled with research, documentation, and conversation. For three years I studied and produced works on soldiers across many distinct cultural & generational landscapes. Most recently, I have delved into a story that hits me on a personal level, as well as millions of people around the world: Parkinson’s Disease. And for this performance piece, I find myself utilizing movement to tell the story when words don’t have enough to say, since physical storytelling through body language and dance can sometimes yield a greater empathetic understanding of the transcendental truth.
I think that taking the time to experience someone’s story — where they’ve come from, where they are, and where they see themselves going — provides vantage for your own story, and may change how we view the world, and how we feel about a stranger we have yet to meet — truly connecting and grounding us all.
I believe the Theatre can be a reflection of this world, or its antithesis, and there is power in getting together to share stories, music & dance as a community. In fact, there is a vital need for creativity as a community to help our culture survive, but it should not be generalized, marginalized, or prescriptive; for culture should be complex and ever-evolving like its community as it encompasses more than what one might think. I believe we can take the word as a biologist or diplomat might: after all, culture is about the conditions set in place to promote growth, and in that case our culture can be our sensitivity & graciousness, as well as our openness & vulnerability, even our strength & solidarity. Growing up with two cultural backgrounds, as I formed the third as a first generation American, I ended up living in Washington, DC and then New York, among even more disparate & distinct cultures, but I am one who yearns to see the innate value that lies in the heart of every human being, the light. The divine. By creating space and carving out time to promote creativity and fostering a deeper exchange of culture, I believe we can come to know ourselves within the greater context of the whole, and that whole deserves the best of all us, in order to survive.
Please don’t hesitate to reach out
with any questions about classes, collaborations, or just to say, “Hi!”