The AWTea with Mary – Michelle Vidal

What does Shrek do from 9-5? Did you know Pippin also bakes a mean pie? With this series I aim to answer those questions and more as I peek behind the curtain and learn all about our participants’ experience with AWT and take a glimpse into their robust lives outside of theater. It’s time for AWTea with Mary!

In this episode, we get the AWTea from Michelle Vidal!

MARY – Hello Michelle! Thanks for chatting with me! Please introduce yourself for the AWTea with Mary audience!

MICHELLE – Michelle Vidal. She/Her.

Welcome! We can start off with the question that starts most AWT conversations. How did you hear about AWT and what got you started?

I was on a search for joy. Plain and simple. I had had a rough couple of years losing both my parents within a year of each other, got laid off from my job, and had to move out of my UES shoebox of an apartment that I was just a little bit in love with. This was all in the year 2020.

I’m so sorry to hear that, what a rough year that must have been.

Yeah, and when the world opened back up again, I thought the definition of joy for me would be to land my dream job but it didn’t live up to its expectation once obtained.

Another attempt at finding joy was going to as many Broadway shows as I could once Broadway opened back up again. (A small obsession with Moulin Rouge blossomed here.) While this brought me much joy, it brought none to my wallet! It was also no longer enough for me to just watch a production. I longed to be in one.

So I began to Google NYC community theaters…

Ah yes, a common refrain. AWT should really pay extra to their SEO people. 🙂

So, AWT was the first one that popped up. Once I got off the waitlist for Rent, one of my favorite shows, I saw it as a sign!

Michelle smilingBeing a part of such a welcoming, supportive, and fun community brought me all the joy I was looking for and then some! It not only showed me how much fun I could be having with life, but it put a spotlight on how unhappy I was in the toxic work environment I found myself in. On the same day of our last show and cast party, I quit my job and left an eight year long career in Fashion Merchandising.

And I never looked back. And I have AWT to thank for giving me the courage to speak up for myself and to not be afraid to pursue what makes me happy.

That’s amazing! Good for you! I think there is another AWT blog post about this job quitting phenomenon. Did you plan to quit your job on the same day as the closing show? Or was that just a coincidence?

Definitely was not planned! It had been building up, and I could not fathom one more day at that company. I wanted to enjoy the last show and cast party without my job looming over my head.

Love that you got to have that freeing experience. So tell me about your work life that led up to that decision.

I actually jumped around careers for a little while. I was in AmeriCorps, aka national. Peace Corps, in a School Based Youth Service Program. I loved it so much I worked with the company for a few years, after my year of service.

I then switched gears and went into Buying at Century 21 Department Stores, and worked there until they filed for bankruptcy in 2020. Up until 6 months ago I was a Buyer for Ross Stores.

And so what are you doing now?

I recently took over my parents’ travel agency that has been running for over 36 years. I have been excited to bring it to the 21st century, stepping out of the more archaic brick and mortar walk-in clientele, and creating more of an online presence. It has been an adventurous 6 months so far!

What I currently like about my job is that I have flexible working hours, and it has allowed me the time to reset which was much needed for my mental health. Another thing I love about my job is that I not only have the privilege to help clients build their dream vacations, I also get to travel with a lot more ease. I daresay traveling and reporting back on fun things to do in far off places, is a requirement of my new role!

That sounds so fun! Are you guys hiring? lol I would love to hear more about your travels! What’s your favorite place to travel?

We are actually hiring! Looking to hire outside agents working primarily off of commission. Can definitely elaborate for anyone interested in joining the team! The company is called Vidal Travel Inc. Follow us on instagram – Vidal Travel Tours.

It’s so hard to pick a favorite place that I’ve traveled to. I can’t seem to get enough of Italy. I’m in love with Florence, Venice, and Tuscany, and dying to check out the Amalfi Coast and Positano someday!
My most recent trip to Bali was definitely an out of this world kind of experience. I had arrived a couple of days before the rest of my friends were set to arrive. So I planned a day of healing and spiritual cleansing at the Bali Holy Spring Temple at Tirta Empul in Tampak Siring, and got to meet one on one with a Shaman. This was a week after quitting my job, so it was perfect timing.

That’s beautiful! Was any of this what you dreamed of as a child?

When I was little I wanted to be an actress. I wanted to run to LA and be a starving artist until hitting my big break. But even at the age of 18, I was too scared to not obey my parents and went to college instead. I had even gone as far to get headshots taken and everything! My mother did make up for it a couple of years later though. When they filmed War of the Worlds in NJ, they rented out all the storefronts, including one of her agency locations, to film the big alien attack scene. She made friends with one of the casting directors, and I got to be an extra in the film.

So cool! Can we see you in the film?! Do you remember what scene you are in?

Yes, I’m in it for a brief second. When the aliens begin their initial invasion, I’m standing right behind Tom Cruise, before we all start running for our lives!

So instead of being an actress, you went to college. Honorable. So what did you study in school?

I have a BA in Journalism and Media Studies from Rutgers University with a Minor in English and Psychology. While working in the nonprofit School Based Program, I went back to school and got an Associate’s degree at FIT in Fashion Merchandising.

I would like to someday go back to grad school and either get an MBA or MA in Creative Writing. But no real rush.

Well sounds like obeying your parents and going to school mostly worked out. What about when you were younger? Tell me some more about your family.

Well, I was the youngest of 3. My brother and sister are 11 and 9 years older than me, so it was almost like I had 2 sets of parents. The five of us were a very close knit bunch, and my brother and sister are truly the best support system a baby sister could ever ask for.

As a child, I loved making my parents laugh. I would put on skits, speak only in movie quotes, or put on outlandish accents. I remember one Thanksgiving, I was 7, and for fun, I pretended to play out a scene from a movie and proceeded to pretend to faint in the middle of the kitchen. My grandmother began screaming for my mother asking if I was ok, to which my mother glanced over at me, rolled her eyes, and said I was fine and scolded me for scaring our guests.

Ha! So you’ve always had the performance bug. What kind of theater experience did you have before coming to AWT?

Before Rent, I was only in one other show in middle school. I was in the ensemble in Grease. In high school, I didn’t perform in musicals, but I was a Madrigal for our school’s choir.

Oh, what’s a Madrigal?

Madrigals was an extracurricular group at my school, it was by audition only and there were about 20 of us. Madrigals sing only in acapella and all classical Renaissance period pieces. And we got to wear some pretty fun medieval wardrobe whenever we performed!

Fun! So what shows have you done with AWT so far?

Michelle Vidal as Roz in AWT's 9 to 5My first show was Rent in 2022. I played Mr. Grey/The Man. My second show was 9 to 5 in March 2023. I played Roz. I am currently in Urinetown in Poor Ensemble and loving every minute of it so far!

You were so great as Roz! Outside of work and theater what else are you into?

Well, I have an 11 year old Morkie, her name is Sophie, and she is my little love! She is beyond friendly, loves people, and still looks like a puppy! And I swear she understands everything I say to her.

I also love to travel anywhere and everywhere, read a good novel, take singing lessons, and write when I can. I’d be happy ending every single Friday night singing karaoke! I also love to cook and try new recipes, as long as I have a glass of wine handy while cooking.

Any specialty dishes?

Over the pandemic, during quarantine, I called up all my aunts and got as many Peruvian recipes as I could. Something I regret not getting from my mom. I think my favorite one to make is also my favorite dish to eat! It’s called Arroz con Pollo y Papa a la Huancaina. It’s more or less a green cilantro rice with chicken with a side of potatoes covered in a creamy cheese sauce. It takes about 3-4 hours to make, but worth every minute!

Sounds delicious! I’m not much of a cook, so I am very jealous of everyone who can make it work. Thank you so much for sharing about your life with me and our readers! To wrap up, I have some rapid fire questions. Try not to overthink these too much!

  • What is something you’ve done recently for the first time?
    Playing Roz was my first time playing a principal role ever! It scared and intimidated the living daylights out of me! But like a roller coaster, it was the scariest and most exciting thing I’ve done in a long time!
  • What makes you happiest right now?
    Recreational singing and performing.
  • What’s your favorite stage show?
    Too many to choose from! I’ll try to narrow it down. Miss Saigon. Cabaret. Moulin Rouge!
  • What’s your favorite food?
    Arroz con Pollo y Papa a la Huancaina.
  • What’s your favorite karaoke song?
    Good Morning Baltimore from Hairspray.
  • What’s your dream role?
    Sally Bowles in Cabaret.
  • What’s your favorite way to spend a Sunday? (when there is no rehearsal 🙂
    I’d probably either be at a bottomless brunch with friends or curled up reading a good book under a cozy blanket. Either one is super relaxing, which is my ultimate goal for Sundays.
  • What’s your zodiac sign and what’s the most “sign” thing about you?
    My birthday starts the beginning of Taurus season, cusping Aries. Most Taurus thing about me is a tie between my loyalty to my friends and family, and my stubbornness.
  • What is a piece of advice you’d give to an AWT Newbie?
    Try to go to all the post rehearsal get-togethers! Singing and dancing together during rehearsal is great fun! But I have found the best bonding moments happen right after.