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Writer, vocalist, director, and live artist Melissa Birch creates interdisciplinary performance works that transpose social contexts into live installations. Her stage work and dance-theater-music collaborations have been presented through numerous commissions and productions collaborations throughout the Twin Cities, US, and abroad since her first professional performance at the Walker Art Center in 1993.
At 19, she trained in improvisational comedy and commedia dell'arte with Elaine and Dennis Kern at the Ark Theatre (Madison), who produced her first written works in popular feminist revues. After two years in San Francisco, she returned to the midwest to join a burgeoning MPLS comedy and cabaret scene. Her immersive training in Margolis Method rooted her performance practice in a lyrical physical vocabulary. Her solo characters, singing style, and one-woman shows courted the mainstream while suspending conventional rules of spectatorship, collaborating with jazz wunderkinds Drew Jansen, Eugene Huddleston, Jimmy Kennedy and Dan Chouinard.
In 1997, cabaret bookings brought her to New York's midtown clubs, then moved to downtown venues Here, PS122, Cornelia Street Cafe, Dixon Place. As a teaching artist for LEAP in the NYC boroughs, she taught playwriting and theater skills to elementary and middle schoolers. In late 2001, Melissa returned to MPLS to produce the Tuesday night new performance revue Red Curtain Cabaret at the Bryant-Lake Bowl. A few months later, she was joined onstage by pianist Stevie Pomije. Together for two years they would re-codify dozens of signature country, jazz and B-side innovations— and produce the soft-rock success The Elton John Show.
In 2007, an embodied physicality infiltrated Melissa's performance works. For the next 9 years, Melissa wrote, directed and performed in numerous dance-theater collaborations, including the two-year work-in-process Flying Nuns, and her well-traveled War Queer Peace Solo, blending dance, theater and improvisation forms with lyrical narratives.
In 2016, Melissa directed the BareBones Outdoor Puppet Extravaganza, You Were Once Wild Here. Also in 2016, her evening-length work-in-progress, Who Moved My Child, was presented by Right Here Showcase at the Illusion Theater, co-directed by Sharon Picasso, with choreography by Deborah Jinza Thayer. Caroline Palmer of the Star Tribune called it "..the fever dream that is female adolescence". Meet the WMMC cast. In October 2018, Melissa wrote and performed a public service announcement, about the vagina, for Deborah's All Hail the Queen at The Cowles Center in downtown Minneapolis.
The Presidensity Project was a 4-year research residency (2016-1.20.21) addressing American complexity through performance research & studio practice. The project builded on Birch’s reputation for delivering vanguard performance products within a flexibility of form ahead of mainstream articulations.