by Jannette J. Witmyer
Special to the NNPA from the Afro-American Newspaper
Anyone trying to keep up with Meshelle “The Indie-Mom of Comedy” had better lace up his or her track shoes, take a deep breath, and be prepared for a near-exhausting and rigorous run. To say that she leads a full and busy life would be an understatement.
When the award-winning, off-Broadway actress and standup comedienne is not performing in New York, Chicago,Los Angeles and points in between, she’s back home in Baltimore handling her business as a wife, mom to three, author, social justice advocate and nonprofit administrator. And, juggling all of those hats just scratches the surface of all that goes on in this Indie-Mom’s life.
Right about now, if you are amongst the uninformed (as was I), you’re probably wondering, “What is an Indie-Mom?”
In the simplest terms, an Indie-Mom is a woman who does not lose her identity to motherhood.
In Meshelle’s case, “Staying completely innovative and staying independent and still having a very individual sense of self, while being the best mom you can be, and, in my case, wife. That’s what the Indie-mom is all about.”
“An Indie-Mom is independent, innovative, with individuality, fearless and poised to live her dream,” she explains.
Which brings us to her one-woman show, “Diary of a MILF (Mom I’d Love to Follow).” In October 2014, the full theater production, which she wrote and in which performs all five characters, won the Outstanding Solo Performer Award at the 15th Annual Midtown International Theatre Festival, the second largest off-Broadway theater festival in New York. Directed by Rain Pryor, it is headed to LA, February 27 and 28, for an invitation-only special engagement, entertaining producers and industry executives from the areas of development and talent.
“MILF,” she explains, “is a derogatory term that was popularized by the movie “American Pie” that came out in the 90s. One of the characters used the term referring to moms with whom he’d like to have sex. It was supposed to be a term of endearment, a reference to moms or older women still having sex appeal and attraction.”
“I thought it would be fun to play on the MILF understanding and create a show around what it’s like to juggle my life as a standup, a wife for over 15 years, mother of three, social justice advocate, running a nonprofit, all of this in tandem, while my highest intention when I left my doctorate was to pursue my standup.”
Oh, right… I forgot to mention that she is a former doctoral candidate at Temple University.
The show not only covers a day in her life, juggling all of those hats, and what it takes to get to a performance, on any given day, but it is set during the Christmas holidays, with characters ranging from a preschool-aged Jewish boy to an elitist, country club-type mom, layering several additional sets of dynamics on the day’s journey.
“It’s a hoot to get through a full day as me, wearing all of those hats, and to see how, ultimately, I end up on stage, at the end of the day,” she says, laughing.
While Meshelle sees the humor in all of the juggling, she also understands how stressful it can be, which is one of the reasons she created Moms Nite Off “A Night of Comedy and Cocktails,” with another native Baltimorean, touring comic Larry Lancaster. Held at the Baltimore Creative Alliance’s Marquee Lounge, the event provides a space for Indie-Moms and others who may be stressed to unwind and enjoy a cocktail or two and some adult fun, standup comedy.
As an artist who usually works out of town, she says, “It’s a way to maintain a footprint in Baltimore, to keep the community aware of how things are shifting for me, not only on TV, but in the theater world with my one-woman show. A way to keep Baltimore in the loop, while still giving them some great entertainment…”
To further establish her footprint as an artist in Baltimore and to raise funds for her nonprofit organization, Goaldiggers The Sankofa Project, the 2010-2012 Open Society Institute Community Fellow has unearthed yet another hat, one that she’s worn all of her life, singer. On April 25, she will toss that hat up among the others and reintroduce that side of herself, at Creative Alliance, in a cabaret she created, “Funny, Fierce and Fabulous.”
“There was always a little girl in me who was in every musical production… Dorothy in the Wiz, Purlie, Dreamgirls… From elementary school to college, I’ve always been a gay man, drag queen, stuffed inside a heterosexual little girl’s body. I love everything about musical theater,” she says of her love for the genre.
Meshelle “The Indie-Mom of Comedy” may be the comedienne’s brand, but being an Indie-Mom touches every part of her life.
“I wouldn’t be an Indie-mom if it weren’t for my three children. They take precedence. It’s God, me, and my family… And, my art is the gift… This is who I am. I have to get on stage, and I have to perform. And, they show up on stage with me because those characters are from the authentic life if being a mom.”
The next Moms Nite Off “A Night of Comedy and Cocktails” is March 3 at the Baltimore Creative Alliance’s Marquee Lounge.