Chiropractor-Turned-Playwright Strikes a Chord with Romantic Comedy
By Lynn Venhaus
Actor-playwright Michael Madden could be called a late bloomer. He did not start acting until five years ago. Two years ago, he wrote his first play, and people like it – a lot. “Maybe This Time” won an audience award in San Diego and sold out every performance last month in St. Louis.
The native of St. John, Mo., discovered that his own online dating experiences was a rich source of material. In 2016, “Maybe This Time” won an audience award at the San Diego Fringe Festival.
That encouragement started an interesting and exciting journey. Family suggested he bring the play to St. Louis, and arrangements were finalized with a local director and cast at The Gaslight Theatre Aug. 17-19.
The 90-minute play is about four online dates with good, bad, humorous and sad results. You not only see and hear two people on a blind date, but you also see and hear what their brains are thinking. It shows how miscommunication and misunderstanding can lead to unexpected and unwarranted consequences.
Directed by Pamela Reckamp, the cast included Mara Bollini, George Doerr IV, Carrie Priesmeyer, Paul James, Tonya Darabcsek and Todd Micali.
In these characters he has created, Madden wants people to be entertained, moved, laugh and perhaps recognized themselves. He figures that nearly all adults have dated at some point in their lives, whether it’s been online or not, they can still relate.
“I think it struck a chord with people because everyone has been on a date before. And the play isn’t so much about online dating as dating itself. The reason people respond the most though, I believe, is that it’s a pretty unique idea to have the character’s brains on stage too. Hearing what people are thinking and then seeing what they say is very interesting,” he said.
And his online experience ultimately had a happy ending. Giving it one more shot, he met someone very special on Match.com.
“I saw this winsome blonde, and she was wearing a St. Louis Cardinals sweatshirt. We both live in San Diego. I found the love of my life,” he said about wife Ann (maiden name Siemer). “And she grew up in Florissant — went to Sacred Heart.”
He hopes his play about the pains, passions and possibilities of online dating as performers take you through the process and results will be seen by more people.
The reception was so positive in St. Louis, it opened doors – and his eyes, too.
“I realized that the show can travel with or without me,” Madden said. “I had directed all the previous performances and was worried that it would be a lot different. But I think the show’s bones are strong enough to support it being anywhere. The reception for every performance was loud and enthusiastic with a lot of laughter,” he said.
A small theater company in Washington state plans to do it next spring.
“Anyone can license it out for royalties. Not sure I’m bringing it back to St. Louis again, although if someone else wanted to do it, that would be fine. Producing it from California was very logistically challenging,” he said.
But he enjoyed his time visiting family and friends. A graduate of McBride High School, he did not do theater in school, but his parents, Bill and Marie Madden, were professional performers.
“They headed a group called Old-Time Vaudeville Troupe and then had a company called Banjo and Bus, where they took busloads of mostly seniors all over the U.S. while they entertained them on board with music, sing-a-longs, movies and games,” he said.
“My parents performed for the public for 50 years and my sister has been a working actor in New York and L.A. for 50 years also. So there’s a lot of this in my blood. I did a lot of lectures and speaking before I started acting five years ago as well,” he said.
Now it’s on to the next chapter, and back ensconced in California. Although he says: “St. Louis will always feel like home.”
The St. Louis cast of “Maybe This Time” with playwright Michael Madden (center): From left, Tara Darabcsek, Mara Bollini, Carrie Priesmeyer, Paul James, Todd Micali and George Doerr IV. (Photo provided)Here is our Q&A with Michael Madden:
1.Why did you choose your profession/pursue the arts?
“I was forced to retire from the chiropractic profession after a car accident in 1999. Since then I’ve done a variety of things, from producing the San Diego Blues Festival to buying and selling precious gems in Asia. I started acting about five years ago and writing and directing two years ago. My sister has been a working actor in NYC and LA for 50 years and my parents performed in public for decades.”
How would your friends describe you?“Loud but sensitive, irreverent but thoughtful, with many interests and passions.”
How do you like to spend your spare time?“Writing, reading, dancing, poker and dinner parties with family and friends.”
What is your current obsession? “Spoken Word like ‘The Moth Project’ and ‘The Narrators.’”
What would people be surprised to find out about you?“I worked in a leper colony in Venezuela and was a contestant on ‘Jeopardy!’”
Can you share one of your most defining moments in life?“The births of my two incredible daughters.”
Who do you admire most?“Anyone that is doing what they like and making a living at it.”
What is at the top of on your bucket list? “Getting interviewed.”
What is your favorite thing to do in St. Louis? “Visit the Missouri Botanical Garden.”
What’s next? “Hopefully another play.”
MORE ABOUT MICHAEL MADDENAge: 69Birthplace: St. LouisCurrent Location: San DiegoFamily: Wife Ann and daughters Ashley and CaseyEducation: B.A, in Psychology, UMSL; Doctor of Chiropractic, Logan CollegeDay Job: RetiredFirst Job: Slaving under my parents’ idea of what constituted a work ethicFavorite Role: Moss in “Body of Water” by Lee BlessingDream Role: Willy Loman in “Death of a Salesman”Awards/Honors/Achievements: Best Actor Nomination SD Aubrey Awards “Body of Water”/Audience Award 2016 SD Fringe Festival for “Maybe This Time”Favorite Quote/Words to Live By: “You don’t always get what you want and you rarely get what you deserve but you almost always get what you think you deserve. If you think you deserve hardship and garbage, you will often get that and conversely, if you think you deserve joy and abundance, you will often get joy and abundance.”A Song That Makes You Happy: “When You Wish Upon a Star”
Lynn Venhaus has had a continuous byline in St. Louis metro region publications since 1978. She is a Rotten Tomatoes-approved film critic, currently reviews films for Webster-Kirkwood Times and KTRS Radio, covers entertainment for PopLifeSTL.com and co-hosts podcast PopLifeSTL.com…Presents, and writes features and news for Belleville News-Democrat and contributes to other publications. She is a member of CCA, AWFJ and St. Louis Film Critics Association. She is a founding member of the St. Louis Theater Circle.