Los Angeles musician and actor Michael DeLara takes us on a raw and intimate musical and theatrical journey in his show, Living Between the Lines at FRINGE WORLD. Premiered June 2018 at the Hollywood Fringe Festival and featuring original music, the show explores what it is like to grow up outside of the majority and search for a home in your land as a first generation immigrant-American from the Philippines. Michael had a chat to CHERYL LIM about Living Between the Lines, combining his musical and theatrical talents, which all started because someone dared him to. Hear his amazing story from Tuesday, January 22 to Wednesday, February 13 on multiple dates and venues including Studio Startup Basement, Four5Nine and Voila Voila Bar and Restaurant. Get more info and tickets here.
What was it like to grow up in a real paradox of different cultures in America: Filipino, Catholic but rebelliously spiritual, sports jock but also an artist in an African-American city, raised by conservatives, but in a liberal state (phew!)?
It’s funny, because as awful as never fitting in sounds as a permanent condition of which I have found no cure, it was REALLY fun. When you don’t belong to any group, you can see every clique and community as they are, good and bad. But not having to defend for any particular community, I was able to enjoy AND despise everyone equally! (laughs) Truthfully, I always had a sense of never fitting in from an early age and yet, I wasn’t angry about it. All of that developed into a curiosity that makes it really easy to see someone as a person, not as a member of a group to which they claim allegiance. And that curiosity has become a vulnerability, where I’m not super good at judging people and I can have a real connection with an individual. It’s the greatest high I know of.
You started performing at the age of three by impersonating Elvis, as a teenager you dived into the hardcore punk scene and then moved to LA to pursue a music career and eventually found yourself working for five years on cruise ships. When and what made you decide that you wanted to pursue a career in music?
To say that I made a decision isn’t totally accurate. There were a few moments where I remember thinking, I’m going to go for it, like my first year of college, a producer told me he thought I could make it – he also may have been trying to get me to join his cult… but I’m not wearing a tin foil hat or drinking bad Kool Aid right now, so I think I did ok – and there was the moment I dropped out of school to move to LA. But I can’t remember a time I was alive when I didn’t want to make a living playing music in some capacity.
And what was the cruise ship life like? What were the best and worst things about it?
Imagine all the people and places in your immediate life squeezed into three of the basement floors of a very long and thin hotel… It’s a lot like that (laughs). The worst part for me was the transient nature of the gig. Not only did the passengers come and go every cruise but so did your closest friends. When their sign off day came, it was especially painful because it’s so rare to make a genuine connection in that space and you weren’t really sure if you’d ever see them again. But the best thing was the possibility of being a highlight for a moment in someone’s life. They had been looking forward to their vacation for who knows how long and for whatever reason. And to contribute to someone’s happiness like that? It made the job totally worth it.
You’re coming to FRINGE WORLD with your show Living Between the Lines, what was the inspiration or motivation for creating this show?
My acting coach dared me. Straight up, “I dare you to write your own show about your point of view, put all your unique talents together, and then put it up at the Hollywood Fringe Festival. You might get something out of it…” That’s it. I didn’t have any real creative need. I just wanted to see if I could pull it off. And by that, I mean, I wanted to see if I could tell a story the way I wanted to tell it and see if people would understand it. To my surprise, people legitimately freaked out. I swear, in a million years, I never thought I’d see people react the way they did. And I’m curious as all hell to see if the good folks at FRINGE WORLD and the Adelaide Fringe take in the story of some weirdo who’s never found a community in the same way.
The show’s been described as “raw, intimate and a bit surreal”, and it’s a solo performance combining your acting, storytelling and singer-songwriter abilities. Can you tell us what to expect?
That’s a quote from my first review. I remember that guy because he sat in the theatre for 30 minutes after the show trying to wrap his head around what happened. Another reviewer said that I “reinvented the form.” Another told me, “I watched an artist make the leap in real time.” I don’t know what it is they saw in this simple story about growing up with a few tunes and sounds thrown in, but I do know that I just try to be truthful, vulnerable, and unapologetically honest with myself. People can expect me to try to communicate a simple truth: Every line that’s drawn in our lives, our societies, and our world isn’t real. And if we all got that, what else is possible?
What projects have you got lined up after performing at FRINGE WORLD?
I’ve also got three singles currently out, I Wish I Could Have Known You Better (from the show), The Silence, and the newest single, Baby, I Don’t Love You Anymore. And I’m heading to the Adelaide Fringe, then to Melbourne for a few musical performances before I head back to the US for the Hollywood Fringe and others around the world. I’m looking at breaking into Vegas with my music and hope to tour Europe, as well. Look, if there’s anything I’m sure of, it’s that it’s time for all of us to step up and live the lives we’ve been afraid to step into. I don’t know how any of this is going to go down for me, but I do know it’s time to get on with it and find out what will happen when I step into truly being me.