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Art&Seek Q&A: Liz Mikel
by Cindy Chaffin 8 Jan 2010

As the multitalented singer and actress preps for the Dallas Theater Center’s world premiere of Give it Up!, we caught up with her to ask about the new show and look back at some of her career highlights. **** UPDATE **** Liz Mikel lost her condo in a fire early Thursday morning. Details about how to help her can be found with the complete story.


An e-mail from the Mary Collins Agency about the fire that destroyed Liz’s condo, plus the  efforts to help her:

We are reaching out to our Agency family, clients, friends and others in the acting community to help out one of our very own, Liz Mikel.

Liz and her daughter Vershea escaped from a fire that destroyed their Dallas condo in the early hours of Thursday morning in sub-freezing temperatures.

They got out safely, but lost everything.

We immediately began receiving offers of help and support from actors, theaters, producers and others in the community. We’ve even had several calls from fans who know Liz only through her stage, film or cabaret performances.

In order to easily coordinate assistance and manage volunteers, we have set up this website community with Lotsa Helping Hands.

Please to go to: www.lotsahelpinghands.com

Then fill out the right-hand side of the form which is a Request to Join the Community. Once you’ve done this, you will be automatically added to the community and sent instructions for setting a password and signing-in.

Tuckers’ Blues is hosting fundraisers for Liz all weekend long, January 8-10. Each night, they’re inviting local singers, musicians and spoken word artists to perform. There will be a $5 cover and they will be giving all proceeds to Liz. They will be also accepting other gifts for Liz throughout each evening, including cash, checks, and gift certificates (made payable to Liz Mikel). We hope you can join us one of these evenings. Show time is around 9 p.m. on Friday and Saturday January 8 and 9, and at 7 p.m. on Sunday, January 10.

We will keep it updated first with Liz’s immediate, then ongoing, needs as she begins to rebuild her life.

Thank you so much for your assistance in providing emotional and financial support to Liz and her family. If you have any specific questions, you can email us at [email protected] We are so proud to represent Liz, and we are so thankful for the love and support she is receiving. This is an amazing community!

The Mary Collins Agency

Also, from the Dallas Theater Center:

The Dallas Theater Center is collecting Target gift cards to give to Liz Mikel. Gift cards can be purchased online at www.target.com, and be mailed to: Liz Mikel c/o Dallas Theater Center 2400 Flora Street, Dallas, TX 75201.

In addition, the Theater Center will donate 100 percent of all ticket sales to Liz from the January 15 performance of the musical, Give It Up!, in which Liz appears. It’s the very first performance of the world-premiere musical, and it’s a Pay What You Can show. Pay What You Can tickets will be  on sale beginning Monday, Jan. 11 at 10 a.m., by calling the AT&T Performing Arts Center box office at 214.880.0202, or in person at the Wyly Theatre ticket counter beginning Jan. 15 at 10 a.m. Every seat is available at any price of the patron’s choosing.


Liz Mikel started performing at the age of 6. Since then, she has graced stages locally, nationally and internationally, as well as the small and big screen. Her tremendous love of her craft and amazing performances have endeared her to audiences far and wide.

She has received the Dallas Theatre League’s Leon Rabin Award for Outstanding Performance by an Actress in a Musical 1998; The Sankofa Award, for her dedication to the Arts in the Community; The Dallas Theater Critics Forum Award 2004 for Ain’t Misbehavin. Liz was named Best Actress 2004 by D Magazine in their annual Best of Big D issue. And recently, she was featured as Queen of the Arts-The Face of Black Theater in Dallas by The Dallas Weekly, March, 2006.

Liz will be performing in the world premiere musical Give It Up! with the Dallas Theater Center  beginning January, 15.

Recently Art&Seek caught up with Liz, via e-mail, which brings us to this week’s Art&Seek Q&A:

Art&Seek: This is the second year that you’ve performed in a new play (In the Beginning last year, Give it Up! this month) with the Dallas Theater Center. What is it like to play a character that is unknown by theatergoing audiences? Is it more exciting and challenging to portray a character that isn’t already established in the audiences mind?

Liz Mikel: I am so grateful to be a member of the Dallas Theater Center’s resident acting company. To portray well-known characters like the Ghost of Christmas Present, which I did for over a decade, is fun and familiar. But educating and entertaining audiences with a new play and new characters is both challenging and rewarding. I’ve had the pleasure of being involved with several new works and world premieres. The musical Blind Lemon Blues allowed me to reach audiences overseas. Parisians weren’t familiar with Blind Lemon, but they were enthralled by the music and the story of his life in Deep Ellum. The characters in In the Beginning were Biblical and community based, so they were familiar to the audience even though it was a new play. The unique approach of that show allowed [audience members] to give their opinions during the performance, which was at times a little scary but seemed to give insight into age-old questions. One exciting aspect of workshopping a new work is that you get direct input from the playwright, the composer and the director. To have both Douglas Carter Beane (playwright) and Lewis Flinn (composer and lyricist) in the room while rehearsing Give It Up! is invaluable. The director, Dan Knechtges, is full of energy and new ideas for Aristophanes’ 2421-year old classic comedy. I’m excited to see how Dallas audiences receive this world premiere.

Art&Seek: You started your career at the age of 6. How did that come about? Did you know at that young of an age that this is what you wanted to do with your life?

Liz Mikel: Well, I wouldn’t say I started my career at six, but I sure started my journey as an artist. I was drawn to dance at that age and my mother’s colleague, Ann Williams, had just started the Dallas Black Dance Theater. My mom got tired of my my daily rants about being a ballerina, and Ms. Williams happily enrolled me. I kept it up even into college but changed my major from dance to theater after the first semester at El Centro. In fact, I was crowned Miss El Centro that next year. I made all of my outfits for each category and performed an original poem, sang and danced for the talent portion. I didn’t understand why I had to create, I just knew that I did! Thank God my mother never ceased to encourage me. I look back now and realize that I was always creating. As a child, I was always singing, dancing, sewing, painting and creating art. It was as essential to me as breathing. It still is. I pray to continue creating until my very last breath.

Art&Seek: You are an accomplished stage and screen actress, singer and dancer. You also take time to perform at local live music venues. How do you manage to find time to work in so many different genres, and where are you most comfortable?

L.M.: That’s easy! I love what I do! I relish the experience that TV and film provide. It’s different from the stage. I love the journey of a live performance. It is unique and instantly rewarding for both the artist and the audience. No two performances are the same. I love that. Singing is even more liberating, because there is no script. It’s just raw emotions and the music. It’s magic!

A&S: What was your most awkward or embarrassing moment on stage or while performing, and what was your most memorable?

My most awkward experience was a curtain call during A Christmas Carol at the Arts District Theater in 2000 (not really sure about the exact year). But my lovely costume included a wig that had twinkling lights woven through it. As I took the stage for the epilogue, I smelled something. I assumed it was a lighting gel burning off dust. To my horror, as I got into position to sing a rousing chorus of “Joy to the World” with my cast members, I noticed everyone on stage was looking at me. My mentor and close friend Akin Babatunnde whispered through clinched teeth, “leave the stage!” I did. The crew was standing in the wings with their eyes bulging as I hurled that wig with all my might, smoke billowing from it! I was terrified, but also embarrassed. However, I went right back onstage, sans wig, and the audience cheered when I took my bow. I will never forget that moment.

My most memorable moment was when I was cast as Caroline in Caroline Or Change at Theatre Three. I was cast very early on, then later ended up landing the role in Welcome Home Roscoe Jenkins before rehearsals were to begin. At first I didn’t think it was going to be a problem, but my on-screen time increased in the movie and I was unable to start rehearsals with the rest of the cast. I listened to the original cast recording constantly and read my script daily, but I wasn’t there for blocking, not to mention my cast members were without the title character for weeks. Six days before previews, I wrapped the movie and I had my first rehearsal for Caroline. My sister-friend Yolonda Williams kept me from breaking down. Exactly one week after I had my first rehearsal, we had an audience. To this day I don’t know how I was able to go on and commit to every moment, line and song, but I was. The cast, the director and the music director were all so supportive, but they were as shocked as I was! I had just performed that whole show with only six days of rehearsal! Caroline was one of my favorite roles, to date.

A&S: Who are your main influences, and who would you love to perform with again, or for the first time?

The Vagina Monologues Cast, New Orleans

The Vagina Monologues cast, New Orleans

L.M.:My mother totally influenced my love of the arts. My mentor, Akin Babatunde, influenced my love of the craft. I have too many other influences to name, but a few key people that encouraged me as a budding artist are: Ann Williams, Curtis King, diannetucker, Tyress Allen and Randy Moore. Those are just a few, but each of them met me during my formative years and were guiding lights in helping me find my own voice as an artist. I would love to perform with Jane Fonda again. I did The 10th anniversary of Eve Ensler’s Vagina Monologues in 2008 with her. There were a lot Hollywood’s finest actresses there, but Eve herself asked me to step in and perform an original poem written especially for Oprah Winfrey (in Ms. Winfrey’s absence), in addition to performing the Angry Vagina monolgue that I was already doing. After the show, Jane Fonda burst into the greenroom and asked, “Honey, Who ARE you? And where did Eve find you?” I was blown away! I would love to do a full play with her.

A&S: If you weren’t acting and performing, what do you think you would be doing as a career?

L.M.: I would probably be designing clothes or doing hair and makeup, or both. There I go being creative again! I just can’t help it!

The Art&Seek Q&A is a weekly discussion with a person involved in the arts in North Texas. Check back next Thursday for another installment.