Michael Barakiva is an Armenian/Israeli theater director and writer based in New York City. His first novel, One Man Guy, published by Macmillan (Farrar, Straus & Giroux), was named to the Rainbow List and has been released in Brazil by LeYa. Michael also serves as the Artistic Director of The Upstart Creatures (www.upstartcreatures.com), a theater company dedicated to creating unique artistic events combining theater and food.
As a theater director, Michael has worked in New York and around the country, developing/directing new plays and staging classics, at theaters including Primary Stages, Ensemble Studio Theater, Oregon Shakespeare Festival, Shakespeare Santa Cruz and Syracues Stage.
Michael is a recipient of the David Merrick Prize in Drama, a Drama League Summer Fellowship, a Granada Fellowship at UC Davis and the Phil Killian Fellowship in Directing at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. He is an avid board-game player, and a proud member of the New York Ramblers, the world’s first openly-gay soccer club. He is a graduate of Vassar College and the Juilliard School, where he studied as an Andrew W. Mellon Fellow in Directing. www.michaelbarakiva.com
What motivated you to write a book that is specifically inclusive of LGBTQ families/issues?
First and foremost, I wanted to write an LGBTQ book in which coming out to your parents wasn’t a big deal. I realize that it’s still dangerous be out in many places in our world and even in our country, but more and more I found that people’s coming out stories were like mine: the friends and families accepted them unconditionally, with love in their hearts, and I wanted to create a story that reflected that story. Specifically, Alek’s coming out scene in One Man Guy is entirely autobiographical: both my parents were totally cool, and the only thing my mom cared about was making sure I understood she still wanted grandchildren.
What do you personally feel makes a family?
A family is a group of people who live together and love each other. I do think that living together is important here – figuring out how to navigate the day-to-day is a big part of what makes you a family.
My family, right now, consists of my husband Rafael and PJ, a stuffed animal whom we treat as a child, which is good practice if we ever have real ones.
What does “equality” look like to you?
I think equality is learning how we, as individuals and as a society, can access someone’s essence regardless of their exterior trappings. This is incredible difficult since so many factors we’re not even conscious of affect how we treat one another.
I think about this all the time on my soccer team – I have so much less information about the guys there than I usually have when I meet someone. We’re all in uniform, so I don’t really know how they dress. We’re not in a work context, so I don’t know their profession or their education or where they’re from. All I really know is how well they play soccer. Being outside of context makes me see how much I depend on context for information. Equality is worrying less about that information and more about the actual person.
Whose books do you admire and why?
In terms of YA, I love E. Lockhart – the way she writes sentences, the stuff she’s writing about, the way she sees the world. I couldn’t put We Were Liars down.
I also love Robin Talley’s book Lies We Tell Ourselves - I think it’s one of the most important YA books I’ve ever read, for the unflinching portrait of segregation and desegregation it paints in this country’s history.
In terms of grown-up lit, I’m a David Mitchell and Margaret Atwood junkie. They both put words together in the most beautiful ways, while creating worlds that transcend our own.
What’s coming up next for you?
All kinds of wonderful things!
As a writer, I’m working on a sequel to One Man Guy. It took me a while to figure out the story, but I think I just cracked something important and that’s a huge relief.
I’ve also been working on another book with two friends, Suzanne Agins and Rosemary Andress, that’s a post-apocalyptic sci-fi/fantasy epic adventure called The Aether Wild. We’ve been working on it for four years and are about to finish the first draft and I couldn’t be more excited.
My own little theater company, The Upstart Creatures (www.upstartcreatures.com) produces (meta)physical feasts that intermingle food with theater.
As a director, I have the honor and privilege of directing Topher Payne’s beautiful and biting comedy Perfect Arrangement at Primary Stages, one of the New York’s most respected off-Broadway theater companies, in the fall. That’s being produced in association with MARS Theatricals.