Michael David Arian (1947 – 2021) has traveled the world and dedicated his life to the birth and development of Off-Off Broadway Theater.
Born in 1947 in Memphis Tennessee, Michael David Arian always had a penchant for theatrics. He started auditioning for regional productions at the ripe age of 12. The audition process did more than enrich Michael’s life; it also presented the opportunity for his mother to engage with new and interesting facets of art and culture including the ballet and opera. In between roles Michael served as an apprentice in the theater in Memphis acquainting himself with every aspect of production and developing his skills with costume design, as well as acting and singing. Despite Michael’s inability to read music, he didn’t need to work hard to nail character songs, learning quickly and masterfully through intense repetition.
Michael moved to New York in 1967 as a 19 year old, after winning an ABC Network scholarship to the American Academy of Dramatic Arts. Honing some important skills, Michael was swiftly taken by the shift in theater happening outside of the academy. The traditional learning and regulation that went on in the academy, he soon discovered, was not reflective of a new more fluid and experimental theater exploding on the downtown scene. Actors were being cast younger, were more and more multi-talented and often received training just from the experience of being in productions. Michael often caught flack from his instructors for sporting long hair and walking around the hallways barefoot. It was no longer necessary for theater goers to be so formal. Theater was for the youth conscious citizen looking to interact with humanity in a new way. The turning point in Michael’s eyes was first seeing the musical Hair. Michael considers his life in two periods: before Hair and after Hair.
When he was not invited back for a second year at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts he began auditioning full time, soon after landing a part at seminal downtown theater The Old Reliable. Michael ventured to one of many Playhouse of The Ridiculous shows at La MaMa Experimental Theater Club and was transfixed by the event. He was soon part of the action starring in many experimental Shakespeare adaptations as well as Sissy, and XXXXX by Billy Hoffman Michael was open to any role that met his criterion for life: if the answer to the question “will I have a good time”, was yes, he was down for the job. Michael became a fixture at La Mama becoming the first member of Actors Equity to ever be hired there. Michael’s secret to success was simple: know who you’re trying to reach and on your way to reaching them, if you can’t be kind be relatable.
Michael received his first equity card in 1971 and would be part of La MaMa from that year forward in addition to Theater for a New City, Shakespeare in the Park at the Delacorte, Off-Broadway, and regional theaters. Perhaps the most memorable years acting were as part of the touring company for Hair, which took him to Spain, Germany, and The Netherlands in addition to touring Europe with Playhouse of the Ridiculous.
Hair “made the straights pay attention” revolutionizing theater and bringing a resonant message of peace, love, and understanding to audiences across the globe.
Michael continued to be the center of attention at La MaMa serving on the administrative staff to be forever enfolded in his many friendships there and to continue to be a resource to the downtown theater community.
Michael David Arian (1947-2021)