Statera Member Spotlight: Michaela Goldhaber

StateraArts members come from all over the USA and all genres of art-making. They are educators, arts leaders, activists, content-creators, professional artists, early career, mid-career, patrons, and community organizers. The Statera Member Spotlight is just one way StateraArts uplifts and amplifies the voices of our members. Today, we’d like to introduce you to Michaela (Mickey) Goldhaber.

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StateraArts: What is your occupation or calling in the arts?
Michaela Goldhaber:
I’m a playwright and director. Most of my career has been as a director, but I always wrote. I had a stroke 11 years ago, and at that point I decided I needed to move back to the Bay Area. Part of my mom's pitch at the time for getting me back home was saying, “Hey, you can finally write that play you’ve been talking about for so long!” I had been working on my play The Lady Scribblers for years. Once I got settled in back in California, I started taking classes at Berkeley Rep, and then joined the Central Works Theatre Company's writers group. I was a member there for 3 years, and that's how I finally finished the play!  

SA: What organizations are you affiliated with?
I am the Artistic Director for Wry Crips Disabled Women’s Theatre Group, the Lead Instigator of Bay Area Women's Theatre Festival, and a Dramatist Guild member. One interesting aspect of my life is my partner Chris Hall is the leader of a group called Godless Perverts, which is a social justice activist group that presents and promotes a positive view of sexuality without religion. So I am also a proud Godless Pervert!

SA: Tell us about your favorite project you've done thus far.
Well, when I was living in New York my friend Heather Ondersma and I had a company called Flying Fig Theater, with our mission being to tell women’s stories onstage through new works and by rediscovering women playwrights of the past. I’m particularly interested in the female playwrights of the restoration. My favorite play is The Wonder! A Woman Keeps a Secret by Susanna Centlivre. I directed it as my thesis in grad school at UCLA and then in New York with my company. Working on that play has brought me great joy and I'm sure I will continue to work on it throughout my career. Another favorite project was the first show I directed after my stroke, which was Bedtime in Detroit at Boxcar Theatre. It was a really exciting project, but at first I wasn’t sure how I would be as a director after so many changes had happened to my body. Through that process I found out I could still direct and continue to connect deeply with actors. This discovery was thrilling.  

SA: What inspires your work most? 
MG: Telling women's stories. That's what matters most to me. My work is fueled by making room for women and people with disabilities on the stage.  

SA: Why did you become a STATERA member?
Because of Martha Richards!! I was so excited and happy for Martha when I learned that StateraArts took on SWAN Day. Once that was part of Statera, I HAD to become involved, because I have been part of SWAN Day for years now and it means so much to me. It was SWAN day that formed the core of the Bay Area Women's Theatre Festival. I was part of a Women’s Theatre Festival in North Carolina last year when we did a reading of The Lady Scribblers. I was feeling so inspired afterwords that I hopped on a Facebook group I belong to called “'Yeah I said Feminist' A Theatre Salon” and I asked, “Hey who wants to help me start a women's theatre festival in the Bay Area? Within 20 mins we had the first meeting set up. A team of 15 women instantly came together to make it happen. We now have 40 participating theatre companies in the Bay Area. We will also be part of a panel at StateraCon this October, and I can't wait!

 SA: Any upcoming projects you'd like to share with us? 
I have two that I'd love to share! Wry Crips Occupy! is a new piece about the 504 sit in in 1977 when disabled activists took over the federal building in San Francisco in order to push the issuance of long-delayed regulations regarding Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. We are giving our first performance of it this week; a staged reading at the Ed Roberts Campus in Berkeley. It's a really neat building where the major disability organizations operate out of. We'll be performing in the atrium there. It has this beautiful bright red swirling ramp going all the way down that will make for a perfect backdrop. Following the reading, we are taking the show to ACT’s Costume Shop Theatre along with Regan Linton, Artistic Director of Phamaly Theatre. Our show will be performed alongside her piece, FDR Drag Show, for three public performances. It's going to be an action packed event! Then in the spring, my play The Lady Scribblers will have its world premiere March 6th-29th at Custom Made Theatre Company as part of the Bay Area Women’s Theatre Festival, which will run from March 1 to May 31, 2020

SA: What does gender parity in the arts look like to you?
For me, I think it's important to start with women's stories. It’s not just about the numbers. I want to see more stories that highlight women’s achievements and women in history. My particular interest is in digging in to the history of a certain era and then asking myself, "What were the women doing then?" So often everything we learn in history is always about the men of the times. A world of theatre where women’s stories are as important as men's stories is a world of parity, to me. The ground rules for the Women’s Theatre Festival is that is that every production has to be written and directed by a woman or non-binary artist and the cast and design team have to have gender parity. We’ve had to be very strict about that. But we were clear from the get-go that this is what we are looking for. We reached out to theatres in the area and said, "As you are planning your next season, is there a play you’re looking at doing that was written by a woman? If not, may we recommend one to you?" Then I'm also looking at where the people with disabilities are and how we can build more representation for us as well. 

SA: Mentorship is at the core of the STATERA mission. Tell us about one of your mentors. How did they shape you or provide pathways for opportunity?
My greatest mentor in the theatre was Barbara Oliver, an actor and director here in Bay Area. When she reached a certain age and wasn’t being cast in roles that interested her anymore, she founded Aurora Theatre Company, which is a really a thriving theatre here that does fantastic work. She commissioned a playwright friend to write a piece and because she knew everyone in the Bay Area she was able to assemble a top cast. I had just finished college and was assistant directing at California Shakespeare Festival and she took me on as her Assistant Director. She was my champion and friend and mentor and was completely indefatigable. She worked in the theatre right up until her death, working on a tour in her 80s, and still directing at 85! She inspired me so much. She really knew what she wanted in all aspects of her career and was so kind and generous to everyone she met. At her memorial service at the Berkley Rep, a  woman maybe 10 years younger than me stood up and talked about how Barbara was her mentor, and what she shared was so similar to my story that for a minute I felt like, “Hey, I thought I was her mentee!” Then of course I realized, "Wow. How powerful it is that she was able to have this relationship with so many people and we all benefited so much and felt so special.” She completely shaped my early career. 

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