As a child, Noah Michal’s stuttering was so severe that it caused her to twitch. Sometimes her stutter prevented her from formulating sentences, and she spent 10 to 11 years in speech therapy to correct her stutter.
Much to the surprise of her parents, when she got on stage for her first performance in seventh grade, her stutter disappeared amid the spotlight that shone on her. Once off stage, her stutter returned.
But stuttering did not stop Michal from following her passion; acting stuck to her like gum under the table in a lecture hall, and she is now a theater arts major.
Despite her struggle with stuttering as a child, Michal has overcome her speech issues and established herself as an accomplished actor on the Cal State Fullerton stage, earning the respect and admiration from peers like Mykah Atkins, a theater arts major.
“Noah is a phenomenal actress. Let’s say one day she is working on a character she doesn’t relate to, (theater professor Svetlana Efremova) won’t just be like, ‘I understand this is not your type of character,’ She’ll be like, ‘Why can’t you connect to this?’ She always pushes Noah to go beyond what she thinks she can do,” Atkins said.
Out of all the colleges that Michal considered, she ultimately chose to attend CSUF to pursue her education in theater arts. She decided on CSUF because her mom was a Titan and she heard about the profound impact Efremova had on other students in the College of the Arts department.
“That woman has changed my life. The best acting teacher I’ve ever had. She’s phenomenal,” Michal said. “Before training, I was just going into a role and (thinking) ‘Oh what feels right, let’s just wing it and see what happens.’ I get a role now, and I know the breakdown, I know who I am, I know what I want, and I know what I need to do.”
Michal’s proudest moment in regards to acting was participating in “Bee-luther-hatchee” by Thomas Gibbons last semester.
“Bee-luther-hatchee” explores the complexity of authorship and identity when a white man writes the biography of a black woman under her identity. The play questions the matter of who has the right to tell one’s story.
“It was really nice to have that discussion because we don’t really talk about things that make people uncomfortable, because it makes people feel weird. They kind of want to sweep things under the rug, but it was nice to put this show in front of an audience for 17 shows and have people think for two hours,” Michal said.
Bernard Hefner, majoring in English and acting, played Sean Leonard opposite Shelita Burns, Michal’s character, in “Bee-luther-hatchee.”
“(Michal) is a wonderful person and a very professional person. She comes having fun. Smiling is achieved through her working hard and giving the perseverance through every role. She puts in the legwork and that’s how she is able to have fun,” Hefner said.
Michal also performed in an adaptation of “Romeo and Juliet” called “Shakespeare’s R + J.” She performed alongside Leianna Weaver, who is a theater arts major with an emphasis in acting.
“I don’t know if she had done Shakespeare before, but she just excelled in that. She’s one of those people who’s just like, so solid, but also constantly growing, constantly looking for ways to grow, and she knows that she’s still learning. I think that is something that’s so admirable to me,” Weaver said.
Even though Michal knew that one does not need a degree in performing arts in order to become an actor, she furthered her education anyway, she said.
As an actor, a piece of paper, no piece of paper, can you do the job? I came to school for acting, so I know that I know I can do the job. I wanted the training, I wanted the skill setNoah Michal
Currently, Michal is preparing for the role Belphragia in “Lysistrata,” which is a play about women withholding sex from men in hopes of restoring peace.
“I’m doing a lot of stretching because I have a lot of back pain, and I’m kind of tense, so a lot of stretching before to warm up physically, to warm up vocally. It’s just a lot of playing. Going as big as you can, and if it’s too big, we can bring it down. But, for now, throwing things at the wall and see what sticks,” Michal said.
After graduation, Michal wants to audition for film and television jobs. But being a woman of color her concern is typecasting, which is when an actor is limited and put in a box because of the performer’s skin tone and appearance.
“In TV and film, we see a lot of black people, Latino or Muslim. We always see them playing the same thing. The ghetto black girl popping bubble gum, so that’s definitely something, but we are more than that … The fear is not wanting to get closed into a stereotype, something that is based on perception and not the truth,” Michal said.
From Michal’s childhood dream of becoming an actor to now taking the stage at CSUF, words of motivation have pushed Michal to thrive in her performance and remember her origins for her love of acting.
“No matter what happens, no matter what school you get into, what school you don’t get into, the part you get, the part you don’t get — continue to move forward, to doing what you wanted to do when you were seven,” Michal said. “If you can remember why you started this, why you love it. I think that will take you miles, and miles and miles.”