Curative Humor

A one-woman show mines divorce for comedy at the Firehouse Theatre.

Michele Traina has been doing comedy since high school but didn’t actively begin training in improvisation until college. She graduated with a degree in theatre, touring in musical and children’s theatre while also studying improv at Upright Citizens Brigade in New York City.

Then she met a man, fell in love, and stopped touring. She was accepted into a master’s program at New York University for educational theatre and while married, taught theatre full-time and founded Propbox Players, a theatre company for differently abled children.

Then she and her husband divorced. Traina moved back into her Italian-American parents’ home, a place she refers to as loving, supportive, and so neurotic it could give Xanax anxiety. “Storytelling is a huge part of my family life, and I was isolated and alone for quite some time when I was separated and my ex-husband and I were facing challenges,” she recalls.

Yet returning to a lively, loud, and at times sensory overloaded environment felt soothing to her. “There were moments where I’d cry and scream into a pillow because my mom and I would be arguing like I was 16 and had a curfew again,” she recalls. “Then there were moments where we’d be dancing for hours after dinner to the Beach Boys or Dean Martin because it’s just what we did.”

While many people struggle with depression and mental health issues when they’re going through divorce, Traina decided instead that she wanted to laugh. The result was “Divorce Diaries,” the one-woman show she created in 2014 that combines stand-up, improv and dance and will play for one night at Firehouse Theater.

Throughout the show, Traina’s goal is to bring comedy to what some consider the most difficult time in their lives. In doing so, she introduces audiences to a bevy of relatable characters and shines a light on the importance of not allowing the situation to get in the way of happiness. “After all, nothing is perfect and we shouldn’t take ourselves too seriously,” she says.

“Divorce Diaries” is a comical and autobiographical look at Traina’s divorce journey. When she moved back into her childhood bedroom in her parents’ house in New Jersey, she was unsure if she’d ever be funny again. Just six-months later, she felt the need to talk about her experience with divorce and decided to start telling jokes onstage. As she worked out material, she began feeling better, in large part because of the reaction she was getting from audiences.

Realizing that many people found it not only relatable but curative, she decided to take the show on the road. Audience favorite segments include “Who Argued it Best?” where litigation gets unruly as Traina portrays both sides of the legal battle in one-minute arguments that allow the audience to serve as judge and jury. Audience members also get to dance off their divorce when she takes them on a journey in a comedic quest to follow Whitney Houston’s “I Wanna Dance with Somebody” advice.

In the best possible outcome, Traina’s ex-husband has been supportive of “Divorce Diaries,” acknowledging that the show is meant to help people heal through humor.

“I focus mainly on my post-divorce journey, the men I dated after it as well as my own ridiculous dating patterns. When dating, I take red flags and decorate for Christmas,” she jokes. “When the pandemic hit and I’d just left teaching to go back to performing full time, [her ex] even gave me words of encouragement when I doubted myself, which I’m grateful for.”

“Divorce Diaries” is also a television show in development with the pilot having won numerous awards on the festival circuit.

Traina is convinced that one of the best things to come from her divorce was finding her true self again.

“Sounds silly, but sometimes we lose ourselves along the road of life and sometimes we become very different from the person we are inside, whether that’s to appease, satisfy, or support the circumstances we’re in or thought we wanted to be in,” she explains. “I’m thankful that divorce led me back to this. The material in the live show talks about not giving up hope and it’s the same theme in the pilot. Happiness is having perspective.”

“Divorce Diaries” takes place on Thursday, July 28 at 7:30 p.m. at Firehouse Theatre, 1609 W. Broad St., Tickets are $15 in advance and $25 day of show, and are available here.


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