Michele Shay — actress, director, educator, and noted interpreter of the works of playwright August Wilson — will be is perhaps best known for her Tony Award-nominated performance as Louise in August Wilson’s Seven Guitars. She is a veteran actress who has graced stages on and off-Broadway, television and film, and regional theatres across the country.
Shay has portrayed Aunt Ester in Wilson’s Gem of the Ocean in productions directed by Kenny Leon, Phylicia Rashad and Ruben Santiago-Hudson; and Mame Wilks in the world premiere of Wilson’s Radio Golf, directed by Timothy Douglas at Yale Rep. In 2008, she joined more than 30 actors in the Kennedy Center’s August Wilson’s 20th Century, where all 10 of Wilson’s plays were performed in repertory order of their decade.
Other stage work includes Home (Negro Ensemble Company), for colored girls… by Ntozake Shange, Coriolanus with Morgan Freeman, Antony and Cleopatra (as “Cleopatra”) and Blues for an Alabama Sky — directed by Israel Hicks. She earned an Obie Award for her work in Meetings by Mustapha Matura. She has appeared on television in The Cosby Show, ER and Another World; and on film, opposite Denzel Washington in He Got Game.
Shay has directed seven August Wilson productions, including Fences, Gem of the Ocean, Seven Guitars (with Rebecca Jones at the University of North Carolina School of the Arts), The Piano Lesson (California Institute of the Arts) and Joe Turner’s Come and Gone (with Tonya Pinkins, Montae Russell and Glynn Turman at CCAP at the Broad Theatre). She has directed a staged reading of King Hedley II. In 2013, she participated with a host of other longtime August Wilson collaborators in The Greene Space’s reading and recording series of August Wilson’s American Century Cycle. She directed a reading of Two Trains Running, featuring Anthony Chisholm and Tracie Thoms. Other directorial work includes the musical Ian Forrest; one-woman shows Fighting for the Title by Delores Burgess and Everyday Diva by Elisa Perry; and da kink in my hair, which ran in New York, Toronto and the National Black Theatre Festival in Winston-Salem, NC.
A Carnegie Mellon University graduate, Shay is a Fox Grant recipient — researching the connection between the human energy system, healing and performance. She has taught courses at California Institute of the Arts, American Conservatory Theater, Actors Theater of Louisville, Denver Center, University of North Carolina School of the Arts, and the New Studio on Broadway at New York University Tisch School of the Arts. She is a member of the Actors Center Workshop Company, founded by J. Michael Miller in New York City. Shay has served on theatre panels for the National Endowment for the Arts, NY and NJ State Arts Councils, Board of TCG, National Alliance of Acting Teachers, and the game-changing funding organization for sustaining Black Theaters, the Black Seed. Currently, she serves as an Acting coach on the upcoming television series Swagger created by Reggie Bythewood for Apple TV.