“Life Encounters 2” is a raw and emotional roller coaster ride from start to finish. The 45‑minute show, written and performed by Michelle Felice Hartley, is filled with passion, energy and heart. Ms. Hartley had a lot to say, and shared stories about her struggles with disordered eating, racism, body image and family: uncomfortable emotional topics most people are too scared to get into. She emphatically showed us the absurdity of racism, and how we often see ourselves differently from who we really are. She explained how a size zero could feel two sizes bigger. Some of the stories were painful to hear. Ms. Hartley told about a time when she and a friend became targets for racial slurs and offensive body‑shaming comments. Her friend chased down the man who had insulted them, and was close to giving him a taste of his own medicine. However, the two women decided not to escalate the situation and walk away. It’s never easy to hear such reminders of the threats many people face every day. There are several characters, including a Chinese food delivery man, who may have meant well but made digs about Ms. Hartley’s size. This wasn’t news to her; her doctor had been discussing her weight with her for some time. She was aware of her overeating, and that she used food as a coping mechanism whenever life got rough, like the time her uncle passed away. She went on a three‑year food binge after that. Her battle with body image issues went on for some time, until one day she stopped feeling sorry for herself and did something about it. You see, we can’t control what others think of us. Ms. Hartley’s performance shows that we oversee our own self‑image. If we want to make a change, we have to try. At the end of the performance, she removed extra layers of clothing to reveal that she had in fact lost a decent amount of weight. She explained that her journey was not over, but she was proud of the steps she has taken to achieve her own happiness.
“Life Encounters 2” Written and Performed by Michelle Felice Hartley October 23 at 3:30 PM Photo: courtesy of the production 2019 United Solo Theater Festival Theater Row 410 West 42nd Street New York City
DANIELLE CREAN is an aspiring writer and editor living in Brooklyn, New York. She is a graduate of Marymount Manhattan College with a degree in Communication Arts and Journalism. During her college career she was a writer and editor-in-chief for the Odyssey Online. She is also currently writing a novel based on her own personal experiences with mental health.