“I was always a theatrical child,” recalls Michael Mendelson. “I liked to make a big splash in everything I did whether it was destructive or constructive. I tried a lot of artistic endeavors like singing and painting, but after the age of 12, it was theater that seemed to bring everything together for me.”
Mendelson developed his passion for theater in college, receiving a bachelor’s in fine arts from Wayne State University and a Master of Fine Arts from The University of Washington Professional Actor’s Training Program, where he had very solid training in classical theater. He came to Portland in 1991 and became a familiar face on stages throughout the city.
“I would change my day job in order to work in theater,” says Mendelson. “If whatever I did during the day didn’t support what I was doing at night, I would quit my day job and get a new one.”
In 1999, Mendelson moved to New York and acted in many productions, including “The Merchant of Venice” and “The Winter’s Tale.” While in New York City, he studied with Tanya Berezin, a founding member and artistic director of Circle Repertory Theatre.
Four years later, he returned to Portland and rejoined the theater community by teaching and pursuing acting jobs that really interested him. In 2008 he became a resident artist with Artist Repertory Theatre, and that gave him a stable financial footing and time to dream about where he needed to go artistically. He rediscovered his passion for classical theater, and decided to join the Portland Shakespeare Project to produce classical works and contemporary works associated with classical material. In 2011, the company debuted with “As You Like It” and has not looked back since.
One of the unique features of the Portland Shakespeare Project is that it brings classical theater artists of international caliber to Portland. This includes Lisa Harrow, a member of the Royal Shakespeare Company, who teaches master classes and will direct the Portland Shakespeare Project’s production of “Twelfth Night.”
Besides helming the Portland Shakespeare Project, Mendelson continues to act and direct at Artists Repertory Theater. He also teaches and coaches privately.
“I’m turning 51 but I feel like I’m 35,” remarks Mendelson. “I’ve been in a relationship for 17 years, and that has helped immensely. It has allowed me to be more creative than I’ve ever imagined.”