This week Playbill catches up with F. Michael Haynie, who currently plays Olaf in the national tour of Disney's Frozen.
Haynie has been seen on Broadway in Wicked, Holler If Ya Hear Me, and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, while their Off-Broadway credits include Carrie and Dogfight. The actor has also appeared in regional productions of The Hunchback of Notre Dame, The Heart of Rock & Roll, and Found as well as in NBC's Peter Pan Live! and the Paramount film Not Fade Away.
Haynie will return to 54 Below July 30 at 7 PM with an evening entitled Into the Unknown, which will include songs from their musical-in-development, Victory City. For ticket information, click here.
Checking In With… Tina—The Tina Turner Musical Star Nick Rashad Burroughs
What is your typical day like now?
For performers—especially on tour—you’ve gotta do whatever you need to do to be prepared for the show that evening (or afternoon). I wake up to a nice warm cup of COVID test. Chase that with my first iced coffee of the day. Hit the to-do list: emails, texts, and business. Work on some of my music. Midday video games with my brother if he’s free and fellow Frozenite Mason Reeves, who plays Kristoff. Preshow pregame prep: yes...another iced coffee, dinner, and head to the theatre. I go on stage about 55 minutes into the show, so I have an hour and 25 minutes to get ready to be a snowman. Stretch, warm up, play basketball, and hijinks with Jeremy Morse, Austin Colby, and Mason. We do the show! Post-show decompression, hop on a date with my partner on FaceTime, and catch up on a Star War. Sleep, rinse, repeat.
What has been one of the highlights of touring with Frozen?
I never thought I'd be able to learn the incredible puppetry that was created for this show, but I had an amazing teacher. I got to work with master puppetry artist Lorenzo Pisoni on how to make Olaf come to life, limb from limb—it's really a full-bodied performance. I love seeing young audiences light up when Olaf comes onto the stage. I do want to add that a highlight of my career has been working together as a company. We opened twice, had an 18-month hiatus, crew members had weddings, cast members had children, big life stuff all the while putting on performances. Our dance captains Dustin Layton and Jessie Peltier (along with our swings, subs, and alternates) keep this show alive during the most stressful schedule, ever.
Are there any parts of your role in Frozen or the musical that seem particularly poignant/relevant following the events of the past two years?
I think we all had moments of feeling like Elsa over the shutdown. Just like how she grapples with the fear of how her powers might hurt others and has been hiding for a long time, we are all considering how our actions impact each other. It’s scary, but we’re happy that with the vaccine and science, we’ve been able to keep our show up and running. Thanks to our COVID officers and teamwork, we test, we mask, we keep each other safe so we can "tell the guards to open up the gates."
What can people expect from your upcoming performance at 54
This concert is gonna be a reintroduction of F. I’ve been gone for three years, and a lot has happened since then. I've written more of my musical, fallen in love, watched Gilmore Girls for the first time (and I have opinions), and experienced so many amazing cities as I’ve toured Frozen. I want to have an intimate night of music I wrote, but more importantly a night of my heart and soul back in New York. Don’t worry, we’ll laugh and have a party, too, but I want to embrace my home again for the first time in... forever... get it...because Frozen.
During this time of reflection and re-education regarding BIPOC artists and
artistry, particularly in the theatre, what do you want people (those in
power, fellow artists, audiences) to be aware of? What do you want them to
I want them to consider that we can’t put a Band-Aid on a broken arm. If we, as a community, are trying to create an artistic medium that is representative and inclusive, we have to reconsider the very foundation of our business. We have to be ready to be wrong. We have to question and hold leadership accountable. We have to seek our own education, and when we begin to recognize our past and very present faults, we stand a chance to begin to make progress. The work isn’t done—and I say this with hope in my heart, we’ve barely started.
What, if anything, did you learn about yourself during the past two years
that you didn't already know?
I have learned a vernacular and verbiage with which I feel I can better express myself. Hi, I’m F and my pronouns are they/them. With the support of my partner, my closest friends, and my family, I was able to start a new chapter of being my authentic self. I have so much more to learn, as we all do.
Do you have any other stage or screen projects in the works?
I’ve been writing a musical, Victory City, for some time now. In short, it’s a dark, graphic novelesque musical about Remy, the daughter of the first person who could ever fly. It’s about the world we pass from generation to generation and having to deal with the consequences of our past. My next step is presenting some more of it to the public, finding the right director and producers who will help it find its first footing. Hopefully, the 122-page script and the full score are... a start. I’ve worked on it for a long time and struggled to share something that means so much to me. After the shutdown, I realize how precious time is, and I'm eager to finally share this story.
What organizations would you recommend people learn more about or donate to during
this time of change?
Seeking local organizations in your hometown is where advocacy starts. On tour, we’ve seen and spoken to local groups all across the country. There are incredible lists curated by AAPI, BIPOC, BLM, and LGBTQIA+ community leaders who know so much more than me, but I'm learning daily, as I hope we all are. In the theatre community, I've been inspired by and learned a lot from the work of the Broadway Advocacy Coalition. I also recommend the Asian American Performers Action Coalition (AAPAC), and consider donating to the AAPI Transportation Fund to help keep AAPI theatre workers safe.
Checking In With… Cat on a Hot Tin Roof Star Alison Fraser