Michelle Mary Schaefer hails from the United States where she has been performing (dance & music) since the age of 4. Born and raised in Maryland, she began her career as an actress at the age of 12, graduating from community theatre to children’s theatre, dinner theatre, college theatre and of course, professional theatre. She is Deaf but never allows her Deafness to prevent her from obtaining roles in which she is known for her amazing job in bringing her characters to life. She is of the view that her life is a book… And an open one!
In all of her productions, Michelle Mary has the ability to communicate her characters’ dialogue either in American Sign Language (ASL) of which she is fluent in, to speak the lines or even signing and speaking at the same time depending upon that character’s circumstances and the director’s preferences.
Although Michelle Mary had several disappointments including a 4-5 year sojourn from showbiz due to being told that she wasn’t ‘deaf enough’ for a prior role of “Children of a Lesser God” (ironically, she often got mistaken for hearing!), fortunately, she came back with a vengeance! She subsequently starred in Mark Medoff’s “Children of a Lesser God” as the lead Sarah Norman several times and loved it even more than the last. She got many positive reviews including a Best Actress of the Year by Community College of Baltimore County (CCBC Essex). ‘The female lead is very powerful and remarkable which is better than the film version,’ a local reviewer notes.
Acting has always been Michelle Mary’s passion and in fact it was Marlee Matlin in the 1986 film that would create an indelible impression on her. Bitten hard by the acting bug at an innocuous age of 4, she announced to her parents that she wanted to grow up to act like her (who by the way, went to win a Best Actress Oscar!)
Indeed, being spurred on by positive role models representing the deaf community and more so by those who thought that it might be a ‘phase’, this has also emboldened Michelle Mary to invert gender casting conventions. In this case she lobbied—and beat out other deaf male actors—for the coveted part of Billy in Nina Raine’s “Tribes”. This makes her the first and only female deaf actress ever to play the traditionally male role of Billy, which often has landed the audience in disbelief. ‘Schaefer does the character of Billy justice even though she’s a female playing a boy’s role,’ director Macey Mott, who was blown away by her, remarks.
Michelle Mary looks forward to more theatrical, film and television projects on the upcoming slate to challenge as ever her acting ability that can make her characters as utterly inhabitable as the person standing next to you. In her spare time, she develops feature-length films, of which she hopes to produce, film and star in!
Of her showpiece turn in Tribes and beyond, Michelle Mary says: ‘I never thought I could but it did surprise me. [It] made me proud! [It] made me realized I can do anything— why limit or hold myself back?’