Elevator Pitch

Acting is truth. My name is Michael Riso and I want to create dramatic art at its highest level. An actor is a mirror for the audience. He allows them to see the inside of their own hearts in moments of heightened reality. This job is important to the world because it is precisely these moments that allow us to identify ourselves as a race. If you’d like to come see a show at SMU I can give you my card so you can contact me.

Skills for Success

In order to reach ones potential in their field of choice, they must first acquire the necessary skills and apply them well. In the interest of my art, I am imaginative, to give my characters the depth they need to be truthful. I am adaptable, to be able to respond to impulses given to me by my scene partner. I am dedicated, to put in the work required to make my performance dynamic and a reflection of real life. These very same skills allow me to find work in my field. Imagination allows me to come up with new and exciting ways of marketing the skills that I have. Adaptability allows me to realize failures in my endeavors and course correct. Finally, dedication allows me to fight through adversity, to never give up, and to make the most of each and every time I give of myself to my art and to my life. The prerequisite skills of my trade give me the means to achieve my aims, and create a safety net to fall back on and help me back up even when I slip of the tight rope that is a career in Theatre.

The Driving Force

The list of driving forces for an artist is staggering, from seeking fame to artistic freedom to critical acclaim, but I am motivated by only a few things. Firstly I believe for motivation to be lasting it must be internally generated. External carrots are too easily interfered with or destroyed, but no one can take away that which lives in your very skin. I am motivated by my desire to immerse myself so deeply in the characters I create that I can act subconsciously. This inspires me to work tirelessly as this level of immersion only comes through hours of dedicated and work and genuine connection to the piece. I also find motivation in continuous growth. Challenging myself to be better than I was yesterday is one of the most powerful motivators i’ve ever encountered. The constant competition that I provide myself pushes me each and everyday to reach the pinnacle of my artistic achievement.


I believe in growth. Continuous improvement is the only bar by which I measure personal success. Everything else requires too much subjectivity and can be affected too greatly by outside factors. This standard of measurement is a great equalizer because everyone, big, small, rich, or poor, has something to improve and can be better today then they were yesterday. In a dream working environment my peers would share this value, but I don’t make it a prerequisite nor do I attempt to impress my beliefs upon others. Continuous improvement is simply the core tenet of my value system, and it factors into all my important decision.

What breeds success?

Having a personal understanding of the habits and practices that make you successful is critical. I know personally that I have some of my most important breakthroughs and creative explosions in the shower. Theres something about the solitude, comfort, and probably warmth about that place that allows me to go deep inside myself and foster growth. I also know that if I space out my work (i.e. reading a play, memorizing lines, connecting with a character) I’m far more likely to enjoy the journey. I am unsuccessful when I leave things to the last minute because the experience is so unenjoyable that I often cut corners, forget things in my haste, and sometimes see my futility and outright move on to something else. Knowing this about myself I am far more likely to start and end early. To me preparation is the only killer of nervousness and I know as long as I am prepared I have nothing to fear. Quiet is also my friend. I can too easily become distracted by familiar voices,  interesting television shows (or even commercials), or even less interesting matters. My mind it seems tends to fly off at its earliest opportunity when things require extended periods of focus or attention. As I age this has been leaving me but it is still a habit of mine i am acutely aware of and take precaution to avoid. There are many behaviors that can promote or dismantle creativity and work, but having knowledge can help you bridge gaps and perhaps even build a highway on the road to personal success.

An Artistic Journey

My goal is to create art at its highest level.  Thunderous applause, peer adulation, critical success, and plentiful salaries, these things while wonderful have nothing to do with my artistic journey. I seek art and truth. Since discovering my passion I have worked tirelessly in pursuit of this ambiguous goal. Perhaps I should begin by defining my art.

Art is passion. Art is truth. Art is the greatest thing we as humans can create, and I believe it is a gift from God and the closest we can be to him. Art is pain. Art is joy. Art can make people feel emotions the spectrum and depth of which defies explanation. The enormity and ambiguity of art is what I believe attracts so many to Theatre’s, crappy dives in dangerous parts of town, and spectacular palaces alike. We as humans crave this ancient and sacred pastime and it is a part us of we cannot live without even if we don’t know it.

My journey has taken me here to SMU where the quality of training will allow me to unlock levels of creative freedom I have not yet imagined. I can’t wait to see where this journey will take me but, goal in mind and heart open, I will follow wherever my art leads.