Michael Avolio's sci-fi war story romance webcomic
Michael Avolio

There's a lovely Washington Post piece about my late friend Tricia here, with memories shared by some of her closest and oldest friends, including several from the DC theatre company The Washington Stage Guild, which was her "home" theatre and where I knew her from.

I had no words for last week's newsletter, so soon after she was stolen from us, but eventually the following came to me...


I've been thinking about what Tricia McCauley means to me, and why she means so much. It's partly because she was family. For context: I'm not close to my biological family (mostly due to trouble with my parents), and so my closest friends are like my nuclear family, and similarly the theatre families I've had, of which there are two, have been like extended families for me (especially because, if I had to choose one word to identify me, it would be "artist"). One of those artistic families has been the Washington Stage Guild, and Tricia was a core member there by the time I was welcomed into the fold. I'd seen her act before I met her, and the first time I think we officially met was rehearsing one of the play readings Stage Guild's Bill Largess directed us in. For me, Tricia was always like the cool aunt or slightly older cousin - the one you relate to but also look up to in awe and admiration. She felt like such a Bohemian artist with that charisma and DIY flair. I always loved talking with her, and I cherished the moments I got to act with her. Tricia once got me a high-paying one-day gig doing some voiceover work with her - it was a series of animated training videos in which she did all the female voices and I did all the male voices. It was so much fun to play off her.

I've gone through our Facebook posts and private messages, as well as emails (sometimes it pays to be an internet packrat!), and I've loved hearing her voice again in even the most casual of exchanges. She communicated so much of her vibrant personality through the rich, earthy music that was her voice, coupled with her extremely expressive face, and all that comes through in her writing as well. A classic, mostly-tongue-in-cheek Stage Guild tenet is "make faces, not choices", and her voice and face are two facets that made her such a gifted actor and such a pleasure to be around.

Another aspect of her that made her an exceptional actor and person was her keen intelligence. Stage Guild does a lot of wordy, highbrow plays, and her skill with such language is not a talent all actors possess, but she had smarts to spare.

I never got to do a full production in which I acted alongside her, but I had the opportunity to perform in numerous Stage Guild play readings with her, and she was so present and honest a performer, always in the moment. She could be very funny when the role demanded it, but I think my favorite of her performances I saw was her Joan of Arc in the reading we did of Shaw's Saint Joan. Tricia gave Joan such truthful purity and motivating strength. I would've surely followed her Joan, or Tricia herself, into battle. I know that although the size of the cast was a deterrent due to the large funds it would require, Stage Guild hoped to mount a full production of the play at some point with Tricia at the center.

It was a treat to trade quips with her and bring out her boisterous laugh. In every Stage Guild show I acted in, I always worked in a "Bill Daly" (a silly Stage Guild tradition that predates me of a particular habitual gesture of cornball actor Bill Daly), and when watching each production, Tricia would always catch my "Bill Daly" and laugh delightedly.

To borrow a term from a friend of mine, Tricia sparkled. She was sassy, warm, radiant, magnetic, witty, kind, mercurial, full of life, and inspiring - especially, for me, in the way she branched out into new interests.

When I told her about my struggle with figuring out what to do with my life as an artist, and thinking about cutting down on theater to focus on making comics (a major life change I've followed through with - my last performance for the foreseeable future will be a few months from now and will be dedicated to her memory, and I'm one year into the creation of my weekly comic), Tricia off-handedly wrote me some perfect advice:

"Being picky about how you spend your creative time is the only way to live life."

She would know.


I got some requests to make prints of my Tricia drawing (see below) available, so I've posted two versions on DeviantArt, where you can choose from different sizes. Here's one with the above quote, and here's one with just the image.

DeviantArt doesn't seem to allow me to sell these prints at cost, so I'll donate my small percentage of any earnings to the fund established in Tricia's name. You can also download a high-resolution version of either image there.


If you'd like to join me in donating to the fund directly, you can do so here. It's to raise money for theater artists to have health insurance, a cause that was close to Tricia's heart. Any amount is appreciated, and you can make your name and/or donation amount anonymous if you choose.


A week ago, I thought I'd surely be able to make time to finish this week's pages for my weekly comic Flesh Machine, but I haven't — there've been more pressing concerns with everything that's been going on. So Flesh Machine will have to wait another week.

You can, however, read the whole story so far at, and I hope to return with fresh pages again next Tuesday. We soldier on, somehow. One day I hope to create a character as complex and engaging as Tricia was. Until then, I hope you'll enjoy the further adventures of Lucy Olmos. We're about halfway through her story.

Take care of yourselves and each other.

Michael Avolio

Tricia McCauley

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"The art in Flesh Machine is deceptively simple, with a hint of Mike Mignola influence, but this comic is one cool science fiction story for older readers. Once you start reading Flesh Machine, it is easy to get warped right into this mysterious and provocative universe."
- Farel Dalrymple
(Pop Gun War, NY Times bestseller The Wrenchies)

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