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So You Want to Write a One Person Show, Part 7 of 7

So You Want to Write a One Person Show, Part 7 of 7

So to recap, Part 1 of "So You Want to Write a One Person Show", I spoke about discovering the Central Moment on which your show pivots.

Part 2 of "So You Want to Write a One Person Show" we looked at the moments that lead up to the Central Moment of your revelation in your solo show.  We explored possible turning points and after effects of the Central Moment, and we looked at possible through lines, the threads that sew your stories together into one cohesive piece.

Part 3, Write write write. We threw out all we "knew" and explored all possible avenues.  This is where the rubber meets the road–we took creative risks and pushed past our normal habits and ideas about who we are and what we can create.

Part 4, Take a break, play, and contact your muses. We contacted our "muses"–that something greater that guides us and shows its genius.

Part 5, Bringing it all together, editing, refining through performance.  "The difference between a standup show and a solo show is that in standup, the character knows exactly what they're talking about and exactly what they think.  And they're going to tell you.  In a solo show, the character doesn't know.  They're looking for something, they want something, and they're figuring it all out with you, on this ride, together.  The hero has a conflict."

Part 6, Kill Your Darlings.  Take some steps back, acknowledge and let go of your darlings.  What is really in your work because it stands on its own, and what is there that needs explaining?What is in this piece that sheds light on some aspect of humanity never before spoken, and what is trite or cliche?  The joy will come, not in hearing the accolades, but in being an instrument for something truly, humanly brilliant that touches people's hearts and raises the stakes in living their lives fully.

Part 7, Owning Your Story.  

It's time to own it.  Ask yourself, what did you learn?  About yourself?  About the world?  Who are you today?  Is nothing ever the same again?  Is everything actually the same as it's always been?  Are you ok with that?  Why or why not?  

It takes a lot of chutzpah to create a solo show and tell your deepest, most personal shtuff in front of complete strangers.  Let alone people you know.  What drives you?  Is it a compulsion to over-disclose?  Are you telling to much in order to push people away?  Out of a hope that if they really knew you, they'd stop liking you?  Cause it won't work.  The more we know about you, the more we like you.  

I've always loved the phrase, "Your attributes make you likable, but it's your flaws that make you lovable."  After it takes guts to tell your story in your big one person show, it takes brains.  Brains to work out the truth of your story, seeing it from your vantage point.  It's easy for us to look at a dissheveled, homeless person and see their life story.  But so much more is there than we can see.  Alternatively, it's easy for us to look at our lives and see the inside version of the story.  To actually see ourselves simultaneously from the inside out and the outside in, that takes real skill, objectivity, perceptivity, and honesty.  Of course it's going to remain subjective in many ways because it's us telling what happened with ourselves.  

So but there's an incredible amount of work that goes into being able to actually see and tell the story, and there's one final trap to avoid once we've got our script all worked out and our scenes all staged and blocked (you did do that part, right?)  Once we've got our aunt Lil's voice down pat and our sister Jessie's squeal just right.  The trap is that we can get so "clear" about the story that we forget to actually own it.  To come to a place where we re-live it anew (without re-traumatizing ourselves… and this is a whole topic for discussion) and then we come to learn something about ourselves, to experience a transformation, on stage, in public.  

The trap is that we can forget to actually be present for it.  The deep deep work we've done on the way is challenging and rocky, and that time on stage is the sweet reward.  It's the gift we receive and it's also the gift we give to the audience.  It's the gift of us arriving at this moment through telling the story of how we arrived at this moment.  It's grace.  It's power.  It's peace.  Own it.  And let it go.  

These are the qualities you may be experiencing and needing to convey to the audience as you reach the climax or conclusion of your story.  And notice how the actual story in some way begins to dissolve as these qualities emerge.  It's similar to a photo coming more and more into focus and then as the focus gets so sharp it is suddenly so close or so far away that the image dissolves into nothingness an all that's left is a sense of Violet or Cyan or Indigo that forms a kind of sunset we all watch together.  A kind of quietness, like, "Well, that happened."

So, what are you waiting for?  Go get 'em, Tiger!


Stay tuned for "Advanced Solo Conversation: Professionals in the World of Solo Performance."

And check out an interview with solo performer and comedian Joe Klocek here.

So You Want to Write a One Person Show, Part 2 of 7

So You Want to Write a One Person Show, Part 2 of 7

In my last post, Part 1 of 7 on writing solo shows, I spoke about discovering the Central Moment that your show pivots on.  You did free-writing about this pivotal moment and you held it close to your bosom.  

Writing solo show takes guts.  Mostly, the guts to get out of your own way.  You can still keep it private.  In fact, you could keep it private forever.  You could write this show solely for discovering a truth about yourself.  What is that private truth that you have not even allowed yourself to know about you?  

I have made so much sense of my life in crafting a story arc out of the miscellaneous and non-linear events in my life.  I believe we're hear to find and make meaning.  

Leading Moments

As you explore the Central Moment, begin to write about what led up to it.  What was happening in and around your life?  Who were you before that Moment?  What kind of friends did you spend time with?  What was your family like?  How did you spend your free time?  What kinds of thoughts ran through your head and why?  What did you know to be true about yourself?  Answer each of these questions with an example, a concrete smaller moment that shows us an event occurring.

Turning Points

How did this Central Moment then change your world?  Write about the changes that took place after this event happened.  Write scene after scene.  Don't censor.  Did your thoughts change?  Did your friends change?  Did people react differently to you?  Did you stop going somewhere?  Did you start going somewhere?  What did you start wearing?  A smile?  A purse?  A bathing suit?  A fedora?  All of the above?  Perhaps these changes seem to have nothing to do with your Central Moment.  All the more interesting to note them…

Through Lines

What co-incidences do you notice that have to do with your Central Moment? Begin to keep a journal of co-incidences and synchronicity.  Note each time something comes full circle.  Note the through-lines that string together the random moments in your life relating to this Moment.  Begin to think back to childhood.  What memories from when you were 4 or 7 years old seem to relate to this Moment?  Find the earliest memory that relates to this moment and anchor your through-line with it.  Then, look at your dreams and fantasies of your future.  Which of those have to do with your Moment?  Write about them in concrete ways.  Show, don't tell.  

Write Write Write

During this process, it's imperative that you don't censor yourself.  Set a timer for 10 minutes, and just write.  Don't take the pen off the paper.  Let yourself be surprised.  Know that no one will see it.  Say something to yourself you haven't dared to speak until This Moment.

Ready for Part 3 of 7 on "So You Want to Write a One Person Show"?  Stay tuned!  I'll be writing it in the next few days.

Writing a Solo Show, Part 1 of 7

Writing a Solo Show, Part 1 of 7

So you want to write a solo show? Not everybody does. It used to
be most people felt they had one good novel in them. One good album.
Five minutes of good standup. Maybe one good screenplay. You take the
particulars of your life and assemble them in a funny or touching or
absurd or poignant way and they become universally understood as human.
And after that, you have to actually get good a the craft and technical
know-how.  There's charisma, and there's skill.  Possessing charisma
might bring you to the stage, but building skill is what can keep you
there.  But let's not worry about the skill part yet.  Plenty of time for that.  What's important right now is that you want to create.

Today, especially in the San Francisco theater and
standup comedy scene, solo shows or monologues are becoming a great
venue to speak your life.  And many people are taking the form to the
level of mastery.  You've heard Eric Bogosian on CD, you've seen
Spading Gray on DVD, maybe you went to the theater and saw your first
solo show in person.  And now you're Inspired.  "This is it!" you realize.  This is how I want to tell my story!  (I'm
chomping at the bit to go see two shows at the Marsh in San Francisco:
Ann Randolph's Loveland, and Dan Hoyle's The Real Americans.  I'm on my
way in the next week to see Dan Hoyle!)

So if this is your first
foray into the world of possibility in creating your first solo show,
where do you start?  Well, you start where only you can.  You already
know in your heart why you're reading this.  Something incredibly
important, intense, and powerful occurred in your life.  It may even be
connected to some issue out in the world that is equally important,
intense, and powerful.  That's where you start. 

Begin by
allowing yourself to speak what that is.  But keep it to yourself for
the moment.  This is a precious moment, when you acknowledge to
yourself what it is you know you have to tell the world.  Take 30
minutes and sit.  Let yourself write the it down.  Write in whatever
form: bullet points, a poem, short pieces of prose…  Write what comes
about the CENTRAL MOMENT of this powerful event or truth in your life. 
During this central moment, where are you?  What time of year is it? 
What are you wearing?  What does the air smell like?  Who is with you? 
What music do you hear?  What did you eat that day?  What are the
sensations in your belly?  Write with a pen and paper if you can… 
let those images and emotions wash over you and spill onto the paper
directly from your heart through your hand to the page, and make
Natalie Goldberg proud.

When you finish, don't yet show it to
anyone.  It's a tender and sweet piece of work you're doing, and you
deserve to have it held with your own utmost compassion before opening
it to others. 

Ready for Part 2 of 7 on "So You Want to Write a One Person Show?"  Stay tuned!  I'll be writing it in the next few days.