So you want to write a one person 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.
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.