Tag Archives: one person show

Divulging the Material that Will Create Your Solo Show

Divulging the Material that Will Create Your Solo Show

Solo_show_secrets Writing the story of your life (or any other made up story for that matter), and then performing it for others, can be a difficult task.  A one man show or one woman show however depends on your ability to reveal the nitty gritty of your story in a way that is fascinating and entertaining, as well as perceptive and often humorous as well.

In writing my solo show last year, there were a lot of obstacles.  I wanted to tell a story, but I didn't really know what the story was.  I knew I had traveled to India.  I knew how I felt before.  I knew how I felt after.  But when people would ask me what I learned or gained from the trip, it was difficult to really put it into words.  There were also a lot of personal changes that I went through in the past couple of years that related to my trip to India.  I broke up with the man I was seeing during that time, and it became imperative to include my relationship in the telling of the story.  Only I didn't quite realize that it was over with him!  And in order to tell the story about how India changed me, I had to live it.  Art was imitating life which was imitating art.  

What stories are you living out, and are you able to step back and see them?  It can be difficult to see things that are in our blindspots, and even more difficult to speak them, let alone to speak them to the public.  These "secrets", these things we know but don't tell even ourselves, these pieces of ourselves we hide from daylight, they are the juiciest, most delicious parts of your story.  They are what make people come to the theatre.  They are what move us to laugh and cry when watching someone on stage who we don't know or care about, who suddenly becomes an inspiration.  It could be information about a violation, a betrayal, a secret fantasy, a longing, an indiscretion…  How deep can you go?  And will it benefit you to go there?  Will it benefit your audience as well?

To access these parts of you, try an exercise: take several deep breaths deep into your belly.  Sit with your back straight and your feet on the floor.  Let your eyes close and your breath return to normal. Ask your conscious mind to relax, and begin to allow the subconscious mind to speak.  Information may come in phrases, pictures, or sounds.  Focus now on the story at hand.  Ask your subconscious to un-conceal whatever it is that would be most helpful for you to know in order to tell this particular story.  Sometimes it can help to trick yourself a little in order to hear the answer..   You can tell yourself that you don't have to stick with the answer–that you only have to hear it once and can forget it if it's too much, which it could be.  Know that your subconscious will only allow itself to divulge information which you can currently handle.  When you're ready, take another few deep breaths, sense your body, come back to the room, and then write for at least five minutes about what you discovered.

If you're looking for more support in developing your one person show, consider solo show coaching with me.  I work via Skype with actors, writers, and standup comedians across the country.

Alicia Dattner
Comedian & Creativity Coach

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.

Solo Performer and Comedian Joe Klocek on Secrets

Solo Performer and Comedian Joe Klocek on Secrets

Master head shot I met Joe in 1998 when I first started doing standup.  He was about to start headlining at the Punchline then, and his comedy has grown and ripened into a fine french cheese.  It's riddled with self-deprication, wit, and charm.  He is one of the best "riffers" in San Francisco history, on and off stage.  We did his show last Sunday (I was performing a bit from my new, new show for the first time.)  I have to say the crowd was a little quiet, and that had me feeling some nervousness.  Back stage joking around with Joe was actually about three times as much fun as being on stage with the crowd.  I forgot how much fun Joe is to kid around with.  

Here's five minutes with Joe Klocek on standup, solo show/solo performance, storytelling, and comedy in general. Joe's new venture is a monthly show called Previously Secret Information, in which performers walk the line between storytelling and standup comedy.

Alicia Dattner: How long have you been doing stand up?

Joe Klockek: 17 years.

AD: But, Joe, you're like so proficient at sstand up why start telling stories that aren't all funny? Isn't what people want just the good stuff? Just the funny stuff? Like, that's the part non-comedians can't do on their own. That's why you're here, isn't it?

JK: I love stand up and will always be a stand up. I found that editing a incredible, often times life changing event in my life down to only the funny parts started to feel like I wasn't respecting those moments fully. These stories have love, loss, hope, death and faith all told honestly without over the top dramatics. A good edits an adventure down to a series of 30 second jokes. I like to think of this show as the story behind the punch lines. Its for people who want something a little more thoughtful in their comedy.

AD: What kinds of stories do you tell in this show?

JK: I tell one story about losing everything in the Utah desert after I hit a cow with my car. I have another one about taking a stuffed animal to a food court in a mall and then security tries to kick me out. The stories are funny sometimes tragic always entertaining episodes from my life.

AD: What kinds of stories do other comics tell? Who else has performed in this show?

JK: We have had a lesbian explain breast feeding an adopted child, a man tell about helping his father with a plumbing disaster and a woman tell what she wanted to say at a funeral for her mother. 

AD: Who are some of your favorite performers that walk this line that you're proposing we walk?

JK: This might be cocky sounding, but I don't know. The goal is to take elements from solo performance and stand-up comedy to get at something real where the audience doesn't feel sperated from the storyteller and the storyteller feels they are in a place where always getting a laugh isn't bad.

AD: What's the craziest thing you've ever seen?

JK: I once saw a mostly naked man get on the 38 Geary holding a jar of peanut butter, crakers and a guitar. He yelled, "Does anyone have a knife?" The bus was silent for a second then a woman reached in her purse and took out a butter knife. She handed it to him and he sat down quietly to spread peanut butter on his crakers. But that is another story.

AD: Anything else you want to share?

JK: Come see Previously Secret Information at the StageWerx theater.  

So You Want to Write a One Person Show? Part 1 of 7

So You Want to Write a One Person Show? Part 1 of 7

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.

How to Actually Manifest Your Dream, Part 6 of 7

How to Actually Manifest Your Dream, Part 6 of 7

In the last post, we used different hats to have your inner creator, appreciator, and editor work with you.  Today, it's time to look at the logistics of your project.  Is it an album?  A one-person-show?  We'll take a break from the "inner work" to look at a checklist of possible things you might to do help the world receive your gift more fully. 

Take note that as you come close to fruition, you will be likely to find ways to self-sabotage all the great work you've done so far.  Keep in touch with your daily action partner, and keep posted somewhere the purpose why you're doing this to help stay powerful in the face of obstacles.

The creative part:

  • Is your work "on track?" Have you been spending the right balance of time creating/editing/planning?
  • Have you gotten feedback from people who gave constructive information about your piece without criticism?

The event:

  • Have you sent emails?  Put out a press release?  Sent the info to lists and groups and social networks?
  • Have you created images or video to let people see a preview so they can get exciting about the event?
  • Have you been letting everyone you know and meet how excited you are and how they can participate?
  • Have you asked people to support you by helping at the event?
  • Have you checked on the venue?  Have you checked on the people putting together any external part of your project?
  • Do you have to pay for services?  Let people know about your preferences?  Have someone host or introduce you?  Will other people perform/exhibit/etc at the event?

This is the time to cull all of the work you've done into what feels like a "finished piece".  It's likely that it won't "feel" finished.  Don't worry.  As my friend Brian says, "Better done than good."  You'll always have time to improve upon it or make something even better with all that you've learned from this experience. 

Before you present your material to the public, make sure that you've presented it to a good friend who can give you feedback with enough time to re-vamp anything that needs clarification.

In the final post on actually manifesting your dream, we'll get to the best part: celebration!

"Action that is inspired from aligned thought is joyful action.
Action that is offered from a place of contradicted thought
is hard work that is not satisfying and does not yield good
results. When you really feel like jumping into action, that
is a clear sign that your vibration is pure and you are not
offering contradicting thoughts to your own desire. When you
are having a hard time making yourself do something, or when
the action you offer does not produce the results you are
seeking, it is always because you are offering thoughts in
opposition to your desire."

-Esther Hicks