Checklist to Decide Whether Your Monologue Is Ready to Be Performed

Here are some general points to help you decide whether your monologue is complete and ready to be performed. Many of these items have been discussed earlier in the book, but bear repeating at this point Have you told the entire story that you want to tell If you're doing an evening of character monologues, does each one of the individual monologues tell the complete story that you wish to tell Are you satisfied that you have made all the points (arguments) that you set out to make That doesn't...

Natural High

For me, performing my material is a legal high. I did a show at Town Hall New York once that was spectacular. I remember getting off that stage and going, Yes I still see people on the street who say to me, I was at the Town Hall show. And I'll say to them, Well, then, you saw the show. They know exactly what I mean. I felt like I had actually levitated during that show that's how high it made me feel. It's like you do all the hard work, you prepare, and then sometimes, like on that night, it...

Word about Songs Music and Dance in Monologue Plays

Some monologists like to incorporate songs and music and dance into their monologue plays. This is especially true in performance art pieces. If used well, music and dance can certainly enhance written material and showcase an actor's musical ability. I suggest, though, that you only use song and dance if you feel they will add something not already said in your text. They should be thought of as a sort of seasoning, and shouldn't overpower the text (unless that's your specific intention)....

About Autobiographical Monologues

Unlike fictional monologues, autobiographical ones require a somewhat different preparation. Since your life is the main source for the material, you'll need to access pertinent information from your past. Reviewing parts or all of your life for material will not only be informative to you, but can also be a source of inspiration and illumination to your audience. Sometimes the things that we consider to be the most private are in fact quite universal and can be understood by everyone in the...

Advice to Other Actors

Study the work of other solo performers you admire greatly (and even those you don't care to emulate there's plenty to learn from them, too). Watch them work live if you can get video recordings of their plays, films, and interviews read pieces they've performed. I hadn't done much of what I'm advising when I began (in fact, I had only seen Lily Tomlin, Whoopi Goldberg, and Tracey Ullman on TV), but if I had, I would have had a clearer context for my own work, in spite of my lack of formal...

Advice to Writers

For writers everywhere, there is a constant choice to be made regarding those in power and your work. Whether it's a producer or editor or film studio people, you have to decide on what it is you want to say. You must decide how much you're willing to let them influence your choices. I don't mean that there is a constant danger, that these people are out to hurt you. But it is a constant choice to be made. You must decide if what they suggest is helping you to say what you're trying to say. Or...

Another Way to Approach Autobiographical Material by Cheryl King

In my experience both as a writer of my own solo show and as a director working with other solo show writers performers, I occasionally see artists having trouble with the issue of writing about personal traumas and crises. When writing in the first person about these issues, the author performer often comes across as the victim. This stance does not sit well with the audience, nor is it a good approach for any performer who wishes to be a sympathetic character. I often suggest that the writer...

As an Actor Do I Have the Necessary Skills to Create My Own Material

I personally feel that anyone can write, tell stories, create monologues. If you've lived and had experiences, then you have stories like no one else. Your stories are unique, yours and yours alone. How you'll tell your stories is as individual as you are. No one else has lived your life or knows the things that you've seen or felt. The secret to writing autobiographical monologues is learning how to access your private stories, your memories, your point of view, and put them into words. The...

At What Point Should You Have Someone Else Read What Youve Written

Many writers want to get feedback on their monologue as soon as they've finished working on the first draft. Getting it to someone for a response at the right time can be very helpful. But getting it to a reader prematurely can be damaging to your process, your future work on the piece. Once you let others into the stew, so to speak, they become a part of your relationship with your own material. Their input, comments, and suggestions will have an impact on your...

Bonding with the Audience

Very early in my career, about 1986-87, I started to feel a tremendous bond with my audience. It was at that time that I was developing my work only in front of an audience. All my work was unrehearsed, unscripted, live, in front of the audience. I felt that from night to night, whatever stayed in my memory from the show was worth remembering. When I started working with other people, however, they insisted that I write things down for them. That became the difficult part. I'd write for them,...

Bringing the Darkness to Light

My favorite playwright is Eugene O'Neill my favorite poet is Rimbaud. I'm heavily influenced by like poetry and stuff. I loved Rimbaud's process of the disorganization of the senses. I wanted to do that with language. I wanted to attack the senses, and show and delineate the human condition, no matter how dark it is. I want to bring it to a light. And that's what I think that people like Eugene O'Neill and Rimbaud do they show us the darkness, the morbidity of the human condition. Because we...

Career Control Awareness

I started working on a one-man show a bunch of years ago after hearing Bill Maher mentioning something about his fortieth birthday running him down like a Mack truck and feeling like he had to do something to take control of his career. I got started maybe six years ago and wrote a thing or two that made it into this show, but it languished on the hard drives of three different computers for a long time. At that time I thought I was going to do a show about deconstructing one-person shows. Some...

Changing the System

In the show I'm now working on, I'm at a point where I'm just taking notes. This show feels like it will be transitional. I'm making myself write more personal things. I'm working with these blue index cards that are all over my desk. They are notes of interesting phrases or historical things that have occurred. Right now I'm in a process of discovery and serendipity. I make myself work on the material for four or five hours every day. I'll sit around and think about what I want to say, then...

Collaborations

I think that it's great to work with someone. It's a huge help. When the two of you show up, then you have to do something. There is the responsibility to your partner. There were, however, days of staring contests, where nothing happened. It would be terrible. Fortunately, they were rare. Also, working with someone may not be for everyone. It really is a marriage. Another piece of advice You have to connect with the audience. It's imperative in this type of theater. You must feel them and be...

Comparing the Actors and the Writers Processes of Starting

During that first read of a new play, you, the actor, (hopefully) have no preconceived ideas of what your character will be about or how you will go about creating him. It's a very vulnerable, open time in an actor's creative process. It's a time of taking in, reading the script, digesting the information, and then preparing to respond creatively to what you've read. After that initial reading of the play, you have feelings and ideas about the character you are about to take on. Creative juices...

Creating a Freak

The way it started out was that John Leguizamo and I were writing Freak together that's how the process began. John had actually wanted to do more of a stand-up show, as opposed to his previous one-man shows. He wanted to do like a Richard Pryor in concert kind of thing. So at the beginning, we were writing almost stand-up type material. The rehearsal process and the writing process were like one and the same. Actually, even after we opened, we never stopped writing it, tweaking things....

Developing My Process

That came into my process about eight years ago. I work with directors and they'll fish things out of me. I'll be in a persona of a character, and I'll let that persona respond and channel through me into that character. Sometimes things happen in improvisation, and then I'll transcribe it. Then we'll make it into something, give it a structure. The artist as editor will decide what works and what sucks. The director is very important in my process these days. When I...

Developing the Piece

Going back to the beginnings of the piece As I mentioned, Naked Angels was doing Tuesday Nights at Nine, where they would assign a topic each week, like religion or money or family. I realized that for any topic they came up with, I could still write about this experience in my life. It was like my weekly soap opera. I went every week with another chapter of five to ten minutes. I didn't work on it every day. But when I did, it could be a six-hour work session. I sat down and wrote. You have to...

Developing the Piece in Front of an Audience

We never sit and decide, This piece is ready now. What we do is, we get to the point where we arbitrarily decide a time to set it up and put it in front of an audience. We'll put it up at P.S. 122, or at the Knitting Factory or at any space. The criterion is you decide that you have an hour's worth of work that you're ready to have seen. We make it clear to our audience at that time that this is a work in progress. The first workshops are just the embryos. You might see some characters, some...

Developing your monologue

Let's assume at this point that you're satisfied with the opening section of your monologue. Allow yourself to move on, using the outline and opening section as a springboard for new ideas, images, and dialogue. Once again, it's not necessary to always know exactly where you're going to go with the monologue. Now it's really just a matter of trusting your instincts and impulses and allowing them to propel you forward, letting your imagination guide you. At this point, the most important thing...

Developing Your Monologue as a Writer

Similarly, as a writer, this also is a time when you should allow impulses and ideas to lead you. Let yourself be both the leader and the follower. If what you're writing makes you smile or laugh, assume that it's funny, and that an audience will also laugh. If it makes you cry, trust that it will have the same effect on an audience. Don't try to second-guess or manipulate anything. This is also not the time to over-analyze or revise anything you've written so far. It's a time of moving forward...

Developing Your Role as an Actor

This early stage of developing your monologue can be compared to a similar stage in an actor's process. In rehearsal, you start saying the lines in the script to the other actors. One line of dialogue leads to the next you go from action to action. The other actor responds to you, and you respond to him, and so it goes. You know where the play ends, but now you have to explore, to see where your character fits into each scene. At this point in the actor's process, you're not (or shouldn't be)...

Development

Once we did one at Playwrights Horizons, and Andre Bishop invited us to do a reading at a ladies' club. At that reading, we met Sybil Burton. She arranged for us to do full-out productions for two weekends at Bay Street (in Sag Harbor). We did readings at Juilliard (a fundraiser), at nightclubs, wherever. After one reading, in this nightclub, a friend of mine saw it and mentioned it the next day to Jack O'Brien. It was at that nightclub fundraiser that we...

Disclosing the Self

My reason for writing my show was emotionally based. I had been through this jarring experience that was not shared by many people in my age group. I felt like I had a certain amount of isolation that I felt from those involved and attached to the mundanity of their lives. I thought by telling the story of where I had been, this kind of covert war that I felt I had fought, that it might actually breach some of the distance between me and the folks that I used to feel close to. At one point I...

Displaying Your Passion and Your Pain

My advice to your readers is that they must search themselves and find out what they're passionate about. Too many people decide to do one-person shows because they want to get an agent or jump-start a career. You must be brutally honest with yourself. What makes these kinds of shows interesting is the confessional quality they must have. You must be able to discern what is being just indulgent and what is of some interest to an audience. For any artist to be effective, you must be aware that...

Exercises to Help You with Your Solo Show by Cheryl King

We work on what I define as the two main forms of solo show writing direct address (monologues), in which the actor speaks directly to the audience, and enactment, in which the actor plays a scene as one or more characters. Of the seventy exercises I created for the workshop, I have constructed a number that focus on dualism inner forces that drive us to do the things we do. They can be utilized to work from any character's point of view, and they produce both monologues and scenes. Here are...

Fear of Writing

There is always the fear that if you expose yourself in your writing, your audience will sit in judgment of you and your life. That fear is one of the great crosses all writers (and performers) have to bear. One of the secrets to quality writing is to not be too concerned about who you're writing for. It should always be just for yourself. You can never second-guess any audience, so why waste time worrying about the people you're writing for If you honestly find that what you have to say is...

Finding the Drama

John's initial agenda, as I mentioned, was that this was going to be a comedic show. One of my biggest contributions was helping him find the more dramatic levels in his material. Ostensibly, it was an autobiographical show about John, so it was at times like a process of psychoanalysis. There were places that John didn't want to go because they were too painful, and I had to keep pushing him, urging him on. Characters came and went in the developmental process, and that would sometimes be...

Finding the Funny

I think I look to the absurd earlier now. I think I try and find a way to poke fun at this insane world for as long as possible. But I always want to continue to push until it doesn't hold humor any more. It's like doing a production of any good play. There's nothing wrong with finding the humor everywhere you can. The play will tell you when to stop. There will come a time, in everything but comedies, when the play won't hold the humor any more. Macbeth and The Crucible stop being funny more...

First You Talk Then You Write

I must have a person to talk to. I'd been telling the story of 'Joy for a year. Many of the stories in Pretty Fire, I'd been telling around for over a year. At dinner parties, lunches, wherever. When you have a person listening to your stories, you can see his reactions immediately. If he looks confused, you realize you have to clarify. Next time you tell that same story, you won't have that same confused moment. People's emotional reactions are very helpful to me. When...

For Those Actors Who Dont Know What Type of Solo Material They Want to Create

Some actors start off on a project knowing that they want to do a solo show, but they don't know what form or even what subject they'd like to explore. For those of you in this category, perhaps the following material will be of help. Spend some time exploring, researching, opening yourself up to new ideas that may be fodder for your monologue. Take as long as you need for this research a few weeks, months, whatever. You might also want to reread the earlier section in this book on keeping a...

For Those Actors Who Know Which Type Style of Monologue They Want to Create

If at this point you know the form that you want your short monologue or monologue play to take (e.g., character monologue, autobiographical narrative monologue, etc.), then look at the list below. This list can also be of use to those of you who have a specific story that you want to tell in your monologue. The purpose of this outline is to jump-start your thinking about the piece that you'll be working on. It's just an eye opener, a preliminary look at future possibilities. We will be working...

Free Writing An Invaluable Exercise

Free-writing is probably the best way I know to start out on a new project. It can also be helpful in curing that writer's block. Free-writing is a method by which you put your pen to paper and write nonstop for at least ten minutes. It's a method for generating new ideas. With this method, you allow ideas to lead you (rather than the other way around). When it's working well, one idea will ignite another. You'll be amazed at what and how much you have to say. This method is about quantity, not...

George Alexander Stevens the Father of the Monologue

It wasn't until 1764, when George Alexander Stevens wrote Lecture Upon Heads that the monologue as an art form truly came into being. By all accounts, Stevens's monologue ran about two hours. During the monologue he poked fun at many things, but mostly at many of the great statesman of the day. He also lampooned common stereotypes and social behavior. Stevens's shows were a major success and had very long runs (nearly a thousand performances each). Stevens's success opened the floodgates for...

How and Why I Started

When I was in the hospital, just to combat boredom, I asked my father to get me what was then a really early laptop computer. In the first six months of what proved to be a four-year ordeal, I kept a detailed diary of dreams, of what was going on every day, of the treatment, just about everything. These were just notes. The laptop didn't have a printer. It wasn't till years later, when I was working on Six Degrees of Separation, that I went to the offices of Lincoln Center and asked them to...

How I Rehearse

I don't have a set way of working on a piece I hope that I never do. At the first day of work, you just start with the first sentence of the piece and away you go. I personally like to work on a piece in sections. You watch what the actor is doing. And you say, 'You know, when you did that, that was great, let's remember that. It's like having a discussion with someone about the piece. You don't want to go through the whole piece the first day it's too exhausting. Since for the most part, most...

How Well Be Working from Now On

Because we are dealing with so many different types of monologues, I'll mainly be discussing the work in process terms. I'm sure that you'll be able to see where your particular piece fits in as we go along. Since each solo artist progresses at a different pace, I'll discuss the work in small increments. Now that you've done all the preliminary head work thinking, structuring, perking, and planning the only thing that remains is the actual doing, the writing, the creating of your monologue.

Improvising Are You Talkin to Me

Many actors enjoy the freedom of working totally improvisationally. If you've worked as an actor, you know that improvisation is a form of theater where no scripts are used. There are many different ways to approach and set up improvisational situations, from the highly structured to the completely freeform. The really great thing about using your improvisational skills to create a monologue is that in improv, you give your mind permission to go wherever it wants and your mouth permission to...

Individually Tailored Directing

One of my favorite things about one-person shows is that how you work and what the show is comes organically right out of the person who is performing in it. You have to reinvent a way of working each time for the person who is performing it. You have to find a vocabulary and method with each individual person, whereas the director on prewritten plays has a more regulated way of working that generally works all the time. As far as the director's ego gratification, on one extreme end of the...

Its Not about the Money

The important thing for your readers to ask themselves is, What is your purpose in doing a one-person show If it's just for commercial success, you'll find yourself very disappointed, especially after putting all that work into the show. I've seen it happen to a dozen people. You know, I deserve to be here, I paid for my ticket-type situation. When I'm in a university theater situation, say, in Kansas, chances are, my show will be a lot better. I constantly ask people who want to do solo shows,...

Jo bonney

Jo Bonney directed the highly acclaimed premiere of Diana Son's Stop Kiss at the Public Theater in New York. She also directed Danny Hoch's Jails, Hospitals & Hip-Hop at P.S. 122, Philip Ridley's The Fastest Clock in the Universe, and the premiere of Seth Zvi Rosenfeld's The Flatted Fifth at The New Group. She directed Eric Bogosian's Suburbia at the Studio Theatre in Washington, D.C. Karen William's How I Got to Cleveland with Robert Olen Butler's Fairy Tale at P.S. 122 Patrick Breen's...

Journaling and Music

I found that journaling helped me a great deal and that what I wrote in my journals seemed to make its way into my piece. I also do a lot of characters, and I like to play in front of a mirror and see who comes out. I then have the different characters address the theme from their point of view. And of course, all the characters are exaggerated parts of my contradictory self. Another element that is most important to me is music. I like to weave music throughout my...

Keeping My Chops

I believe that if I'd stayed in New York, I'd never 2 have written anything. I was too busy working all the time. When I moved to Los Angeles, I thought I'd be just as busy tackling new stuff. That's not how it worked out, though. I was getting guest spots on TV shows with like three lines or something. And even though I'd be on the set all week, I had a lot more time. Between guest-spot gigs, you might have like two weeks of nothing. And I was so used to working....

Knowing When Its Ready

The way you know when the one-person show is ready is similar to knowing when a regular play is ready. Does it build Are there flat moments Is there redundancy Is it clear When those questions are answered, you get a sense of where the piece is. It's a living thing, like any play. It's going to be a lot different in the third week than the first. If the actor's still trying to solve writing problems in previews, then the he'll never have a chance to be able to expand it, play, and grow.

Knowing When the Monologue Is Ready to Be Performed

Only you will know when your monologue is finished. There are several ways to gauge if it still needs some fine-tuning. First, read it as objectively as you can. You should feel absolutely satisfied that you've accomplished everything that you set out to do. Don't be too easy on yourself at this point. Next, if you have yet to locate a director, find one you would want to work with, and ask for his comments. (See the sections on selecting and working with a director in the next chapter.) Start...

Lists Linkage and Index Cards

Mark and I sat around for days, talking and taking notes. Then we took the book D.V. and indexed it into sections. We whittled it down to our favorite stories. We also had access to audiotapes of her talking, so we also had the advantage of learning how she told a story. We also read other things about her, what other people said, interviews, etc. At first she was hilarious, just that then we began to find her very moving. I found her gallant, no bitchiness about her, not interested in going on...

Living It Breathing It

In the workshop production I read the play off the page. When I'm in an actual production, I have the piece in my soul. Ideally, by the last performance of a run I'm living and breathing every minute of it. I let it take me on a ride. Early on in workshop and early previews, you can't expect to be taken on a ride. It feels strange and it can sometimes be difficult. All through previews, I'm constantly changing it. You just have to roll with it through those tough times. The way it finally...

Making Repairs Rewriting

Successful monologue writing (actually, all writing) relies heavily on rewriting. That first inspired batch of material may feel complete, but always be ready and willing, at any time, to revise, rewrite, perfect. That's not to say that sometimes you can't get it right that first time out. That does happen, but generally, most writers, playwrights, and performance artists I've spoken to think of their early work, that first draft, as fodder, raw material. You should look forward to chiseling...

Marcia jean kurtz

Marcia Jean Kurtz directed the critically acclaimed productions Time on Fire by Evan Handler at Second Stage and Uncle Philip's Coat by Matty Selman starring Larry Block at HB Playwrights Theater and the American Jewish Theatre. As an actress, Ms. Kurtz received an Obie for her performance in Donald Margulies's The Loman Family Picnic at the Manhattan Theatre Club and an Obie and Drama Desk nomination for her performance in Martin Sherman's When She Danced at Playwrights Horizons. Ms. Kurtz was...

Marketing your solo show

Only you can decide when your monologues are ready for public performances. (See A Checklist to Decide Whether Your Monologue Is Ready to Be Performed in chapter 13.) If you live in a city that has a small theater where solo material is performed, contact the theater staff and see if they'll allow you to perform and further develop your piece in front of an audience. Sometimes theaters allow this on their dark nights. Generally, actors are required to do their own publicity and provide an...

Mary louise wilson

Mary Louise Wilson's one-woman show, Full Gallop, was performed at the Bay Street Theatre, the Manhattan Theatre Club, at the Westside Arts Theater off-Broadway, and in London. On Broadway, she has appeared in Showboat (Harold Prince, director), Prelude to a Kiss (Norman Rene, director), Neil Simon's Fools (Mike Nichols, director), Alice in Wonderland (Eva LaGallienne, director), The Philadelphia Story (Ellis Rabb, director), Gypsy (Arthur Laurents, director), and The Royal Family....

Mixed Media

To visually enhance their performances, many monologists use slide projections, artwork, and so on, as an aid in expressing what they're trying to say. If using visuals is something that you wish to explore in your work, fine. Just one word of caution Be careful don't overdo. Always keep in mind that you're just one person alone on a stage performing. The more visuals you use, the more the audience's focus will be divided. If that's your intention, then go ahead. But in general, in monologue...

My Advice to Actor Writers

For actors who want to write their own shows, the only advice I have is, think hard and long about the story you want to tell. Spend a lot of time on the written part of it. I know that a lot of actors like to work out of improv. If that's the case, you still have to develop your story it's just a different methodology. You need someone with you whose eye you trust. It doesn't have to be a director just someone who can help clarify the story, the through-line, or the structure. Break the piece...

My Agenda

I wanted to show what existed behind the elegant fa ade of major institutions. I particularly wanted to expose Sloane-Kettering Institute, which was relying on a reputation it had earned three decades earlier. The point was, most people don't know what many of these institutes are like on the inside, unless they've been there. There is no Zagat Guide for hospitals or doctors. I also wanted to show people that there was more than one way to go through the...

My Unconventional Route

Looking back, I realize my unconventional, almost accidental route to performance helped engender in me a kind of fearlessness. To perform work that had not been vetted by anyone, had not been honed through techniques learned in any writing course or acting school, had never even read aloud except in front of my bedroom mirror, seems pretty insane to me now. But my total lack of experience meant I had few expectations and little sense of the risks of performing untested material or improvising...

Nothing a Whole Lot of Nothing

And if all else fails and you find yourself sitting with writer's block, enjoy it. There's absolutely nothing wrong with just staring at the ceiling for a while. Yes, you read correctly. Stare at the ceiling, or perhaps move those books around on the bookshelf (for the twelfth time), or give in to any slight diversion from doing your work. Meander, let your mind go, mentally wander. Yes, go ahead and avoid writing. Let yourself off the hook, obligation-wise. While sitting there, perhaps feeling...

Passion

As I go over my answers to the previous questions, I am stuck with an awareness that I have a passion for the material. Ergo, my advice would be to have a passion for the material. This is not always totally true when writing plays. With a play, I might really love a character, or an event, or a psychological reality that I think I'm beginning to understand. But when it's going to be me, alone, on stage, speaking my words, in the character of me remember, I'm not talking about character-driven...

Penny arcade

fPenny Arcade debuted at the age of seventeen with Johnny Vaccaro's explosive Playhouse of the oRidiculous. She was a teenage superstar for Andy gWarhol's factory, featured in the Morrissey Warhol film Women in Revolt. She has worked with many of the greats of American experimental theater, including Jack Smith, Jackie Curtis, Charles Ludlam, H.M. Koutoukas, and Tom O'Horgan, among others. She began her solo work in 1982. Some of her shows include While You Were Out (P.S. 122), A Quiet Evening...

Performance Making

I suck up inspiration wherever I can When I was a nineteen-year-old starting to make work in New York City, my primary influences were Allen Ginsberg, Walt Whitman, Vladimir Mayakovsky, and feminist performance art practice that was bringing personal life into creative work in such a direct way. Those sources all were trying to figure out the relation of self to society, and they continue to embolden and challenge me. Those sources were on fire within < me and fueled my crazed, Artaudian...

Performing the First Draft as a Work in Progress for an Audience

Some monologists prefer to develop material in front of an audience early on. After the first draft or two, they begin performing it for small groups as a work in progress, making their revisions based on the audiences' nightly responses to their work. The audience may be a few friends in a living room or a paying audience in a small club or theater. Letting the audience know in advance that this is a still work in progress lowers the audience's level of expectation. Some audiences enjoy seeing...

Performing the First Draft for a Director

As to whether you should perform the first draft of your monologue for a director for feedback, again, that's your call. If it's the director whom you've selected to direct your play, it can certainly be helpful to have him included early on in the process. (See Selecting a Director in chapter 14.) As I have previously mentioned, quite often one of the functions of directors of solo shows is that of dramaturge. It's also an opportunity for you both to see how comfortable you feel working with...

Performing the Piece

Deciding when the monologue is ready to be performed is a decision that you and your director should make together. The director can give you a sense of how it looks out there to an audience. And you can let him know how it feels to you, from inside. At this point, many actors are dealing with their nerves and insecurities. Having a director reassure you that the piece is ready can be very helpful at this last phase. The show will continue to grow after you begin to perform it. Every audience...

Perking with an Idea

Perhaps you've had an idea for a piece and don't yet know how you want to express it. Sometimes it's better not to do anything for a while -just let it perk. Many artists talk about an initial gestation period before they do any actual work on a new piece. This is very different from using delay tactics to avoid work. By letting an idea perk, you're trusting that your subconscious mind will collect the necessary information for you. Like little elves in the night, the subconscious instinctively...

Pluses and Minuses Assessing Specifically Where You Are

It's helpful here at the start to know the type of solo work you're interested in working on. It may be that the material you are thinking about seems to require a specific presentational style, or it may be that you, as a performer, want to explore a particular form. Either way, you now need to determine whether you have the necessary skills to create the work ahead of you. If you're planning on doing multiple character monologues, do you feel capable of creating and playing a range of...

Politics Elections and the News

When it's political and it's just before an election and the election has torn a rift in the country so wide, we Blue State people couldn't even recognize our Red State brothers and sisters, the topical nature of what I'm talking about can really bite you in the ass. If Bush or Cheney said something particularly galling, it had to go in. If Kerry couldn't make a point about whatever he was trying to make a point about that day, it has to get dropped in. The Democratic National Convention...

Preparing Your Marketing Package

Your solo-show package should consist of The manuscript of your play A videotape of you performing it (if possible) A synopsis of your monologue These are only to be sent to theaters, agents, or organizations that accept unsolicited material or that have requested that you send them your material. Do not send this package unsolicited to anyone else You'll be wasting your time and money. The monologue should be neatly typed on white 8.5 x 11 paper. The manuscript should have one and a half...

Processless Process

I'm not sure when a piece is really ready until I just know. It's something that I feel inside. And that feeling can sometimes occur a month into the show. It's just a gut feeling that it's now happening, really happening. My process changes all the time. It still starts off initially with my having an idea something will haunt me. You might say my process is, I don't have a specific process. It really depends on where I am in my life and all that stuff. I only know that when I'm working, I...

Pushing the Envelope

I started out over fifteen years ago in San Francisco. I was taken to this bisexual bathhouse. There was a striptease contest going on there, and my friend dared me to enter it. I did and won the prize. I saw that they did massage in this place. I was like nineteen years old, and so I lied to the owner of the place and told him I was older and that I did massage. So I started working at this bathhouse and started doing shows there. These were crazy, striptease, performance-art kind of shows....

Questions Every Monologue Must Answer

Since monologues are stories, they must be held accountable for the basic ingredients that are true of any story. Answering the following questions in your monologue will give it detail, depth, and texture. Also, the more information you, the writer, have about what you're creating, the richer your work can be. I'm not suggesting writing information out in some factual way, but rather, being able to creatively reveal important information to your audience within the dialogue or narrative. I'm...

Questions to Ask Yourself before Starting Work on a Solo Show

Am I really committed to doing this Am I willing to work on this for however long it takes I realize that I'll be alone on stage for each performance. Can I handle that responsibility and pressure Do I believe that I have the talent to keep an audience entertained for q up to two hours If I chose to use my own experience as the basis for the show, what do I want to share with the audience Are there painful or funny stories from my life that I want to reveal to the world If I'm planning on...

Recommended books

The Perfect Audition Monologue. Lyme, NH Smith and Kraus, 2003. Alterman, Glenn. Two Minutes and Under. Lyme, NH Smith and Kraus, 1993. Alterman, Glenn. Two Minutes and Under, Volume 3. Lyme, NH Smith and Kraus, 2004. Beard, Jocelyn. The Ultimate Audition Book, 222 Monologues 2 Minutes and Under. Lyme, NH Smith and Kraus, 1997. Friedman, Ginger Howard. The Perfect Monologue How to Find and Perform the Monologue That Will Get You the Part, Pompton Plains, NJ Limelight Editions,...

Rehearsal

The way I rehearse is, I enter the room, the director's there, and I stand up and just start reading what I wrote, just like that. It's usually kind of not happening at that moment. It feels stilted. I change the words as I talk in rehearsal. Then I start moving around, writing down the changes. The director will remember the stuff that you came up with. The script is just an outline with the main points. Sometimes I go off to a whole other thing that I'm reminded of, and then that new thing...

Rehearsals

I rehearsed mostly at home by myself. My director would come and give me notes, and then I would go off and practice by myself. My director was with < me from the first ten minutes of the piece. Whenever I had a new chunk of material, I would read it to him, and he would give his feedback. He was extremely positive and encouraging and was fantastic about helping me edit the material. He also was super organized. I would have my script written on scraps of paper and scribbled writing, and he...

Rehearsals and Rewrites

The way we rehearsed was, I would just start reading the piece. And she would say, like, I don't get this, or, what about this Or, why am I hearing this Or, you're using too many words. So I started to realize that saying something four different times, no matter how cleverly, is not valuable. It's better to pick the most clever of the four and get rid of the rest. This is really about being concise and succinct. I discovered that I was willing to be a ruthless editor of my own stuff. Marcia...

Rehearsing in Front of the Audience

I hadn't really thought about it before exposing the work to audiences, and fortunately their responses were encouraging enough that I didn't worry too much about my readiness or lack thereof. However, in retrospect, I don't know if I'd be writing and performing today if I'd waited until I was ready by my own standards, or anyone else's, for that matter. My rigorous rehearsal regimen consisted of performances in front of audiences. The concept of performing full-time, just being in the theater,...

Revising and Reshaping

One of the most important aspects of the rewriting process is revising and reshaping your text. The more you understand what you've written, and more specifically, what you're trying to say (at any given moment), the more you'll know precisely what needs editing or further developing. The first stage of revising is similar to cleaning out your closet. As you look through it, you realize that some things are unnecessary and can be thrown out. Eventually new clothes will be bought and added to...

Rewriting

The way I rewrite is by doing the next performance. So, in a sense, I get paid to rewrite. I tape each performance for sometimes up to thirty shows. Each tape is new and helpful, filled with insights. I think better in front of an audience. Between the first show and the thirtieth show, I believe the detail of the story changes, as does the structure. As the shows progress, I get more cinematographic and do quicker cuts. I have a photographic memory, and at the beginning I tend to remember too...

Ruth Draper Perfects the Monologue

Perhaps one of the most famous monologists of all time was Ruth Draper. Draper, an actress, performed many of her one-woman shows during the 1920s, 1930s, and 1940s. Her first show of monos, as she called them, was performed in England in 1920. The two-hour-long evening was composed of an assortment of well-developed characters created totally from her imagination. From the very beginning, the critics raved about her work as a monologist. She spoke many languages and performed her monologues...

Samuel Foote Creates the One Person Show

Foote wrote The Rehearsal, a burlesque, in which he mimicked some of the political figures and well-known actors of the day. The Rehearsal was an extremely popular theatrical piece. In April of 1747, Foote opened a new play, The Diversions of the Morning. I should mention that originally, Foote's shows were not totally solo. There were other actors on the stage with him. But it was his solo work as a mimic that audiences enjoyed most. Foote continued his...

Selecting a Director

Finding the right director for your piece can be very difficult. Here are some things to consider before committing yourself and your monologue to a particular director. Many monologists find their directors through recommendations from other actors who have worked with those directors. Another way to select a director is by seeing his work, especially if it's a one-person show. If he has a play in town, try to catch a performance. If you like what you see, give him a call and set up a meeting....

Selecting the Right Person to Read Your Monologue

Deciding whom you ask to read your manuscript is very important. You should trust and respect the opinion of the person you're asking to read your material. You should feel that he can intelligently articulate any problems that he sees in your text. It's a very vulnerable time for you as the writer of the script. You need to make sure that the person you've asked to criticize your piece is someone who will be honest with you, but also supportive. And always remember, no matter whom you choose,...

Self Censoring

About self-censoring, sometimes it's intuitive and not even conscious. You have to always look at Why am I saying something What's the real reason I always hold myself up to an audience. I'm braver in front of an audience, more honest. Quentin Crisp said a very funny thing. He said, At a certain point, I had to decide how much I was putting on to please myself and how much I was putting on to annoy my mother. One thing that I learned from Steve Zehenter was that by tightening up certain areas,...

Self Doubts

I can't think of an occasion where I have ever felt inclined to censor myself in my writing, but I sure have had lots of doubts in my actual performance. I continue to deal with self-doubts before, after, and during the performance. I've found that meditation and acknowledging my fears are the most helpful ways of dealing with performance anxiety. I can tell you that coming to New York City and opening off-Broadway was the scariest thing I've ever done. I had been working the graveyard shift at...

Shows

Artist Colonies Where You Can Develop Your Solo Show B. Theaters That Accept Solo Material D. Playwriting Competitions That Accept Solo Material I wish to thank Kathleen Russo (Washington Square Arts), Seth Gordon, Abigail McGrath, Doug Barron (Plaza Desk Top Publishing), Andre DeShields, David Pace, Greg Phillips (CSTAR Creative Stage Artists Management), Eleanor Speert, and Nicole Potter-Talling.

Some Advice for Actors

Find a writer's group and put your material up weekly. When you have a solid ten-minute chunk, go to an open-mike night and perform it in front of a live audience. Whenever I could get stage time, I would. It wouldn't matter if it was in some dive or a friend's salon -just get the material out and do it. These were the general questions that I asked of all the directors that I interviewed. Some additional questions were asked depending on the What drew you to directing the first one-person show...

Some People

My next show, Some People, evolved a lot because I toured with it and did it so often. It was constantly changing. For instance, there was one character whose dialogue had completely changed from when I first did him, totally I mean, he was talking about totally different things because time had changed. By the time I got to the Public Theater I was writing things down, because I was working with a director, Jo Bonney. She forced me to write down everything I was saying. Initially, I was very...

Spalding gray

Spalding Gray created fifteen monologues that were performed throughout the United States, Europe, and Australia, including Sex and Death to the Age 14 Booze, Cars and College Girls A Personal History of the American Theater India and After (America) Monster in a Box Gray's Anatomy and Swimming to Cambodia. Appearances on Broadway and off-Broadway include the portrayal of the Stage Manager in Our Town, directed by Gregory Mosher, and the Performance Group's New York premiere of Sam Shepard's...

Starting in StandUp

My material is topical and occasional. What I mean by occasional is that it's for different occasions. I write a lot of political stuff. Generally, the political material is at the beginning of each routine. It usually changes with almost every show. I started out in 1981. I was doing these readings with this women's writing group I was in. I would intentionally go for laughs to help with the maudlin aspect of some of the heavy stuff a lot of these ladies were writing. At that same time, I had...

Starting Out Being

I have made about twenty full-evening solo performances over the last twenty years. When I arrived in New York City as a nineteen-year-old queer performer, I felt that if I wanted to see a fierce and lively queer performance and thriving theater, I would just need to make it myself. I believe my mission should I decide to accept it as an artist and a gay man is to give witness to this challenging time, to live out loud and give that voice to my community. When I was practically still a kid, I...

Table Work and Physical Life

Both pieces would have like a weaving in and out of rehearsing, followed by dramaturgical table work. We'd rehearse for about an hour and then we'd take a break back at the table, where we'd edit down and reorganize. The way we rehearsed was, the actresses would get up and work on the text. There'd be some blocking, some physical stage work. They both worked on a set of some kind. We'd figure out what the physical life was and how the pacing would go. We'd work on how we were defining the...

Taking Mini Breaks Breathers

Write or improvise for as long as your energy and stamina hold up. Some monologists can only work for about twenty or thirty minutes before they feel they need a break. Others can work for many hours nonstop. You'll know instinctively when it's time for you to break. While working on material, occasionally you go through dry patches, or what seems like a temporary stop in the creative flow. It feels like you've run out of ideas. This is generally one of those times to take a breather. Relax,...

Taking the Audience on a Journey

I love performing The full buzz of the audience connecting with the humor, politics, and erotics in my performances. I trust humor a lot to make this connection with the audience happen. To be queer or a queer artist in America means that your identity and sexuality is constantly under the microscope (on a good day) or under attack (on a bad day). My recent shows about the battle over gay marriage are simultaneously my most personal pieces and my most political my funniest shows and the most...

Talking about Whatever I Want

For the most part, as in playwriting, I just let the character in this case, me talk about whatever I wanted. I knew it was political. I knew I still z wanted to hang it all on that first deconstructed idea. I knew I was writing to the last slam poem 'Just Say No. With all that in place, it's easy to let yourself alone and explore freely, because, at least sub-consciously, you're S exploring all the themes and goals you'd like to explore, without that 2 obsessive need to make everything...

Talking to People

My first show was never actually written down. My agent in England had taken a theater behind a public house in Islington. In those days there were opening hours that is to say, from about half past eleven in the morning until half past one or two in the afternoon. And then they shut up for a few hours. Well, my agent took a room behind the public house in order to put on a show for one of his clients. But he didn't want to waste the lunchtime hours. The stage was small and there was a flimsy...

Techniques for Dealing with Writers Block

Some writers say that just writing anything, even copying a page word for word out of a book or magazine, is one way that they get back into the groove of writing. Some monologists will go see another monologist's or playwright's work. They say that just being in a theater and seeing good material can be quite inspiring. Keeping a pad around to jot down a thought or line of dialogue can also be a helpful aid during writer's block. One strong thought or image or some great line of dialogue can...

That Old Devil the Self Censor

One interfering monster you may come up against is the self-censor. The self-censor is that judging, criticizing spoiler inside our heads who stops the rhythm of what we're doing by making negative comments. It happens at different times to all artists. There is no way to avoid it it comes with the territory. Some writers have the ability to ignore it others are temporarily stymied by it. How you learn to deal with your own self-judging and self-criticizing is a valuable part of your creative...

The Arc of a Show

Within six months of that first show, my shows were running ninety minutes. My material is arranged like a newspaper. I always start out with a kind of welcome in the beginning. I next locate where we are, a comment on the hall itself. I like to spy on the crowd as they're coming in. I'll talk about them. It's a way of locating us. After that, I discuss the news of the day, front page. There's sports, there's media, culture comments, editorials, science news, etc. Because I wasn't performing in...

The Dance of Dialogue

I'm always testing out my stories on the people that I live with because I'm a storyteller. I'll start talking at the end of the day, incessantly. I make outline journals in my head of, say, some thing or things that happened yesterday. And then I'll tell the stories to Kathy (the woman I live with), or my therapist, or whomever. I'll say certain keywords that remind me of the event. At some point in my process of developing a piece, I'll call in what I call a creative consultant, to help...

The Difference Between a Regular Play and a Solo Play

Dramaturgically, I don't think there is that much difference between a one-person play and a multi-character play. Both still need structure. One of the pitfalls authors of one-person shows have is that their stuff is not always in dramatic form it's too narrative and expositional. To make things dramatic, you have to place things in the present tense. You have to look for conflict. Since there are just the two of you in development of a one-person show, the actor has to trust you. In a play,...

The First Performance and the Aftermath

There was a day we were inviting the first audience, and we opened with what we had. Fortunately, it was ready enough. Well, the first time was like a long march to the gas chamber. There is a particular terror that is only available to solo performers who write their own material. What is there to hide behind I can't blame the playwright for the material, I'm the playwright. I can't blame the actor for screwing up my play, I'm the actor. The sensation of drowning doesn't go away until walking...