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 solo writer-performers have said these words a hundred times while writing it, I don't think it's necessary to sit at a table and discover the text. I have to say that on all the pieces that I've worked on, the writing, doing, honing, and developing of it all seem to happen at the same time.
How do you know when the piece is ready? When it has a great beginning, middle, and end, and I'm not falling asleep at any point. I want to be engaged, moved, from moment to moment. If I'm not, then something isn't working yet. Little by little, you bring people in (whose opinion you trust) and you get their input. You can gauge what's working and what's not by just having a couple of smart friends come by and watch the piece.
The wonderful thing is that every time a writer-actor brings you something new, you start fresh. You have a new world to explore. I try to find out how I can go there with them, to illuminate it. I think you really have to be pretty brave to trust the words, let the words do the job.
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