The archive and solo performance

The point is to share the stories conveyed by the solo performers. Aye, but there’s the rub. Solo performances are ephemeral; perhaps even more than the multi-act play. They live in the body of the performer during the moment of performance and then they are done, only occasionally revived or performed by others. Yes, there are some records of the performances, but it is mighty hard to gather that evidence all together in written or even video or audio form. Recently, I spent some time at the NYPL Performing Arts Library which has done an amazing job of amassing archival material for all kinds of live theater, dance and music productions which otherwise would be lost. While there, I learned that there were newspaper clippings reviewing or interviewing most of the solo performers I had seen and that there were also New York reviews of the productions. Although some of the solo performers I have seen like Monica Hunken, Bryan Burrough, Christine Renee Miller and Lucie Pohl were not included in any of the archives which means their presence only exists in the memories of the performers and audience members. But, yes, thanks to the indispensable TOFT archive also at the NYPL Performing Arts Library, you can see a few performances, including Anna Deavere Smith in her most recent 2017 Notes from the Field or Mike Daisey in his 2011 The Agony and Ecstasy of Steve Jobs, or Staceyann Chin in her first solo performance Border/Clash in 2005. And, yes there is evidence outside of the Library’s archives since some of the performers have videotapes of their performances that you can purchase, such as Tim Miller, or audio files that you can download like Mike Daisey, or brief trailer clips that are available on YouTube (and there are quite a few of these).  And, yes, there are published versions of some of the texts. But to my mind, more should be done to enrich the archives of these solo performances. Professional New York-area critics’ reviews and a video or audio file here and there are wholly inadequate to the task of memorializing the aggregate work of solo performers in the 21st century.

One thought on “The archive and solo performance

  1. Reblogged this on Kara Jorgensen and commented:
    My favorite professor and mentor has created a blog about solo performances in drama. It’s incredibly interesting, informative as well as introspective.


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