Taking stock

It is the last week of classes in the semester which means that my sabbatical is winding down as well. It feels like this is as good a time as any to take stock. The first thing to reflect on is just how many solo performances I have been able to attend since the month of September. The end count is sixteen performances (if you count my own) over the past three and a half months. As the photo of the binders organizing the playbills for every solo performance (you should see how many binders I have for regular play and musical playbills!) I have seen in the past 17 years (80+ solo shows) hopefully suggests, it isn’t as if there haven’t been multiple solo performances each theater season. But if I had attended 16 solo performances a season, I would have many more binders to squeeze into that photo. Part of the reason I have been able to see so many solo performances this season is because of my sabbatical. Another part of the reason is that solo performance shows are still relatively inexpensive (thanks especially to venues like Dixon Place, Soho Playhouse, Irish Rep, 59 E. 59, Rattlestick Theater, and Vineyard Theater) so when a show is in the 30 dollar range, I’m more than willing to take a chance on it. While these factors are certainly significant, I can’t help but feel that the key factor is that there’s a real hunger out there to create, tell and hear the stories that aren’t getting told and to do so in a way that ignites the performer/audience relationship.

The list of solo performances that I have seen between September and December 2017 appears below. I agonized a minute or two over what order I should list them. In the order that I viewed them? By theater? By how much I liked or was wowed by them? From cheapest to most expensive? By gender (and miraculously it is half men and half women)? I finally went with the ho-hum alphabetical order by performer/author thinking that it is, perhaps, a semi-neutral system of organization. The list includes performer, title of show, theater, degree to which I have discussed them in blog posts, and, if I haven’t discussed them, a few words characterizing them or telling me to discuss them in the near future:

David Cale’s Harry Clarke starring Billy Crudup at Vineyard Theater (to be discussed)

Jos Houben, The Art of Laughter at TFANA (Part of a double bill Marcel (featuring Marcello Magni)/The Art of Laughter). Mentioned in 12/6/17 post and I would just add that I thought it was terrific. It was a seminar-style presentation in which Houben spoke to his audience about how to make people laugh and invited audience participation when he selected someone to be a straight man to his clown

Gabriel Kahane, 8980: Book of Travelers at BAM Harvey Theater (discussed in 12/5/17 post)

Soomi Kim, My Little China Girl at Dixon Place (referenced in 12/2/17 post)

John Leguizamo, Latin History for Morons on Broadway (to be discussed)

John McDonagh, Off the Meter/On the Record at Irish Rep. McDonagh is a long-time NYC-area cab driver who hosts a radio show on WBAI. The performance was funny, smart, illuminating and a bit of a Valentine to a NYC that is quickly vanishing. His set in the tiny, tiny downstairs space at Irish Rep also included the front half of an actual yellow taxi cab!

Tim Miller, Rooted at Dixon Place (discussed in 11/17/17 post and more than likely to be discussed again)

Michael Moore, The Terms of My Surrender on Broadway (discussed in 11/19/17 post)

Alan Nashman, Kafka and Son, Fringe Encore Series at Soho Playhouse (to be discussed)

Diana Oh, {My Lingerie Project} at Rattlestick Theater (discussed in 11/17/17 post)

Phina Oruche, Identity Crisis, Fringe Encore Series at Soho Playhouse (a model/actress telling her story of what it’s like to be a woman of color in the modeling and acting worlds)

Liza Jessie Peterson, The Peculiar Patriot, National Black Theater (discussed in 11/17/17 post)

Reno, Ignorance Is No Excuse at Dixon Place (discussed in 12/5/17 post)

Shell Shock, Fringe Encore Series at Soho Playhouse (originally written for a male Iraq war veteran but performed in this instance by a woman, Emma Zadow. I am listing it by title since the performer varies)

Noni Stapleton, Charolais at 59 E. 59 produced by Ireland’s Fishamble:The New Play Company (see 11/13/17 post)

My own solo performance as part of Body Maps at Dixon Place

Does this mean there’s no more to be done with the solo performance form? Absolutely not because there are several solo performances to look forward to in the Spring season including: a chance to finally see Robbie McCauley who is a key, key, key figure in the shaping of the solo performance form and whom I’ve never, as yet, had the opportunity to see. In fact, I already have my ticket to McCauley’s performance of Sugar as well as to Dael Orlandersmith’s newest work at Rattlestick Theater. And, if I can get myself to the Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis in early March, something I am sorely tempted to do, Mike Daisey is premiering his A People’s History (inspired by Howard Zinn’s People’s History and Zinn is another hero of mine and I am dying to see what Daisey does with People’s History).   I know more solo performances will crop up and indeed even as I type this out, I am remembering that John Lithgow is returning to Broadway in the very near future with his solo show (a show which takes the more traditional form of personality reading excerpts from beloved authors). So, no, my work with the solo performance form is not done.

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