Thursday, July 15, 2010

Launching a Solo Performance Festival

Well, the time has come for me to produce the first Santa Fe Solo Performance Festival. 4 days this December...Wow. This is a culmination of a dream...and the beginning of a new dream. For years I have said that my mission is to make Santa Fe the Performance Capital of the World..San Francisco may laugh at me. NYC may shake their heads in pity and Edinburough may not have even heard of Santa Fe..but mark my words...they will! All in good time.

I don't simply want to produce shows here in quantity, but in quality. And, continue to explore ways that monologues can serve a greater purpose for healing on the planet. I intend to continue to facilitate and train others in working as solo performance coaches, directors and performers in their communities and the world at large.

Additionally, I want to engage with more mainstream organizations such as cancer centers, hospitals, woman's and children's organizations, organizations dealing with peacemaking as well as those on the front lines of trauma. In my experience with all of these populations, writing and performing one's story in an authentic and engaging way can be one of the most empowering, life changing experiences for audience and performer alike.

This rocks the foundations of the world. It is shaman's work, therapist's work, artist's work, human's work.

Inviting others in from all over the globe creates an energy and sets a stage for us to ground the work here in Santa Fe...and let it lead itself wherever it can serve.

Sure hope you will be here with us participating in the festival and beyond! All love, Tanya
website coming soon!

Sunday, June 20, 2010

I worked on 18 shows last year!

I worked on 18 solo shows in 2009!
2009 One Person Shows in Conjunction with Project Life StoriesI worked with 18 people on their solo shows in 2009 (whew!) Some came out of a year long solo performance class with me, some flew in for script consultation from out of state and with a few people we created the scripts one on one from the ground up. Some were re-writes of previously performed work. They are all amazingly heroic people, some seasoned professional actors, some first time performers......all dreamers, visionaries and creators offering their lives in service to this great art-form of solo performance. Some notable shows that I worked on were: "Maternal Dreamer", written and performed by Ramona King, directed by Tanya Taylor Rubinstein, performed in Santa Fe (at Wise Fool) and in Albuquerque at South Broadway Cultural Center and at the New Mexico Conference on Domestic Violence," MobiusTrip" written and performed by Linda Durham at the Railyard performance space in Santa Fe, developed with and directed by Tanya Taylor Rubinstein "Even if the Mountains Burn", written and performed by James Koskinas at the Railyard Performance Space in Santa Fe and The Filling Station in Albuquerque "Other Arrangements" written and performed by Maida Rogerson, developed with and directed by Tanya Taylor Rubinstein, performed at Santa Fe Center for Spiritual Living and on Prince Edward Island, Canada "Swimming With the Polar Bears," written and performed by Mel England, directed by Jill Andre, dramaturge; Tanya Taylor Rubinstein, performed Off Broadway at the Bleeker Street Playhouse and in Copenhagen at the first International Conference on Climate Change,"Digging Up Dad," written and performed by Cris D'Annunzio at the Ruskin Theater Group in Los Angeles, script consulting with Tanya Taylor Rubinstein," BURST", written and performed by Shannon deJong, developed with and directed by Tanya Taylor Rubinstein, performed at the Railyard Performance Space in Santa Fe and in Phoenix and "Sole Survivors" written and performed by Michelle Vest, in 2008 and 2009 it had two runs in NYC at Stage Left Theater, performed at Armory for the Arts in Santa Fe and South Broadway Cultural Center in Alb.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Material for a One Person Show

This year, I have worked with many actors and other creative people developing their one person shows for performance.

One of the stories was about a man who grew up with a small time Mafioso for a father and the mystery that surrounded his death. One was a woman who interviewed a friend who had a stroke and created her character based on her friend’s experience. One was a Vietnam Veteran who went back forty years to create his show which was ultimately as much a coming of age story as a story about war. Another is of a woman who was given up to a foster family....there was domestic abuse and mental illness throughout her lineage and she used her story and the story of her ancestors as the basis for her show....Michelle, a former student, based her show on an interview she did with a Mexican housekeeper. I had given her solo performance class an assignment to interview someone who they knew as an acquaintance and find out about their life. They were to turn the interview into a monologue and embody the character for the class. Michelle embodied her character, Rosa to a tee...chomping away on a breakfast burrito and telling us the intimate and heartbreaking story of a woman who had left her life and child inMexico to reach for a better life across the border. She spoke of almost dying in the desert and having to take water from the bag of a dead man....This interview with a woman who knew uncovered a powerful story and unearthed an unspoken story in our culture. Who are these new immigrants who work in our kitchens and in the back of restaurants and live among us? This powerful uncovering set Michelle on a journey of interviewing others who had crossed the border into this country, some legally and some illegally to share, in her show, the contemporary immigrants journey..

So where is your show hiding? Where is your material? I would say, it’s in plain site. Look a little closer at your own life, your own stories, the people who live among you. There are stories everywhere, waiting to be told. Waiting for you to tell them… Pay attention today to your life. It's where your themes, topics, passions, dramas, possibilities already exist.

Facilitating Group Monologue Shows

I had written and performed three solo shows when I decided to offer a workshop for woman who wanted to write and perform 10 minute mini-solo shows. From there I began to develop curriculum to offer to people living with cancer, both patients, and their family members. After the Cancer Monologues I realized that this process was actually Universal. Every person has a story. No one escapes the experience of humanity which brings with it pain, loss, grief as well as opportunities to meet the challenges and overcome the obstacles. In this human movement of being presented with a challenge and meeting it fully, we come to be more and more comfortable with the process of living. We learn to embrace the present moment more fully, slow down and savor the moments of our life and trust that all will be well, no matter what obstacle we are facing either internally or externally. We come to know that there is something bigger than any challenge we are faced with. That is the human spirit. We move from the human obstacle into an awareness of the larger playground of Soul. When we claim the gifts held in the realm of Soul we are able to re-frame our experience as a necessary movement away from the temporal to the unmoving, unchanging domain of the eternal. Our stories have deep meaning as we examine them and share them through this lens. This is where we are able to see ourselves and the pain and gifts from our lives as compost to claim ourselves as Hero’s headed home “trailing clouds of glory from which we came”. The process, as a Universal one has been used effectively with people living with cancer, Hospice caregivers, The HIV and AIDS community, veterans suffering from PTSD, Palestinian and Israel communities of teen-agers who live in fear and have experienced varying degrees of trauma, people experiencing divorce, new mothers sharing their birth stories, mothers who experienced the death of a child, people who have been adopted, members of the National Alliance of Mental Illness…both those suffering mental illness and family members, sexual abuse survivors. The only necessary component for the process to work is for the participants stay through the entire experience and work with-in the structure. There are important reasons for the structure and the way it is laid out from start to finish. There are tools for the facilitators to utilize for participants experiencing resistance. We will get into these later because resistance will arise for some people as they write about their often painful or traumatic experiences. It is actually very important that they be led through the entire process with the necessary facilitator support once it is embarked upon. Otherwise, it has the potential to do harm which must be avoided at all cost. If the deeper issues get activated in the writing without the experience of re-framing that happens when one shares the monologue onstage, it can be psychologically damaging. The facilitator needs to have strong boundaries and inner strength to guide people through even when their resistance or even anger arises and gets projected onto the facilitator.

Backstage Magazine Article

This article was published in "Backstage" moi!

How You Can Express Essence through Writing and Performing a One Person Show

By: Tanya Taylor Rubinstein

Every actor has a secret dream……as do many non-actors who have creative souls. The secret dream is to write and perform a one person show.

Why do so many creative people have this dream yet relatively few act upon it? Perhaps because they are asking themselves these questions:

How can I get started? How can I bring out the most essential stories and characters that I want to express in an interesting and theatrical way? How will I find the courage to break the fourth wall and speak to the audience intimately and authentically? I’m not a writer; how can I turn my life stories into a viable script? I’m not a producer; how will I get people in the seats to see my show?

These are the questions that I have been exploring for the past 25 years. Trained as an actor at Carnegie Mellon University,Emerson College and HB Studios in NYC, I have devoted my professional life to the inner and outer aspects of one person shows and monologues. I have explored them from every possible angle; as an actor, director, producer, and facilitator for other performers. I have been involved in a primary role (performer, director, producer and facilitator) in over sixty solo and monologue shows in theaters in NYC, L.A., San Diego, Dallas, and Santa Fe, N.M. where I reside)

When I was a nineteen years old acting student in Boston, my professor took out class to see the famed monologist, Spalding Gray at the Brattle Street Playhouse in Cambridge. That night, Spalding performed one of his earlier works, “Travels Through New England.” He sat behind a desk and told us a story from his life. He was honest and forthright. To this day, it makes me laugh to think of him sharing his experience of masturbating at Walden Pond so that he could feel closer to the spirit of Thoreau!

At nineteen, after studying for five years to becoming a classical stage actor, it was a revelation. The raw intimacy and truth telling that I had been craving my whole life, was freely offered in his show. I left the theater thinking “you can get away with this on stage?”…..even perhaps “I can get away with this on stage?” “ I can claim, as an actor, my full voice, my passions, my stories…….my life?”

From the day I saw Spalding Gray perform, my own desire to be a commercial actress evaporated. However, it took me another eleven years of performing in other people’s plays before I was able to take the leap into solo performance. From the opening night of my first show, “Honeymoon in India” which was named in the “Top 10 Shows of the Year in the Santa Fe Reporter”, I never looked back. The experience was so much bigger than anything I had experienced as an actor before. I was able to offer my audience an original show that I was passionate about from my core. I have gone on to write and perform many shows as well as facilitate hundreds of others in the process I have developed.

In the beginning it was quite a bumpy ride. That’s why it took me eleven years from the night the seed of solo performance was planted in me to the opening night of my first original show. Like every first time solo performer who I’ve worked with, I didn’t know

how to begin.

How does a non-playwright create a script? Will anyone care about my story? How

can I make it intensely personal without falling into the trap of self-indulgence?

How can I integrate characters that were part of my story into the script? How can I show up with full presence in my show? Where is the transformational arc in my script that will take my audience on a meaningful journey?

Through trial and error, I learned, through my direct experience, the components of a life-changing show for both performer and audience. In this book, the first half will reveal all of my discoveries from the last thirteen years in the process of creating a one person show….step by step.

In my experience, one has to discover what one most essentially wants to say before one can create the one person show of their dreams. I have learned to guide people through creative exercises designed to jump start and unblock their flow, move them through the obstacle of overwhelm that comes up when creating a solo script, address questions of topics, themes and break down the five basic artistic structures that the most well known performers utilize. Anna Deveare Smith, Sarah Jones, Eve Ensler, Danny Hoch, Chazz Palmeteri, Spalding Gray and others have all used these basic forms as “containers” for their stories and characters.

There are also performance qualities necessary for delivery and presentation. Some of these include authenticity, breaking the fourth wall, directly addressing the audience, making deep connection with oneself and the audience and the balance of drama and humor.

The Theater of Presence:

Solo performance has the possibility of bringing healing and transformation to the world in a way no other form of theater has can offer.

By revealing our deepest self as both writer and performer onstage, we take off the mask of ego and instead have the possibility of leading both ourselves and our audiences into an experience of timeless Soul. Ironically, when we reveal our most authentic stories, obstacles and transformations we have the possibility of moving beyond the story, into the realm of the sacred. In our courageous act of revealing the truth of ourselves, our lives and our world, we open the door to the experience of the Universal. The audience responds in kind.

Unlike traditional theater, we become the actor in our own story. Even if we include characters in our shows, they are based on people from our own experience. We drop the artifice and let go the perceived safety of the fourth wall. In other words, we have no place to hide. This can be both a terrifying and exhilarating experience for the actor. It can lead him or her past fears of deep connection and offer the audience more than a brilliant theater experience. In it’s purest incarnation, it can lead the audience member into a deeper experience of his or her own Self. By speaking the unspeakable, claiming our own voice, standing in our vulnerability, and by being willing to be completely seen, we break convention and are led deeply into the mystery of who we really are.

At it’s heart, solo performance is about awakening fully to one’s essence or soul.

Solo Performance, is the new paradigm of theater. As our culture has offered more and more artificial forms of “entertainment” the craving for this level of truth and connection is greater than ever. Our world is shifting radically. Old systems are crumbling in every sector of our society. Giant corporations are going bankrupt. Socially and environmentally sustainable businesses are growing. Farmers markets and eating local and organic has moved beyond the “fringe” into the mainstream. “Fringe festivals” on the margin of theater society used to be one of the few places to see solo performance. Now, Julia Sweeney and John Leguizamo have had HBO specials. If you pick up the New Yorker any given week, it may have twenty or thirty solo shows listed. This is for both economic reasons and artistic/spiritual reasons. We know that we are in a time paradigm shifting on every level of society. Solo performance is the emerging theater for our new world. It’s time is happening now and many, many people have the desire to create their own shows and need a guide. Both performers and audiences want to see transformational theater that breaks through old structures and limitations yet is still accessible and engaging (unlike the radical or avante garde). This book is the ultimate guide to creating high quality and transformational one person shows. It will support the trend that is already happening and take it to a new level. This book has the possibility of being the definitive guide to solo performance at this amazing time in our ever expanding collective consciousness.

I have yet to perform or produce a solo show that does not lead the audience to a standing ovation. My audiences stay for up to an hour after the productions because they feel so moved by what they have seen that they want to stay and connect with the monologist personally. I have seen people laugh and cry in recognition. When a solo performer steps out onstage, trusting that their own presence is enough, they have stepped onto the stage of the soul. They are walking through their very own Hero’s journey. The show becomes a metaphor for their life and the audiences recognize this energetically. And so they are carried along on the journey with them, all the while finding themselves in the mirroring process that is always present when people connect in a group with their deep humanity.