Thursday, December 29, 2011
Tuesday, December 27, 2011
Brattleborough Theater, Cambridge, Ma. 1985
After the show he sat on the edge of the stage and had a beer and answered some questions and comments from our acting class. He was friends with our professor, Ron Jenkins. This was all before 'Swimming to Cambodia"..at least 6 or 7 years before he started to become famous. I don't remember saying anything to him except "thank-you" but I left the theater that night and knew that the course of my life had been altered. I didn't know how and when I was going to get there but I knew that what he was offering was a path that I too would follow.
I had been craving this simplicity of expression without even knowing it. The combination of authentic and brilliant writing based on his direct experiences delivered to a live audience blew my mind. I understood immiediatly ad intuitivly the enormous possibilities for performers and audience members alike.
As a teacher of solo performance and solo performer myself I have come to understand many of the componants of solo performances that inspire an audience and those that don't. One of Spalding's great talents was his ability to completly embody his material. He made every word a visceral experience for himself and his audience. One of the amazing things about this was that he never moved. He sat at his desk in every performance I ever saw (except in one brief moment when he danced across the stage with a boom box in Morning, Noon and Night- what a joy!!!) and yet he filled the theater with his presence.
For me, the undertaking of a solo show is about 90% about presence. Yes, the story is important. The writing is very important. But what makes it or breaks it for me is the performers presence. Are they willing to take us beyond a "reading of a work" into a "feeling of their work"? Are they willing to show up with every emotion available to them and every cell in their body willing to re-experience the events they are sharing about?If they are, they can take their audience on a journey like no other.
At it's best solo performance connects us so deeply with one individual and their humanity that it connects the audience with themselves and their own deepest humanity. It takes a bedrock of courage to expose so much;not just in the writing of our stories, but in the embodiment of them for the audeince.
Spalding had the knack.
Monday, December 26, 2011
My first show essentially took me eleven years to write. The second show took 6 weeks. The third show took about a month.
O.K....Let's go back to the first show. First, I wrote a pretty bad 5 woman show. I didn't know what I was doing, but basically just copied the structure of "For Colored Girls...who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow is Enuf"...And tried to fill it in with white girl stories, white girl from a suburban home stories, umm...white girl from a suburban, dysfunctional home stories...In other words. UGGGH.
"For Colored Girls...." is a brilliant show, and back when I was 26, I was lamenting the fact that I wasn't black, or ethnic of some kind, or "interesting"
I actually was interesting, but I didn't know it yet.
Very few events are very unique, or original. There is very little new ground to break in terms of stories, adventures, home life etc....We have all heard a million alcoholic home stories, adoption stories, love stories, abuse of all kinds stories etc..
If you are out to break another taboo in our culture, good luck with that. I think between Oprah and Jerry Springer, that has all been covered.
But do not despair! What you have, that is unique to you is known as "point of view"...It is your unique, quirky, funny, absurd, poignant, authentic lens. It is the way you see and hear and interpret the world. It is the way you bring your characters to life, it is how you choose to focus your story.
For lack of a better cliche, it is YOUR VOICE...
This is what one needs in a solo show. Your voice, your way of seeing, feeling, coping and enduring. Your way of gleaning, extracting and transforming. Your way of separating the wheat from the chafe.
Not everybody will like or appreciate your point of view. If you get mixed reviews, you are doing your job. Think of some of the most successful solo performers of our time:
Spalding Gray...those of us who loved his shows might say: brilliantly neurotic, funny, absurd and more. His detractors might say: self-indulgant and annoyingly neurotic.
Margaret Cho: outrageous, brilliant, raunchy and fearless OR disgusting, crude, crass, nasty
David Sedaris: sharp, cutting, clever and poignant OR mean-spirited, whiny, petty.
See...it doesn't matter. Nothing will kill your show more than BORING your audience. How do you avoid this? Take a Point of View and go for it! All the strongest performers exhibit confidence and are behind themselves and have a point of view on their material. At it's best we get to experience another's adventures through their lens for an hour or so.
And like it or not, you will have a strong place from which to work...
Friday, December 23, 2011
And, I work with, produce, direct, teach and see hundreds of solo shows a year. So, when I say this, I am saying something.
She is hilarious and transcendent and her point of view is sharp, dark, absurd and deeply compassionate. Not an easy combination to pull off. Only a most brilliant mind and embodied actor can offer such an enormous range. She just got a rave in the Washington Post. She deserves it.
She is humble enough to come to our little town of Santa Fe and offer her amazing talent for not much of a financial guarantee. That is because I produce these amazing shows on a shoestring. This is a mom and pop solo show operation. As in, her husband will be running the lights and my child will be babysitting her child. And I will be picking them up from the airport. Glamorous life...this one of live theater, huh?
And yet, when one hits the ball all around the park with performers like Lauren Weedman, Ann Marie Houghtailing, Ann Randolph all of whom I have presented or am presenting this year...the experience is like not other for me. It is a moment of shining glory, shining humanity actually.
This past year, I presented Doug Vincent at the first Santa Fe Solo Performance Festival. Doug had been working on the script for his show for several years when he got in touch with me a few years ago. He and I slowly worked on it together for a few more years. He presented it at this years festival. The show, which was called "Dad" and was brilliant, poignant and hilarious. It was about his Dad's suicide when he was a freshman in college, him coming to terms with it, and the birth of his own daughter. Doug was tender, warm, funny as hell and outrageous. As I watched him simultaneously claim the story, release it, and transform it...walking it out like a shaman in front of the tribe of audience, I could not stop crying.
The best solo shows will do that to you. You will not be able to stop crying, or laughing, or both simultaneously, or getting goosebumps. Solo performance is not meant as an intellectual exercise; leave that for the ministers and politicians. It is not meant to be self indulgent though many inexperienced solo performers can fall into that trap. One has to walk through a mine field of the Self to find the gold. But when mined, it is the most brilliant gold on the planet.
This is why I do the work I do. This is why I keep exploring it, teaching it and offering it. It has given me some of the richest moments of my life....Happy Holidays Friends!
Monday, December 19, 2011
I like the end of the year. For me it is a time of "putting to bed" certain projects. I've had a lot of shows go up in the last 4 months( directing and producing) that I have been in different stages of process with.
As artists, it is a good time to shake things up and decide what we want to create in the New Year. So much of my devotion has been to supporting others in their solo journey in the last ten years, that I have somewhat neglected my own. This year, my intention is to get a show up that I have written (and re-written) over the last 3 years. It is called "Scorpio Rising; the Journey Erotic"...It's funny... About 18 months ago, I attempted to get the show up. I had a director and a composer on board with the project. Both bailed on me for various reasons that I believe had to do with fear. Their fear. My fear. Of being so "out there" with myself, my sexuality, my spiritual journey and intimate relationships. I know that in this piece, I am attempting to "get" at raw truth and transparency in a way that is rarely offered without objectification and sensationalism in our culture.
Santa Fe is a small town. I cannot tell you how different it is to get a really intimate and risky piece up in a small town than in a bigger city. For all it's mystique, Santa Fe is essentially a small Catholic town in the desert. With pockets of new age-y visual artists and outlying communities of Native Americans who have built casinos in the middle of nowhere. This is an "arts" town, but not a theater town. Make no mistake. It is not there yet, though a few of us keep plugging away, attempting to make a real impact. My personal intention is to make Santa Fe a major solo performance destination....And, I'm only 47! :)
Sometimes I think, "I need a ME" here in Santa Fe...to hold deep space for me without flinching. That is mostly what I do for other solo performers... I am willing to take the journey all the way into the deep. The underworld does not frighten me. Consequences of truth do not frighten me. Characters who play in the "shadow" do not frighten me. I invite all parts of the Self to arrive in the studio with us..The more open one is to explore strange corners, weird voices and seemingly impossible stories, the more we have to work with for a show. Speaking the "unspeakable" is the artists job after all.
Denial of our full selves, being put in a category or box...now that frightens me. Being complacent in the face of abuse..now that frightens me...living around narcissists who always have to look good and never expose their vulnerabilities...all terrifying.
The long and the short of this is that even though I don't have a "Tanya" here in Santa Fe to help me get this show up this year, I am finding a way to do it. I may have to travel elsewhere, the way people travel to me often to get their shows up.
I cannot do it alone. May 2012 be a breakthrough year for us all...This show is my gift to myself this coming year....
Sunday, December 18, 2011
I have just worked out my schedule for 2012.
I am offering classes and workshops in Santa Fe and Albuquerque in 2012. Also, I will be accepting submissions for the Santa Fe Solo Performance Festival.
There is a StoryHealers Therapeutic Monologue Training beginning in April for those who want to professionally facilitate this process for healing in their communities.
Lastly, for solo performers from everywhere: If you can get yourself out to Santa Fe, New Mexico for 4 days with me, you will have a stage worthy script ready to go into production at theaters, Fringe Festivals and conferences. I have worked with hundreds of actors and writers who have gone on to do shows all over the world!
Here are some more details for the upcoming year...Love, Tanya
Professional Training to become a Therapeutic Monologue Facilitator/StoryHealer
After eleven years creating and working in a wholly original, therapeutic/artistic process, Tanya Taylor Rubinstein will be, for the second time, offering a training (4 weeks, M-Fr., in 2011-2012) in Santa Fe, New Mexico for ten people to become Professional Therapeutic Monologue Facilitators. The three weeks will cover all aspects of supporting others in writing and performing their original monologues This is experienced in a group modality in a way that supports integration and healing of trauma, loss, change or illness.
Week One: Participants will be taken through the process they will eventually offer to others. You will write and perform an original monologue in a workshop setting and offer it to a live audience in a theater. As a group, we will deconstruct the process as a first step in learning how to lead a group and produce shows.
Week Two In the second week we will cover sacred space, holding the container, how to deal meet trauma in this modality, improvisational listening and feedback, focus and surrender, your role in healing, dealing with conflict, role playing , direction and production basics/ We also cover business and non profit financial models to support the process in your community.
Week 3: For you last week you will come to New Mexico and co-facilitate and co-direct a Therapeutic Monologue Performance with a group of 6-8 participants. Every aspect of the process will be supervised by Tanya Taylor Rubinstein and you will have daily discussions with her about the experience. By the time this week is over, you will have been offered all the skills necessary to run a successful therapeutic monologue business/non-profit in your neck of the woods.
Dates will be weeks in April, June and July 2012…When we have the ten participants signed up, we will choose weeks that best work with schedules.
Package Price $3,500
Training Groups limited to 10 people
Follow Up for Year Long Participants: You will have support after the training by being added as a facilitator in good standing on the Project Life Stories website, you will have access to monthly phone sessions with Tanya and be able to e-mail any questions related to the process for the first year to her. Additionally, we are setting up a closed part of the website for message/discussion boards for the facilitators who have taken the year long training to share their ongoing experiences with each other.
Tanya Taylor is the originator of the Therapeutic Monologue Process ™ She studied acting professionally at Carnegie Mellon University, Emerson College and HB Studios in NY. Spalding Gray was an inspiration and mentor and she began performing her own monologue shows in 1995. Since then she has worked with people all over the world to heal trauma and to address the psycho/spiritual effects of life challenging illness and/or loss. When she was at her lowest point in her own life after losing her husband to a schizophrenic break with a small child to support, she prayed and asked to be shown her life’s work and purpose. That night she had a dream and saw the words “The Cancer Monologues” floating over Lincoln Center in NYC. She knew that she was being guided to utilize her training as a solo performer, writer and facilitator to offer workshops to people as a healing experience. From humble beginning in Santa Fe, “The Cancer Monologues” became a phenomenon and shows and workshops were performed with local participants in NYC, LA, San Diego, Boston, Dallas and more. A collection of monologues from the performances was published by MacAdam Cage and her book was featured in over fifty publications including “O” Magazine and on the CBS Early Show.
After working with over one hundred people who had experienced cancer through the writing and performing of their stories, Tanya suspected that this process would work for other populations who had experienced trauma and/or illness. That is how “The AIDS Monologues” were born. She partnered with organizations, began receiving funding and many other shows were to follow. Next came “The Mothering Monologues” and “Birth: The Monologues” as a celebration/validation for mothers to process the experiences of becoming a mom in an open and life affirming way.
Tanya next became interested in utilizing the Therapeutic Monologue Process as a way to support reconciliation when 2 opposing sides were in conflict by allowing both to tell their personal stories when she worked with Palestinian and Israeli teens in 2 shows entitled “Peace: The Monologues” and “The Soul of Peace” In both shows, the participants shared deeply and were brought together in the 4 day process that culminated in public performances.
Tanya has gone on to facilitate and produce over one hundred productions including shows with the survivor’s of sexual abuse, monologues with people who have mental illness and/or addictions, gay, lesbian and transgender monologues, shows with veterans from Iraq, the Gulf War and Vietnam, Hospice Monologues for those who recently lost a loved one, caregivers and more.
The amazing thing about this process is that if done with clarity and integrity, it translates into all realms of possibility. There is no group that Tanya has worked with who have not had a life-changing experience around the process regardless of the life issue being addressed.
Since, 2000, Tanya has partnered with organizations including Cabrini Hospital,(NYC) Odyssey Hospice,(Dallas and Ca.) Gilda’s Club, Creativity for Peace, Southwest Cares, New Mexico Endowment for the Humanities, College of Santa Fe, The Writers Guild Theater, Wellness Community (Southern Cal.), Second Stage Theater(NYC), Lensic Theater, Temple Beth Shalom, National Alliance for Mental Illness(NAMI), Mothering Magazine, Veterans for Peace, Many Mothers, United World College, Water Tower Theater (Dallas), San Diego Rep Theater, Santa Fe Performing Arts, Theaterwork, Railyard Performance Space and Dana Farber Cancer Center (Boston)to support people going through challenging life issues of all kinds to write and perform their stories and experience psycho/social/emotional healing and empowerment through the act of sharing their stories in a theatrical setting.
Mission Monologue: “Since the very first performance of “The Cancer Monologues” at the Santa Fe Playhouse in 2000, when I thought the roof might blow off the theater because the energy was so powerful and transformative that night for both audience members and performers alike, I have wanted to see Therapeutic Monologues take their rightful place beside other forms of healing all over the world. The monologues are a gift for humanity and they will support you as you offer them to others. I have has the privilege of walking people into their deepest fears and walking back into the light to share the stories and wisdom found in the shadows of life. I have has the opportunity to explore my own darkness and light as I have offered this process to others. The monologues have become my path to my own Soul. There is no greater devotion that could offer my life to. It is a blessing beyond even the stories. It is the path of the StoryHealer. If these words resonate with your Soul as well….I offer you my hand”
Tanya Taylor Rubinstein
Thursday, December 15, 2011
Owning one's clarity is essential. Moving past ambiguity and vagueness is the only way to move into what you want.
As a creative small business owner/ director/coach/writer/producer and mother I often play numerous roles for many people. As in the tradition of most theater related work, professional and personal relationships frequently overlap.
I am chewing on this issue...It does not work for me to have friends/clients overlap without owning my clarity...Meaning, clear communication about expectations, time given, help received and financial matters drawn up in very precise details.
It's interesting for me to see how much resistance I have to allowing this much order into my life. Because, as I am always saying to my clients/students "structure is your friend" in creative endeavors. Solo performance that is enlivening, exciting, funny, poignant, powerful and more adheres to certain "rules"...As in all art forms, once rules are mastered, they may be broken. Spalding Gray broke the rules. Mike Daisey breaks the rules.
Do not think that you are Spalding or Mike prematurely.
Understand what works in a good solo piece: presence, a stage-worthy story (no...your alcoholic family story is not enough-that's what Alanon is for, unless you're John Leguizamo...see, another example of one who has earned the right to break the rules..have you seen him "do" his mother?)...it has to be a big enough topic and more importantly, it needs to be seen through an interesting and unique point of view. As a matter of fact, your point of view is just about everything. In the hands of a master a simple story of a year abroad becomes a masterful, engaging and compelling tale. In the hands of a smaller point of view, it becomes nothing more than a travelogue..
Don't get me started tonight, because I am in a feisty mood.
I am ready to produce high quality work in all areas of my life with consistency. I am bored with vagueness. I am bored with clients who do not pay me in a respectful and timely manner. I am bored with people who don't memorize their lines. I am bored with myself for all the times I have stood for it.
2012, my commitment to myself is to rise to a higher level of love and self care.
This work is a devotion for me. I will do it as a devotion with people who are devoted. That doesn't mean perfect. But folks who are willing to show up and live their clarity along with me. On and off the stage.
It is going to be a fantastic year.
Wednesday, December 14, 2011
Friday, September 16, 2011
Tuesday, September 13, 2011
Tuesday, June 7, 2011
Sunday, June 5, 2011
Honey Moon In India Story…( or why it took me 11 years to write my first solo show)
From the time I met Spalding when I was nineteen I wanted to write and perform a one woman show, but not only did I have no idea in terms of where to begin, I was utterly terrified. For the next ten years I worked in the theater quite a bit. I was living in New Mexico getting cast in productions back to back. In a four year cycle, I was cast in a revival of Hair, Edward Albee’s Seascape, Win Lose, Draw and one of the first Rep Production of ‘ The Kentucky Cycle” after it won the Pulitzer. I was in a few original, well-written plays by local New Mexican play writes. I had some interesting parts and I was doing work that I had once been passionate about, I got some good reviews and started to establish my reputation as a strong local actor, but something in me continued to long for more….
I spent a few years teaching myself to write. In the beginning, I wrote very poorly, but a commitment to show up at the page no matter what began to shift that. Inspired by Julia Cameron’s book “The Artist’s Way” and Natalie Goldberg’s “Writing Down the Bones”….I practiced doing morning pages daily (the drivel of one’s life…3 pages a day, no matter what) and free writes (compiling a list of topics and writing on one at a time, with a timer.) This process, of writing on things like” I remember”, “home”,” the first time”, “at 2:00 in the morning” etc. without stopping to pause, think or edit opened up my “voice” for me.
I wrote a play for 5 woman modeled loosely on the structure of Ntozake Shange’s “for colored girls who have considered suicide when the rainbow is enuf”….This structure is basically one of individual monologues strung together. Pre-maturely, I showed it to a New York producer who basically trashed it. I went into a lot of angst, doubting my talent. But thanks to Julia Cameron who said to keep walking as an artist no matter what, I did not collapse into a pit of despondency. I continued to write and write some more.
And somewhere along this journey., I fell in love…I fell in love with a man named Steven and I fell in love with a spiritual teacher named Gangaji. Life led me to begin living the story that would become fodder for my first show.
India itself was not what I expected nor was the guru. We arrived and he was talking about how woman could not get enlightened because they got their periods. Not exactly the bastion of enlightenment that we’d traveled thousands of miles to see….I remember getting off the plane and smelling shit. This smell permeated through the entire country. We left the guru, struck out on our own and got sicker and sicker and more and more desperate. A miserable honeymoon, A good story.
It fit the model of the hero’s journey beautifully. The hero’s journey is the “call to adventure”, the obstacles, pitfalls , stops and starts along the road. The overcoming obstacles to continue walking on the path…In the end the hero will have to do what she knows she cannot do. And from this place of courage, defeat and failure, she will be forced to deepen her resources and transform. Transform to meet whatever challenge is in front of her…To gain perspective on whatever is in front of her. And gain the faith and help, both internal and external to move on.
Honeymoon in India followed this structure to a tee. As I lived it, I was unaware that it would become my first show. We are all living epic journey’s. Archetypal. All of us. When someone comes to and says they do not have enough material, I say “look at your own life”…Where have you known the call to adventure? Where have you had an obstacle to overcome? How did you do it? Where were you/ are you a hero? It is actually enough and share your own story. That is a secret . You are already enough. Your show already lives inside of you.
With that said, one must be fearless in the telling of the story. One has to slow time down, choose material that has drama to it and is big enough for the stage. I have worked with someone who is a twenty year AIDS survivor, an actor who’s dad was a small time Mafioso, a young account executive in San Francisco who is bi-polar and had a break with reality. I have worked with a mom who told a very funny story of the first year of her life after her child’s birth and a 10 year old woman who based her solo show on an interview with a friend who had a stroke. She went on to write and perform that character in a wheelchair, presenting her friend’s story in first person.
What does it mean to “slow down time”?
You must take us moment by moment through your story. It is like painting a picture. We want the details…we want to know what that moment felt like, smelled like, tasted like to you.
The reverse is also true….If you give us a wide sweeping overview….if you generalize, we wont get it. It will mean nothing to us.
The story of Pregnant Pause was the story of my pregnancy with my daughter told through the people around me. They were the inspiration for the characters that told my tale. There was my neurotic Beverly Hills Jewish Mother in Law”Bubbie Bobbie”, My Waspy Connecticut Uber Consevative grandmother “Nanny”, There was my Birkenstock wearing Mid-wife “Yoda”, My working class Rochester based second cousin “Rusty” and my New Agey acupuncturst ex-husband “the husband”…I wove together an autobiographical story, but told in by creating characters and telling the story through their eyes. The story became funnier and more outrageous as I married my autobiographical journey of pregnancy, birth and delivery and told it through the voices of the characters around me. This is where it rose from a mundane story into a theatrical voyage of wit and discovery.
“A Woman’s Work”
One day in 1999, a fellow performer called me up and said she had been thinking about an idea for a show based on the Studs Terkel song “Working”. Her concept was that three of us, all female solo performers, write a show of monologues about the back story of woman and work. I utilized characters and experiences from my own life and wove them into “fictional” characters. The first one was Barbie, as in a Barbie doll. She was speaking at the Barbie Convention and began to unravel onstage..She had a nervous breakdown in front of the audience. The second monologue I wrote was one of a woman receiveing an Academy Award for best actress. In her speech she is thanking the Academy profusely and begins to wander into a story about what a miracle it is that she is actually here..how just a few years ago, she escaped from a physically abusive marriage with an alcoholic. She goes into the story of how she escaped with her son and how dreams do come true…Then, abrubptly, she begins to take off her gown and starts to scream “don’t come up here Honey. I’ll be right down, yes, dinner’s almost ready” The audience realizes in that moment that she was in a fantasy of the Academy Awards. She is the woman who is still being beaten by her husband.
3 woman, doing 3 monologues each around a theme worked wonderfully. We were each strong as writers and performers in our own right and were able to hold our own with each other. That is very important if you are thinking about collaborating on a monologue show with other people.
Wednesday, May 25, 2011
Wednesday, April 27, 2011
There is a great movement underway in the theater and simultaneously in the healing community. It has been a long time coming, yet in essence returns us to our deepest community roots from our ancestral egalitarian societies. We are reclaiming our roles as storytellers, as Hero’s on a journey home, as social justice commentators, as jesters and shamans. In the contemporary theater, we are doing this through the vehicle of “The Solo Show”.
The Solo Show that I am speaking of is the one person show that is conceived of, written by and performed by one man or one woman. It is a show that is the most holistic form of theater as it is born and manifested from one person’s deepest vision. It goes beyond conventional theater in terms of intimacy because the story, experience and perspective is created by the performer.
For me, it has been the richest and most empowering journey I have taken in my lifetime and I have devoted my lifetime to the exploration of this form. I have written and performed my own shows, directed and produced countless other solo shows and been a teacher and coach in the development of solo shows. There is no form that I have found that has the possibility of being a more powerful testament to the human spirit that the solo show. On a profound level, it is about the willingness to show up onstage and reveal our humanity to one another.