Thursday, December 29, 2011

Article Published in Backstage on Solo Shows

This is an article I had published on solo shows in Backstage Magazine a few years ago!

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 DiegoDallas, and Santa FeN.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.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

The Genius of Spalding Gray

The Genius of Spalding Gray

Brattleborough Theater, Cambridge, Ma. 1985

Spalding was completly riviting that evening. His autobiographical monologue entitled "Travels Throgh New England" was so intimate. He shared stories from his life about his mothers suicide and her odd Christian Scientist ways. He spoke of going to Walden Pond and of masturbating there to feel closer to Thoreau! He was outrageous, he was funny and above all he was real. The character he was choosing to portray was himself. His script came from his life.

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" 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

Your Unique Point of View in Solo Shows

As much as we would like for it to be, creating a solo show is not a linear process. Sure, it would be nice to just sit down and write a kick ass script in a week-end, then go into production.

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. 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

Next month I am bringing Lauren Weedman to Santa Fe. Lauren Weedman is pretty much the Holy Grail of solo performers in my opinion. I am not sure if she claims this title, but when I saw her tape of BUST (check it out online) I knew that I was in the (virtual) presence of a master of this genre.

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

New Year's resolution...get with your creativity!

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 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 that frightens me. Being complacent in the face of that frightens 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

Solo Performance Offerings in 2012

Hi All....

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

January, 2012 "Solo Performance Intensive" a 3 day weekend INTENSIVE  in Albuquerque, N.M. for writing and performing a 10 minute original monologue.

Details: Tanya Taylor Rubinstein, Artistic Director, Project Life Stories and The Santa Fe Solo Performance Festival will be partnering up with The Filling Station Theater to offer an intensive for actors and other creative people to explore the writing and performing of original monologues. Participants in the workshop will be given consideration for The Filling Station’s 2012 SoloFest and the 2012 Santa Fe Solo Performance Festival in terms

Dates: January 27( 6:00-8:30), 28 (10:00-4:00) and 29 10:00-4:00 and 8:00-9:30 p.m.)

Place: The Filling Station
Cost: $295 (includes performance)

Class limited to ten. Receive a 10% discount for signing by December 30,2011

"Tanya combines an impressive range of proficient theater skills with the deepest humanity for your personal story. With easy going grace Tanya gets it, and helps you fully embody your truth so that ultimately- the audience gets it."
- Doug Vincent, playwright and performer of "Dad"

E-mail for information and registration

January, 2012 "Create Your One Person Show" 4-6 Month Process with New Mexico Students. Shows from this process will be under first consideration for the September, 2012 Santa Fe Solo Performance Festival.

This one on one process with Tanya Taylor Rubinstein is intended as an exploration of stories, characters and themes through improvisation and guided writing. The process is designed for the performer to create an embodied script ready to go into production.

A quote from one of Tanya’s Solo Performance Bootcamp clients:

“After researching various workshop options around the country, I decided that a one on one intensive program was the right platform for me to complete my one woman show. I was interested in creating a high quality product. The creative process is extremely personal and writing your own story to present to the world is an even more complicated business. If you make the decision that you want to put your story in a form that can be successfully delivered to an audience, then Tanya Taylor Rubinstein is who you should be working with. Tanya is supportive and creates a safe environment for an artist to express and shape their work, but more importantly she is a highly competent with form and structure and story telling, to ensure that your work is represented in the highest and best light. Tanya provides guidance around shaping, editing, crafting and delivering your work so you are supported throughout the entire process. I highly recommend Tanya if you are serious about creating a one person show. What ever is standing in your way can easily be overcome with the Tanya's guidance and talent. Even good writers require the trained eye of an expert. Tanya's expertise will help you move from idea to reality. I did Tanya's bootcamp in March of 2011 and in September of 2011 I performed my one woman show Renegade Princess and it's the best gift I've given myself in a decade.”- Ann Marie Houghtailing

Solo Performance Bootcamps: 4 Day One on One Intensive for out of state actors and writers who  want to create a script for performance at a theater, conference and/or festival. Solo Performance Bootcamp clients will also be under first consideration for the Santa Fe Solo Performance Festival.

Note: Create Your One Person Show AND Solo Performance Bootcamps are scheduled individually. Cost of each process which included aprox. 24 hours one on one “in person” time with Tanya plus up to 10 hours online/phone follow up time is $2,600 all inclusive.

April 2012, “StoryHealers Facilitation Program” 3 weeks; April, June and July

Professional Training to become a Therapeutic Monologue Facilitator/StoryHealer

The Invitation:

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 My Clarity

This is what I am learning about solo performance AND life....

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?) 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

2011 in Solo Performance/Santa Fe

Wow...It is the end of 2011 already and I am looking back on this year with a lot of awe and gratitude for this continuing examination into life, stories, theater and deep human expression/connection.

These are the qualities that keep me in devotion to the art of solo performance. Often, I say to my clients and students that I believe audiences love seeing one person shows because we are all looking to each others as models for how to live.We get a bird's eye view into the solo performer's life, point of view, humor, pathos and ability to transform and transcend circumstances and utilize them as a basis for art.

This year, I began the year by offering the first, ever StoryHealers training to a group of 7 individuals. I am ending the year with 4 people still in process with me which I consider a pretty excellent accomplishment. These amazing and creative people are learning to utilize solo performance/personal monologues in a therapeutic context for individuals and groups who have experienced trauma, loss, illness and transition (who hasn't, right?) This is a process I began developing in 2002 with The Cancer Monologues and went on to utilize with nearly 100 groups. Deep thanks go out to Ariane Mahmoud-Ghazi, a dear friend and gifted trauma therapist for assisting in the training process. There is deep satisfaction in knowing that this therapeutic monologue process will be shared in more communities to serve, heal and inspire.

A new training will begin in April 2012. Please e-mail for more information if you are considering attending.

This year had many "firsts". Aside from the StoryHealers training, Project LifeStories produced the first annual Santa Fe Solo Performance Festival. This is a yearly curated festival of solo shows. For our first season we had 12 performances of 6 shows with selected solo artists from the U.S. and Canada. ( Our plans for 2012 are to at least double the number of shows next year. As we continue to establish Santa Fe, NM as an actual solo performance destination, we are grateful to all the audiences, performers and support. Several of our first festival performers are going on to runs in NYC and Toronto including Tracey Erin Smith, Stacey Bernstein and Ann Marie Houghtailing who premiers her brilliant show, "Renegade Princess" at Stage Left Studios in Manhattan this Spring. ( Do not miss this show if you are in NYC

The Solo Performance Festival is also continuing to bring great solo performers on tour through Santa Fe at the Lodge. This winter, we are bringing out the amazingly talented Lauren Weedman (BUST, Comedy Central) and Ann Randolph (Squeeze Box, Off-Broadway run) withe their new shows. I'll also be directing Santa Fe favorites, Debrianna Mansini and Jane Lancaster in their upcoming solo shows in March.

A New Year is almost upon us...It is always a great time for a new creative beginning. Haven't you waited long enough? Make this year the year YOU write and perform you one person show or get trained to facilitate the StoryHealers Therapeutic Monologue Process in your community!

I offer writing/performance opportunities all year round. Creative Solo be continued...

Friday, September 16, 2011

Class last night

Every Thursday night, I teach a solo performance class here in Santa Fe. This year I have a beautiful and sensitive group who are all doing great work in terms of exploring and developing their shows.

Last night we had a reading of one of the shows. After I gave feedback on one of the shows, the performer felt emotional and began to cry a bit. I knew she was taking personally my critique about what was not yet working on her show.

Feedback can feel tough when we are working with such deep, raw and intimate material. In my experience, you have to have a coach/director you can trust to have your back. You have to have a director willing to say everything she sees, then encourages you to go on, continue the process and sink down deeper into your journey.

It is a fine balance. In the first part of the year with my students, I am encouraging of all kinds of exploration.

But when we move into working on the script, I get tougher. Because, like any art form, this form has things that work to bring the audience in closer, and things that will push them away.

For me, it is very important that I keep the performer safe onstage, even while (especially) while she is revealing her intimate stories and/or characters she has created herself. Stories need to be titrated like doses of medicine. They need to flow and have highs and lows, be multi-dimensional, find the humor and joy even in the midst of grief, challenge the audience without alienating them. This is not an easy journey or process.

It takes people into the depths of themselves and demands deep personal honesty about everything.

If you are embarking on this process make sure you find a director who is always striving to find the balance between deep creative support and finding structure that works...And one who will tell you the whole truth while holding the space for your success and completion of your show.

In short, one who loves you and loves the audience and has your back.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

First Santa Fe Solo Performance Festival

This is a big week for me. Solo Performances continue to blossom out here in the high desert.

The very first Santa Fe Solo Performance Festival is gearing up to kick off with 6 great performers doing their solo shows as well as some kick ass workshops.

The line up is: Tracey Erin Smith from Toronto with her world premier of "snug harbor", Ann Marie Houghtailing from San Diego with "Renegade Princess", Deb Heikes from Santa Fe with "White Trash Monologues", Stacey Bernstein , also from Toronto with "Everything I Never Knew I Wanted", Gray from Oakland with "Self-ish" and Doug Vincent from Boulder with "Dad"

I have had the good fortune to help these performers create their material and I have directed some of the shows.

Right now I am really excited to be continuing to ground my own work in Santa Fe while finding more and more ways to support other performers by helping them create and produce their work to audiences here.

I really hope whomever is reading this (does anybody read this???) will come out and see these great shows if you are in Santa Fe from Sept 21-24...

website is

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Finding Your Calling/Asking for help...

Many years ago, I heard the speaker Marianne Williamson talk about how, after she had a spiritual awakening, she wondered what she would do for a living. It hit her one day that she was not going to find God's calling for her in the help wanted ads of her local newspaper! She asked God what S/he wanted her to do and she got a clear message. Go speak. She did not know who would show up in her audience, but she knew she had to do it. Of course at the beginning, it must have felt like a huge risk. But she rented a hall in NYC and began to give weekly talks on a by-donation-basis....and went on the become one of the foremost spiritual speakers of our time.

In 1999, I had a similar experience. I was thirty three years old and although I had begun developing my own solo performance shows, I still wondered where it would take me in terms of the bigger picture in my life. Also, I had a 2 year old daughter and at the time was only performing a few times a year and assumed that I would mostly be a stay at home mom until my daughter entered kindergarten...Then one day, everything changed. My daughters father called me from a business trip and said that he wanted a divorce. No discussion. It was over.

After a few hours of sobbing hysterically, some of the emotion wore off and stone cold sobriety set in. I had no way to support myself and my daughter. What would I do for money? Because I had a theater background, had not worked a conventional job in 10 years, and lived in a small town in the middle of the country, it would have been easy to collapse entirely. And that night, I did. But on my way down, I called on my faith. I think my prayer was simply "Show Me, Please, please, please show me" before I fell asleep.

The next morning I awoke from a very vivid dream. I saw the words "The Cancer Monologues" floating over Lincoln Center in NYC..It was very clear to me that I was to offer autobiographical monologue workshops to people with cancer. Which I did. In the beginning I was so uninformed and naive about business that I didn't even try to follow a regular model...I just showed up at our local Cancer Center and said that I wanted to do this. A small grant of $2,000 from the city of Santa Fe, provided the seed money for these free workshops....10 people signed up to write with me to share their amazing, devastating, poignant, funny, loving, angry and hopeful stories of living with cancer to an audience of friends, family and community member who were laughing and crying all night right along with them. The theater was so filled with light that night that I felt that the building might lift itself right off it's foundation and float up into the heavens.

When the audience rose in a unanimous standing ovation and the monologue participants took their bow, I was shaking all over. I was crying uncontrollably again, but not from fear, or desperation. From love and the knowledge that I had clearly been given my path. It was a gift, one that I could have never dreamed up on my own. It continues to bring together what I love the, healing, transformation, deep intimacy, connection and new ways of looking at a situation. I've gone on to do this process with people with HIV, mental illness, new mothers, Veterans and more....The road has taken me on many scenic by-ways and continues to shift and evolve. Right now, I am about to begin the journey of training others in this work.

For me, the answers to my big questions come from the depth of my connection to a spiritual presence beyond myself. It has given me everything really, and a creative life that does support me and my daughter in our financial needs as well as giving me the great gift of having a greater purpose to follow in this world...The gift of creative service and deep, fulfilling personal expression.

There is a miracle waiting around the next corner for each one of us. If you are wondering what your purpose is, I encourage you to write daily and ask for answers. Ask for a dream, then be willing to receive the answer. Follow signs, energy and messages that resonate. Then be prepared to receive the greatest gift possible...your authentic life that cannot be found in any help wanted ad, but is already written on your own heart.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Why it Took Me Eleven Years to Write my First Show

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.

“Pregnant Pause”

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 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

Professional Trainings beginning this summer...

When I was fourteen years old, I discovered the joys and richness of being an actor. The gift revealed itself to me on a strange day. It was the day my grandfather died.

Despite the loss and grief my family was experiencing, I insisted that my mother drive me to the first of my Saturday classes in a funky old building on a side-street in Bethesda, Maryland. The place was the Maryland Academy for the Dramatic Arts....a fancy name for what looked like a rather run down and rather marginal place. My teacher there was Ralph Tabikin, a former Vaudevillian with a perpetual eye twitch who chewed on his pipe non stop.

This particular day, he handed me a piece of paper and said "look this over and meet us in by the stage." I looked down and there was a monologue on the page. It was the character Lucrece, from the Greeks, contemplating suicide in a rather Hamlet-esqe monologue.

Although I had not contemplated committing suicide, and although Lucrece's story was different from mine, I intuitively understood our human similarities of deep, painful feelings and the desire to be free.

When it was my turn to share my monologue with the class, I stood up on the tiny home-made stage and channelled all my passion, confusion and raw grief into Lucrece's words and allowed that impulse to lead me into her life.

I looked up and the small class of seven or eight people plus Ralph were wildly applauding. Intuitively, I understood something in that moment although it would be years and years before I would be able to put it into words and integrate the meaning of that experience. Fortunately, for me, I had discovered that in the act of sharing my vulnerability and emotional truth onstage, I had the power to move others and heal myself. An alchemical reaction happened that day. It was as if my own molecules had re-arranged themselves in the moment of self-revelation. When I walked out of the theater that day, there was a different quality to my grief. It was still fresh and raw, but it had transformed. I had transformed and I knew that I was bigger than when I walked in. There was more space inside of me. The grief wasn't so scary. It was just present.

And I knew that I was not alone in it. There was meaning in my grief and that was the ability to share it with others and allow us to all know, for a moment in time that none of us are alone.

This was a seminal experience for me that put me on the path of actor, storyteller and director for these last 32 years. It was a day of tremendous grace.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Holistic Theater

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.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

It's All About the Soul....

Tonight I was reading a post from the wonderful Los Angeles based writing and acting coach, Sea Glassman. Sea and I have a lot of crossovers in our work. We are both long time students of a Course in Miracles and we both approach our creative work as a spiritual practice.

Here is what I want to ask of you, as you ponder creating your solo show: "What does your Soul want to say? What does it want to say to you? What does it want to say to Life? What does it want to say to this world, others, God? What story does your Soul need to tell for your awakening? Because following any other pass is a lesser path...Following your mind, ego, a clever concept without taking into account the Soul's longings is like fast food, temporarily satisfying but ultimately empty.

I have been pondering my own creative work lately. It has been several years since I have performed my own solo show. My time has been spent teaching others as well as directing and producing.

Last year, my mind started pressuring me and I almost put up a show that just wasn't quite right. I knew that it was a viable concept. I knew that the script I had written was strong. But, something inside of me just didn't want to do it. In retrospect, I see that it wasn't a creative avoidance. It just wasn't what my Soul wanted me to have an attachment to and an association with at this time in my life. (It was called Scorpio Rising: a monologue of sex and death)...Nothing at all wrong with that and those are not topics I shy away from. It just wasn't the right timing and the energy behind it was murky.

Now my Soul is rested and emerging with a new personal vision for me in my personal art. It is a 7 year project with one performance a year. The performances will be monologues that are much more improvisational in nature (terrifying to my ego) and freer than the tightly written scripts that were hallmarks of my style in my younger years.

I am 46 years old. My memory is not razor sharp as it was. I cannot live my life with as much "pushing" intensity and my Soul's performance would like me to reflect this...And so, I move into a new time in my work, letting go of lots of character driven pieces, sharp and sometimes biting humor, perfectionism around every scripted word... into a new realm. A softer story wants to be told that, yes, will include sex and death...but also the quieter realms that I used to have no patience to explore. And a new kindness that I never used to show myself will be embodied.

Also, I am looking to develop a new, inclusive relationship with my audience as we go on a journey that will, if my vision unfolds, be different every night. As I open to trust my body, Soul, memory and the poetry that lives inside my every cell to show up new, fresh each night, a once only show has the opportunity to unfold....

What is your Soul calling you to share? Go deep....deeper still.....Find it in Silence....and bring it back to this world as a story....

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Training Therapeutic Monologue Facilitators and Solo Performance Coaches

Wow! It has been such a long time since I've been on this blog that I almost forgot that it existed.

I just wrapped up several shows, including working with Deb Heikes on her one woman show "White Trash Monologues. It was a humorous and poignant look at growing up in a very wounded family. It was the classic "Hero's Journey" as Deb opened that world for us to have a look inside. As she embodies her racist father who was also a WW 2 Vet, who helped free the prisoners at Aushwitz, and her Bible thumping mother who beat the kids but also( we learn in the show) had to dance on the table as "entertainment" for her step-father when she was 4 years old we learn about the emotional complexity of the world she grew up in. When she speaks in first person monologues we were able to see through the eyes of a girl growing up in a factory town with-out much hope or vision. Deb herself broke free from the family story and left factory work at age 30 first, got sober and then become a therapist herself who helps recovering addicts here in Santa Fe. (

Currently, I am about to embark on an entirely new journey to support others in becoming facilitators and coaches/directors. This summer, I will be beginning offering trainings for others to learn to make a living through Professional Therapeutic Monologue Facilitation and in Solo Performance Coaching and Directing. This process has been a long time coming for me and I am thrilled and excited. Since I performed my first one woman show, and then directed others in the first performance of "The Cancer Monologues", I have known that it was my destiny to support others in taking this process to other communities to serve growth, passion, expression, vision and love....