Thursday, December 20, 2012

2012 Solo Performance Newsletter from Tanya

Dear Friends,

I am very thankful that there are people like you in the world. People who care deeply about the power of stories and performances, who understand the transformation possible when we are willing to look deeply into our own Souls, mine them for gold and bring them back to our tribe.

Over the years, I have come to know solo performance as shamanic work. We (the performers) go into the darkness alone, slay our own dragons and bring the gifts and wisdom (embedded in our shows) back to our modern day tribe (the audience)

When it comes right down to it, this is what keeps me on this path. My deepening understanding of the power of stories. When we awaken to our own stories and marry them to our creativity and insight, we have the power to change the world. This is not some trite cliche. It is my direct experience of this work.

My work is a deep blessing to my own Soul. This past year alone, I have worked on shows that have included finding grace and new light in the wake of a parental suicide, worked for the second time with a Vietnam Vet painting prayers to the dead underneath angels in his Magnum Opus, worked with a woman in her sixties claiming her own sexuality after being silenced for her entire life and many... more. These are the stories that help us understand our own humanity. When you stand in your light and perform a solo show, you give others more permission to stand in theirs.

Solo performance is at once both ancient and contemporary. In it's contemporary form it returns us to our tribal face. Sitting around fire, learning about life and our relationship to it, through our stories.

Or, sitting in a darkened theater, lights shining down, sharing our stories.

If you are interested in joining the ranks of the brave ones, the deeply human ones like Mike Daisey, Spalding Gray, Anna Deveare Smith, Lauren Weedman, Ann Randolph, John Leguizamo, Danny Hoch, Eve Ensler and all the anonymous storytellers who have kept the human spirit burning throughout time, then make 2013 the year you do it. I am here to help. But it's up to you to stop procrastinating and simply decide to do it.

Happy Holidays to you all and creative blessings as well~


Monday, November 19, 2012

My Cousin Rusty...a monologue by Tanya

This is a show I wrote and performed in ten years ago! Can't believe it's been so long. The show was called "Pregnant Pause" and this monologue was about a family member and his reaction to his girlfriend's pregnancy.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Solo Performance Tips on Video

I am so excited! Like a little kid on Christmas morning. I have figured out how to create videos on my I-Phone and post them here!

The first order of business will be posting Solo Performance Tips. Yesterday I cranked out four videos in about half an hour. When you have written, directed, produced, performed and coached as many solo shows as I have, you cannot imagine how much you have to say.

So, I offer these to you. May they be helpful to you on the journey of solo-ing..Many more to come!!!, Tanya

Sunday, November 11, 2012

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 30 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.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Qualities of an Excellent One Person Show

I am cleaning out my lap-top and came across this piece I wrote for a solo performance class I taught eight or nine years ago. I think my advice still holds up!

The Qualities of an Excellent One Person Show:

What you have to offer in a one-person show is yourself. Therefore, I strongly support using this year to develop your best self. In performance, there are several things that are especially important in presenting your story effectively.

There are a number of exercises that we will focus on this year to bring forth these qualities:

1)    The development of breath/ To speak on stage for an hour to an hour and a half is a monumental task. To do this with possible costume changes, movement, and/or  in and out of different characters takes an enormous amount of breath. This year, outside of the class, I suggest long walks/hikes, meditation and working out as part of your year long training.

2)    Focus/ Focus brings clarity to your work, both in the writing and delivery. Focus is developed through discipline. Remember that the word discipline comes from the same root as disciple. You are devoting yourself to a creative and transformational process that is sustained through joyful effort and practice.  Again, long walks and meditation develop this quality. So does a writing practice that is regular and sustained.

3)    Authenticity/ This is the quality that will bring meaning to your show and fascination to your audience. Authenticity has many different faces. It can be humorous, it can be sad, it can be angry or loving. It can be anything. It can be felt by others and it cannot be faked. The way authenticity has the invitation to emerge in your work is through your willingness to take emotional risks, willingness to be vulnerable, drop your ego, be willing to look foolish or fail. Authenticity does not have all the answers. It is not preachy or dogmatic. As a matter of fact, those are masks to keep authenticity at bay. Authenticity is our humanness expressed. Authenticity is the heart of this process. It is what I will be supporting in your writing, your performance, your movement, your characters, your voice. Authenticity is powerful. It’s scary. It makes us cry and gives us goose bumps. We will recognize it in one another. It will take each of you in fresh directions that only you could go. It is at once, unique and individual-no one else can express your authenticity, yet it will bind you to other people through their heart/soul recognition. It is my definition of intimacy.

       4)Presence/ Presence is the energy you bring to this process. The stronger the  individual’s presence, the more connected they are with their Inner Self. This can mean their creativity/Divinity and confidence. Presence is something that can also be developed through breath, walks, writing and the daily practice of authenticity. Are you authentic in your life? Do you risk saying what you mean, even at the risk of “hurting” someone’s feelings? Do you believe that you have the right to take up space? That your voice deserves to be heard?
I have a friend and I’ve picked up on the fact that she lied to me twice about a few really silly things. One time, she made up an elaborate excuse about why she had been twenty minutes late for an appointment with me. I could feel her lie in my body and I watched her presence noticeably drain from her. I mention this because an audience will pick up on anything in you that does not have your full presence in it. In your daily life, do you drain your presence through any of the following things: lying because you are embarrassed of making a mistake, getting edgy over minor things in your life, not drinking enough water, not exercising, stuffing your feelings through overeating, drinking or smoking. Do you drain your energy/presence by not saying “no” to toxic people, toxic environments, or over committing? If so, I would like for you to write on any of the topics that pertain to you. Examine why you do this and please check in with us as a group as you work away from negative/draining choices and move into a deeper sense and fuller commitment to your unique and beautiful presence. The more you allow presence into your life, the more it will spill over into your writing and your creativity. You will have higher levels of inspiration come to your work and it will come with more ease.

5)Stamina/ Strength/ Again, this is about sustaining energy onstage. Energy is communicated in subtle and overt ways. It is carried through the voice, eyes, body, in movement and in stillness.

6)    Commitment/ Commitment is the performer’s great asset. Commitment covey’s and manifests all the previous intentions. Commitment means you’re “going for it.” Commitment in your performance means that no obstacle or perceived weakness will stop you. You put your all into each moment onstage. You give yourself over to your story, and to your character’s. Your commitment is what brings structure so the magic can emerge. Think about all the great actors you have seen in your life. For me, it was Richard Burton in “Who’s Afraid of Virgina Woolf”, Dustin Hoffman in “Midnight Cowboy” and “Kramer vs.Kramer”,  Meryl Streep in “Sophies Choice”, John Leguizamo in “Freak” and thousands of other great performances. Martin Luther King and JFK were great speakers because they had commitment to their ideas and communicated them passionately. Richard Pryor and John Lennon had commitment, not only genius. Great actors have total commitment to their characters. They are committed to their voice, their walk , their CHOICES. Whether you are doing a show where the only “character” is you or you are incorporating other “characters” from your life or imagination/inspiration, commitment is crucial to the realization of your intent.

Technically a great show will have the writer/performer in a state of high, yet focused energy, there will be a lot of eye contact with the audience, the performer will be easily heard (volume and breath), relaxed, surrendered and having a great time being on stage. There will be a joy in the expression/communication/laughter/emotion/soul that is being given and received by performer and audience member. The script will be engaging, coherent and easy to understand. It will be dynamic and have a beginning ,middle and end. It will have a central theme even if it goes off on secondary themes or character tangents. There is safety in structure, as well as great freedom.

Fall musings...

Deep fall is here and as the weather turns cold, I find my need for deep creative work grows brighter. Right now, I am working on writing copy for two new websites which hopefully will showcase the hundreds of shows I've now worked on over the past twelve years.

There will be a new Solo Performance Coach website showcasing many of the solo shows I've worked on as well as a StoryHealers International website. Hopefully, StoryHealers will really help people understand what the Transformational Monologue process is, and all the ways I've found to utilize it for healing, whether showcasing people with cancer in "The Cancer Monologue Project", veterans in "Core Witness" or people with mental illness in "Minds Interrupted"

Solo performance is my devotion and I know that I am fortunate to have discovered my path pretty early in my life. I really created it from who I already am. It continues to deepen and unfold as I continue to have the enormous privilege of holding space and offering direction for people to write and share their stories onstage.

I truly hope that you are on your path, or finding it. Years ago, I remember hearing Marianne Williamson say that she had a huge "Ah-Ha" moment one day while looking through the classified ads for a job. She realized that she was not going to find her life purpose there and that she was going to have to create it herself from who she already was.

My path was in many ways similar and I love all the twists and turns it has provided me as I continue to follow the stories and where they lead me...right into my own heart and the heart of all beings.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Solo Performances: A Tool for Social Justice/ A Tool for Healing

here 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 society’s. 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 vehical 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 self 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. Additionally, I have created and implemented a process to utilize contemporary monologues as a therapeutic form with populations of people with cancer, AIDS, mental illness and survivers of emotional, physical and sexual abuse. There is no form that I have found that has the possibility of being a more powerful testement 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.

Unlike the artifice inherent in traditional theater, this is no smoke and mirrors euphimism. Solo Performance is based on the direct experience of the performer him or herself. It is based on real life experiences. The emotional story is the performer’s story one way or another, every time. This includes documentary theater such as Anna Deveare Smith and Danny Hoch who are choosing their subjects for interview.It is their personal point of view and choice to frame particular subjects in a particular way that shows us who they are.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

What Are You Waiting For? Do Your Solo Show Now!

At least three times a month, I get a call from somebody who is interested in working with me on a one person show. More often than not they start out the conversation by saying something along the lines of " I've been working on my show for years but cannot seem to pull it together" or "I've been thinking about doing this show FOREVER, but have no idea where to begin"

I totally relate to this. In 1984 I knew in my bones that I would do a solo show. But I had no idea where to begin. My path was circuitous. I dreamt about doing a solo show, but kept putting it off. My performance career had become boring to me despite the fact that I continued to be cast in many shows. The material of the plays themselves were just not interesting to me. They felt stale and contrived. I longed to use all of me; my voice, my concerns, my passions, my humor, my life and my ability to perform to create something unique that felt truly "my own" as an artist. At the time I did not know this consciously, but I wanted to expand and take up more space I wanted to take my place in my life as well as on the stage.

In 1992, I began journaling daily. Then I joined a few writing groups. "The Artist's Way" was a brand new book at the time. Morning Pages and Artist Dates became part of my life. Tentatively, I was finding my writing voice. I always was confident in my acting ability, but did not know how I would find a way to write what I really wanted to express.

Slowly at first I eked out the words. I wrote and wrote and began to uncover nuggets of gold. Finally, an experience arrived that matched my insides in terms of what I really wanted to say.

And so, after many years of living with a burning and haunting desire to do a solo show, I wrote and performed "Honeymoon in India"

One of the reasons I do the work I do is to assist people in short circuiting the time on this process. By quite a bit. We work together in my studio, and within four days, you have the raw material for your show.

All of my own experiences with this form are grist for the mill. At this point I have worked on over one hundred solo shows. I'm able to take you straight to the heart of your story. The most essential story. The one you have needed to tell for your entire life.

There is no need to wait. If the strong desire is inside of you to write and perform a solo show, I can guarantee you that it will not go away. No matter how hard you try to get it out of your mind. It will remain and grow bigger. And the longer you put it off, the more it will drive your crazy!

Because your SOUL knows. It knows what it knows. And if you were meant to take this journey, just do it.

Your Soul will thank you and you will be able to rest at night without thoughts of your undone show swirling in your brain.

Best of all, your life will expand. Because when you stand up on that stage and take up that much space, power and energy, things really won't ever be the same.

Don't believe me? Check out one of my favorite solo performers, John Legizamo in the video above. Wouldn't you like to be that engaged? That alive?

Yes, it is possible.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Queer Voice Monologue

From a Queer Voices Monologue Show I facilitated in Santa Fe some years back with the college of Santa Fe. GLBY students each wrote and performed a 10 minute piece over the course of a week-end.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Spalding Gray video

Here is a scene from Spalding Gray's seminal work, Swimming to Cambodia. I met Spalding a few years before he did this show at the Wooster Theater Group.

I saw an earlier  show at the Brattle Street Theater in Cambridge, Ma. in 1984. It changed my life. About twenty of us sat in the audience. He came onstage in his usual way. His voice and style was already established.

He spoke openly about his mother's suicide and masturbating at Walden Pond to feel closer to the Spirit of Thoureau. I was hooked. From that night on, I knew that solo performance/contemporary storytelling was my path. Who knew how far it would lead me.

I love you Spalding. You were my first and the best of the best. Your generosity onstage set the bar.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Creative Empowerment: The Right and Need to Create Your Own Work

I am sitting here in a cafe in my hometown of Santa Fe...pondering.

What do we crave? What do our Souls need? What is the highest path as an artist?

The answers are different for all of us. But, I do see certain patterns in common...either for better or worse no matter what the medium.

My medium is solo performance. It began almost 30 years ago when I met Spalding Gray and saw him perform an original show.

At the time I was studying acting and didn't realize it consciously, but I was already feeling confined.

I had performed in classical plays for years by then. I began as a young teen. Shakespeare, Molier, Albee, Pinter, the Greeks were already in my repertoire. I loved the experience of pouring my own emotional experience into a character. It was amazing. But the stories I was telling were not my stories.

I could relate to some. Many..not so much. Including the pinnacle. When I was twenty seven years old, I was in the Pulitzer Prize winning play "The Kentucky Cycle". It was a well done production, but less than satisfying. I has the realization "If this is the BEST, contemporary American theater can offer me and I am still not getting the experience I was desiring, I need to create my own work.

So, I did. I took the leap. The terrifying, exciting and HUGE leap into the world of creating my own work and helping others create their own work. It was raw, it was hilarious, it was heartbreaking, it was true, it was hard.

And I was hooked.

That was twenty some years ago.

What has my life been since?

It has been authentic. It has been hard. It has been joyful.

Mostly, it has been ALIVE. Vitally and unapologetically alive.

My medium is solo performance. Some will call it indulgent. Some will call it narcissistic. Sometimes it is. But not the way I strive to work with it.

I call it generous. I call it intimate. And I call it fulfillment in the way that conventional theater never could be.

My favorite musicians are always also composers. I'd take a rendition of one of Sam Llana's songs, straight from his own Soul and life over a polished Broadway voice or pop icon calling it in any

My own guide has been "do the most intimate work in alignment with your own soul as possible"And, you will find your true audience. The one who resonates with you.

Be bold. Risk failing. Be true. Be who you are. Put it on a stage and let yourself shine.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

"The Artist is Present",Your Presence is Everything

Last week-end I went to see a documentary film on performance artist Marina Ambromovic's installation at the Museum of Modern Art in NYC.

The installation was called "The Artist is Present" and in it, she sat across a table making silent eye contact with whomever wanted to show up and sit with her during the hours that the museum was open for 3 months.

So, she showed up and was present to whomever and whatever came in front of her. She became a mirror for the Soul. It was simple, brilliant and courageous work. In a culture that tells us in every way possible that our worth is based on doing, it was an ultimate act of trusting the being-ness of who I am and who you are and whom all of us are. Knowing that is not only enough, but based on the huge turn-out for her show, that it is craved.

It reminded me of time I spent in India, at the guru's feet. Same desire. To see and be deeply seen. To be One with another.

It is the best possibility between lovers. If both people are willing to show up and deeply connect through the Soul, a connection can be made that transcends the body.

Same when breastfeeding an infant and gazing deeply into their eyes as they gaze into yours. These moments have been the most joyful and sublime of my life and I know of others.

My mantra to my students is "Your Presence is Enough, in fact, it is Everything"

The best solo shows are the ones where there is a willingness to be deeply embodied in one's own presence. In a way, the story, no matter how compelling the story, is secondary to the presence of the performer.

Your presence, your ability to set aside your ego  and connect with your audience is the offering. It is the gift. It involves doing less and being more.

It is achieved through a deep trust in oneself and a deep trust in life. That is where the real work often lies.

Weaving the depth of your presence with a compelling, dramatic, funny, imaginative, authentic and/or creative story is the heart of your work as a solo artist. It is a journey and a ride, if taken on earnestly, that will take you to every nook and crevice within your own Soul. In your quest, you have offered something true to an audience.

Thank you Marina Abromovic. And Spalding Gray. Thank you John Leguizamo. Thank you Ann Randolph. Thank you Doug Vincent. Thank you to the artists, mothers, deep listeners, dancers, lovers, meditators who are really showing up..on stages and in anonymity.

Thank you for every moment of true presence you offer this wounded world. It alone is the healing. For me, it alone is the art.

Friday, June 8, 2012

My Next Show: " A Woman of Pleasure"

God, this has been a long time coming.

This has been with me through the last 9 years as I watched my life fall apart, built it back up, and watched it fall apart again.

It takes a lot to do a solo show. A hell of a lot. It takes courage. Confidence. Humility. And Help. Lot's of help. From forces both seen and unseen.

I help people write and perform their solo shows. I help people heal by writing and performing monologues about pain and trauma and illness. I am good at it. Because I have been there. And back. Several times in this lifetime. And, I do not look away from it. Any of it. I examine life. Mistakes. Loss. Grief. Trauma.

And now, at last...PLEASURE.

It took a lot of work behind the scenes to move my focus from trauma, suffering, and pain to pleasure.
I deserve this show. I deserve this life. So do you. We all do. But it takes a lot to move in this direction with assurance in this world.

This is a show that has always lived inside of me. I am a sensual being. I have a body as well as a soul. Living in it. Feeling it. Inhabiting it is a tremendous gift.

For years I couldn't claim it. For years I was dissociated from it. No more.

This summer I am 48 years old. And my daughter is turning 15. I have lived through other people's mental illness, through death of loved ones, divorce and my own "fixing nature" that just wanted to love everybody enough to make the world ok.


Life is short. Life is precious. Feeling our aliveness is where it's AT.

The next show is about pleasure. A last taboo. Is it really ok for us as woman to be in our bodies in a relaxed and easy way on this planet. To love our sexuality openly and fully. To let go of labels of ourselves and others.

To speak the unspeakable about what we like, what we desire, what we crave and HAVE IT, without apology.

I love Sex and I love God. In this crazy world that would separate the two, it it my intention to bring them back together, in my own body. In my own heart. In this precious, precious lifetime. I am fully human and fully Soul and I will not sacrifice one expression for the other.

20 some years ago, Eve Ensler spoke the unspeakable by asking woman about their vaginas. It was timely and important. It was also very focused on trauma, oppression and pain. That's a song and dance that many of us intimately know.

But there is something greater. Much greater. Moving past the trauma, moving into the full Venus power of our gorgeous and powerful beings. Truly loving ourselves. Each other and loving men, we hold the heart of pleasure in our very hands.

We are much, much greater than the old paradigm abuse/darkness would have us know.

Those stories have come and gone. And we still stand here in our wholeness and beauty.

This is the next wave on the planet and I am grateful to know that I am a part of bringing through this message. Through my own journey of being a woman. Through my stories.

This is my offering now. I am glad I waited 8 years and excited to bring you my new show. This October...

A Woman of Pleasure: A Monologue of Sex and God.

In Santa Fe...with love, Tanya

Monday, May 21, 2012

StoryHealing: Solo Performance as a Therapeutic Tool

From my upcoming book "StoryHealers" which is about utilizing solo performance as an instrument for emotional/ spiritual healing of trauma, life threatening illness and transitions.

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.

Friday, May 11, 2012

A Solo Show as the Foundation of Your Career

It was long ago now, but I remember feeling powerless and helpless in my career. In the late eighties and early nineties, I was living in NYC doing the usual rounds that a theater major does when they are set forth into the world armed only with Stanislavsky method and big creative dreams.

I bought books at the Drama Bookstore, got head-shots and an agent and went on cattle calls and auditions.  I had jobs in retail and was a bartender and waitress. Instead of feeling more and more creative and having more and more opportunities open for me, I became more and more disillusioned, depressed and plain sad.

Was my family right? Should I give up on my dreams? Should I go to law school?

Instead of feeling embraced in a warm creative environment, I began to live the cliche of a struggling "actor"

After a terrible few years in my life, I moved to New Mexico at the age of 26. I got an agent in Albuquerque. It was the same story played out on a smaller scale. I could not stand the idiotic commercials I was reading for. I was cast in some plays in Santa Fe and while I was grateful to be doing them, I was making no money and was un-inspired by most of the roles that seemed irrelevant to my life.

And then, finally, I was up for a lead role in an original play that I loved. Written by a woman from Taos and directed by a fellow actor and friend of mine, I was stoked for the role. It was something that I could sink my teeth into. I went to two callbacks and it came down to one other woman and me. Franky, I thought that I ran circles around her in the auditions and that I was  a shoe in. And then I got the call. I didn't get the part.

This is a common experience for an actor. Something many of us go through over and over. The "Waiting Game" Waiting to be cast. Waiting to get "the call". Dealing with rejection over and over. Knowing that we are creative and brilliant and waiting to offer the world our gifts.

Something broke in me when that happened. I was 29 years old and my former husband said to me "Tanya, when are you going to write and perform your own show?"

The question hung in the air. Throughout this time I had been writing daily. Finding my voice I guess. And speaking about how, since i was nineteen years old and had seen my first one person show, this had been my dream.

Once I did my solo show, I never again felt disempowered in terms of theater or career. In the eighteen years since that decision and action, I have performed, written, directed and produced too many shows to count (well over one hundred) This form gave me my career.

I've seen the same thing happening with so many of my students. I work with many people who have transitioned from out of work actors to working actors by doing their solo shows. Some, like me, have also become creativity coaches, teachers etc.

A huge energy shift happens when one does their solo show. One takes up so much creative space that opportunity has the chance to find us. We are no longer playing the "Waiting Game" We are taking positive action, taking charge of our creative lives and producing our creative in the world. This month alone, I have clients taking their shows to theater and festivals in NYC, Chicago, San Francisco, San Diego, Toronto, Vancouver and Philadelphia.

One is starting his own StoryHealers business, like my own, in Boulder. Another client who performed her show with me last year is now premiering a corporate show as an integral part of her business.

Two woman I've worked with, one in Santa Fe and one in Boston,are presenting their spiritual shows to audiences in new thought churches/spiritual communities across the globe.

Their are so many ways to take our creative power back. A solo show is one amazing place to begin. And just doing this level of courageous and powerful work opens many, many doors that cannot be seen until after one jumps in and takes the plunge.

Just jump. The net will appear!

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Let's Not Make a Deal...Invest in yourself as an artist

People often call me and say, "I want to take your Solo Performance Bootcamp" but.... (here it comes) "I can't afford it."

In the past my response has often been "Well, we can work something out" or "I'll give you a discount, payment plan etc."

At the time I worked in this way, I thought that I was helping people. That I was giving artists the opportunity to work with me at a price they could afford. And that they would leverage my "deal" to take their career up a notch and take more ownership of themselves and their show.

In reality...not so much. People value what they pay for and this principal is no different when it comes to our art/creative process. I have noticed that the people who really take themselves and their shows seriously are willing to invest in it financially as well as emotionally and creatively.

The people who have paid me a fair chunk of money are committed. And so am I. There is a subtle difference that I notice happens for me if someone has "talked me down" It's all about energy. And, if you want my full energy, expertise as well as valuable advice and connections, from now on you will have to pay fully for it.

The people who invest in their Solo Performance Bootcamps want to get their money's worth. They have paid me, come to Santa Fe and want to see a return on their investment. They are the ones who are taking their shows on the road, getting runs at festivals, professional theaters and getting PAID runs at conferences.

So, please do not try to play "Let's Make a Deal" with me. Because I want you to succeed and I want to succeed. I want you to take yourself as a performer/speaker seriously. Invest if you want to. If you are inspired to. Your heart will guide you if this path is yours.

I can honestly tell you that I have never had one person tell me "I'm sorry I did this" Quite the opposite. The experience is ALWAYS one of power, love, adventure and on some profound level, claiming oneself.

It is a life-changing event.

And life changing events do not come at Filene's Basement's prices.


Tuesday, April 17, 2012

“The Soul’s Journey Monologue Experience”….A New Offering

“The Soul’s Journey Monologue Experience”….A New Offering

On April 27 and 28, at Unity Santa Fe, I am directing and co-presenting the lovely and inspired Sandy Alemian in her one- woman show “What Was God Thinking?”

Sandy is the author of a book by the same name, and late last year, she flew out to Santa Fe from Boston to work with me to adapt some of the stories from her book into a one -woman show. Sandy’s show and book are about her journey  when her precious baby daughter Talia died at  a month old and how the subsequent grief and pain opened Sandy up spiritually to become a channel and medium.

Sandy is one of many people I have worked with who utilize the solo performance vehicle as a way to share their spiritual journey with others. It is a perfect format, and while different from the professional actor who comes to create a character piece, if done well it can be equally potent and powerful.

My own first show, “Honeymoon in India” really combined my two greatest passions, solo performance and my own journey toward spiritual awakening.

The key is to do this work in an authentic, embodied and creative way. There is so much we can do to really bring a story alive, whether bringing in various characters from our journey or bringing in music, humor and irony. Even one's own most intimate journey must be shaped to serve an audience.

After working with five clients in the last two years who have written and performed their full-  length shows about their spiritual jouney’s I have decided to offer this as an additional option to my Solo Performance Bootcamp. These shows have been performed at churches, at 12 step and spiritual conferences, as well as in conventional theaters. Many conferences  are now choosing the solo show experience as an option to more traditional key-note speakers. I think because it is a more creative and alive format and people are craving that. A great example of this type of spiritual awakening message was embodied by Jill Boldt Taylor who delivered part of her show “My Stroke of Insight” at a TED conference a few years back.

I deeply believe that now is a time when people need to hear messages of hope, love, transformation and connection to something greater than ourselves.

This experience will be an opportunity to deepen your own spiritual awakening, share the story with others and offer it in community. Whether it is a once in a lifetime experience or you are a speaker/life coach who wants to perform your show in various venues,you will benefit yourself and others deeply.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Ego vs. Soul: Why do a Solo Show?

This is a writing exercise I give my solo students: 

Write on the topic of “Why do I want to do a one person show?” 

Be willing to be ruthlessly honest with yourself. If your motives are primarily from the ego ( wanting applause, validation from the audience that you never got from your family, wanting for your victim story to be cooperated, needing approval or raging out in revenge for the injustices you’ve experienced in your life) now is the time to begin to work with these issues to transform them. If your motives are to serve the world through offering a story of heroism and transformation, you’re on the right track. If your motivation is to challenge yourself to go further than you’ve ever gone creatively and expressively, you’re on the right track. If your motive is to shed light for the audience and inspire them in their own growth of spirit; if your motive is to challenge denial and narcissism in our culture through specific experiences and wisdom gained, you’re on the right. As you can see, there are many ways to be on the right track. They all have one thing in conmen though. They are to reach beyond the needs of your individual self to serve a greater purpose. Basically, you want to do this to either glorify the human spirit and explore it’s journey in overcoming obstacles or you want to glorify your own ego’s needs. This may seem a paradox if you’re exploring a personal story from your life. It isn’t a paradox, though. However, it is walking the razor’s edge. Right from the start, you must be aware of the danger of indulgence in your story. Indulgence is an over attachment to your own suffering. Indulgance is the attachment to your own heroism. The key to a great show is the willingness to be honest and true simply and  with transparency. The opposite extreme is under exposure. That kind of show will be dry and empty because the individual doesn’t expose him or herself enough and there is an emptiness to the piece. However, there is a glorious place in the middle where vulnerability meets discernment and art is created. True art always moves beyond the individual artist’s needs and makes an offering of some way to others. It does not matter if others “like it” or not. What is important is the digging down into your own soul for something true, the presenting it in a way that is specific and unique.  This is the place that you will be striving for within your work .If you’re not on the right track, you will begin to do Wisdom Writing in your journal on what you need to heal inside you to remove any obstacles that are standing in the way of you offering an honest, authentic, compelling story that includes a beginning middle and end that explores the transformational arc of your life or the life of another (whose character you are portraying.).

Sunday, April 15, 2012

When you feel do you find material?

This week, I had a meeting with a prospective client. He wants to work with me and do a solo show, but was concerned that there isn't anything interesting enough about his life for him to focus a show on.

Our own literal lives are only a jumping off place in a solo show. It is not just our own experiences that make a great show. As a matter of fact, people who are complete literalists have the most boring shows generally. It takes a marriage of our inner experiences  along with the outer ones while adding our own unique point of view and imagination to make a tasty stew. To make something theatrical, we need to be willing to surrender, deeply to the different aspects of our Soul and allow for the story that really wants to reveal itself to arise.

Even the late "Spalding Gray", who was a master of spinning his own life into interesting tales and is known for his autobiographical work was a storyteller at heart. In other words, he started with his life but embellished. Maybe he added some characters and changed the sequence of events and "put himself on steroids" as solo performer Tracey Erin Smith says. Which means, it is still you, but a bigger, more exaggerated version of you. Or who actually does things that you only think about in "real life".

There is a difference between emotional truth and literal truth. If, as solo artists we move toward the choice for emotional truth, the audience will take the journey along with us no matter if the story actually happened, partially happened or did not happen except in our own imaginations.

How do we explore these different ways of opening up to our own material?

1. Go back to your childhood. Write about what you really loved. For me, I remember loving being in nature, my dolls and writing poems.

How are these aspects of yourself feeding your life and creativity now? Open to exploring that energy in the present. It may hold a key to some creative openings within yourself before your life had more layers of conditioning and expectations added to it.

2. Write about an event that changed your life forever with a beginning, middle and end.

3. Think about the archetypes that live within you or that you have experienced at different times in your life. Martyr, Caregiver, Heroine, Addict, Seducer...etc. Give one of these aspects a name, for example " Marlene the Martyr" and let her speak from her Point of View....For years I have called this exercise "The Voices in My Head" and it is a great way to jumpstart your material.

4. Interview a person and ask them about the most important thing that ever happened in their life. Or a day or person that changed them. Turn this story into a character based on the interview. It is not about doing an imitation, rather it is about using someone else's story as a jumping off point for you.

5. Walk, eat good food, drink water and set aside time for your creative musings no matter what. You need this even more when you are feeling blocked than when you are flowing.

No matter what, don't ever give up on yourself or your gifts. Even if they are blocked for the moment, be willing to dive deep, take time and also play around. You will be amazed at what arises as you give yourself the time and space to go back to exploring.


Monday, April 9, 2012

How a Loving Relationship Changes us as Solo Artists

I fell in love quite deeply and unexpectedly in the fall of my 47th year of life. That was 7 months ago.The kind of mature, sustainable, passionate relationship with another that I had always longed for, yet never fully manifested was suddenly right in my face as a viable option.

I'm pretty sure this man is my soul mate, even though, by the time he appeared, I didn't believe in soul mates anymore. I had become too jaded. We have both done a lot of deep soul cleansing work for many years, that part of soul is definitely evident in our relationship. We care for each other's souls and take care of each other in ways both large and small daily. And, effortlessly.

We've both been in varying degrees of lousy, mediocre, partially satisfying and down right abusive relationships previously. And, as two people who have a similar outlook on life; namely, that everything is an opportunity for growth, no matter how shitty it may feel at the time, we had both digested and learned a lot from the lives we had led until the moment of our cosmic collision.

Now, I have always been tenacious about my work as a writer, director, producer, facilitator and performer. No matter how difficult things are, and how long it takes, I never give up. That has been a tremendous gift in my life and I have always kept on keeping on.

However, when I was married to a narcissistic "genius" who thought his work was "important" and mine was less so (to be diplomatic) it was not such easy going. Nor was it easy when my daughter's father was having a mental breakdown while suing me for custody of her. I've walked through 2 marriages and divorces in the past twenty years and a few other challenging relationships.

During this same amount of time, I wrote and performed three original shows, acted in another ten shows, directed and produced over one hundred shows, had one book published, started a solo performance festival, worked with at least another two hundred people in writing and performing their stories, trained some other folks to do the work I do and have been developing a new therapeutic modality that utilizes personal monologues as a healing tool... while raising a daughter. Yeah, whew.

Oh, and clocked in at least $10,000 worth of therapy appointments. But like I said tenacity is a virtue of mine..but still in the face of  being in less that supportive or inspiring intimate relationships, it has been HARD and EXHAUSTING privately to keep going.

Now that I am with Barry, my 64 year old double Taurus non-soul mate soul mate ,things are FLOWING....I am finally getting down to the nitty gritty of writing 2 books that have been on my to-do list, partially written for the last 2-3 years. I am opening up to greater financial support for my work by pursuing long term funding. I am offering classes and workshops to joyfully support many more in creating their own shows as well as training people to offer StoryHealers Therapeutic Monologue work.

With real love beside me, I feel limitless. I am so aware of how important this is for those of us who are risking ourselves in solo performance. I see and feel how much his unconditional support and wisdom helps me open up to be a better artist and take deeper risks.

We are really in the kind of relationship where the drama can be kept on the page and the stage. He is also a writer. How freeing this is for our creativity. This is where deep trust, a commitment to kindness and a deep desire to see the other one go as far as they can go creatively completely changes the rules of the game.

When I was pre-occupied by fears of being lovable enough, being pretty enough, wondering of my guy was being faithful on a business trip or not, trying to get my needs met (Hello! If you need to think about this, it means that they are NOT getting met!), my artist self was getting DRAINED. She was not free to completely fly.

I get very sad when I see artists give themselves away by getting involved or obsessed with a loser or abuser. I know their ability to really focus and create has just gotten diminished, even if they keep on keeping on. Like I did. For, like, ten years.

I've seen these creative u-turns, as Julia Cameron calls them, happen to many of my favorite students, clients and friends. And I have been down that road before more than once.

When you want to really go for it onstage, I mean really risk in your deepest, free-est creative being, you cannot work against a negative current in your personal life without paying a high price. We are whole beings. It is a holistic universe. All parts of ourselves are connected. Whatever your circumstances, know that your choice of partner will effect you as a writer, performer, teacher, parent and any other aspect of your life deeply and completely.

I am grateful that I left the lousy ones behind. Even when I felt like I was too old and had already had too many chances. Even when I left financial security, again...and stepped into the unknown with a child, again.

I'll never settle for anything other than mutually respectful true love. It is too good. Too important and feeds my artists's soul like nothing else. Ease is key. So I can keep the drama on the stage and the page and have my WHOLE life. I want you to have yours too.

Love=Art=Life. Make the choice to be happy and keep creating no matter what.


Friday, March 16, 2012

Solo Shows: A Once in a Lifetime Hero's Journey

I write a lot about the shows that I work on with professional actors. For actors, a solo show can serve so many purposes. It can re-ignite a career. It can connect actors with their deeper creativity. It is an opportunity to write their own dream role. For many professional actors, writing and performing a solo show takes their life in a new direction because the experience is so satisfying.

But what is the place of a solo show in a non-actors life?

In my experience, everybody has a story to tell that can change lives and reach hearts. We have an innate wisdom that wants and needs to be expressed as we go farther along on this journey of living. As we meet and overcome obstacles we are equipped to teach and inspire others.

Some people write a book. Some people write a blog. And some people write and perform a solo show. Solo shows are now showing up in lieu of a "key-note speeches". They are showing up at conferences, festivals, and at universities. No longer a marginalized art-form, solo shows are empowering others and changing lives in a variety of venues and under different circumstances.

If one doubts the impact of getting a message across in a clear and effective way that changes lives, look no further than the impact of Mike Daisey's one man show this year at The Public that shed a light on the abominable working conditions of Apple employees in China. The show was featured in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal and inspired a public outcry and confrontation of Apple.

I have worked over the years with "regular people" who have had a story to tell and have chosen to create a solo show. Some have been Veterans, some cancer survivors, some have overcome mental illness or the loss of a loved one. Some have lived with HIV and some have become climate change activists. One had a small time mafioso as a father and was trying to come to terms with their relationship.

All have presented their stories to the public in a myriad of ways. All have something in common. They are each walking the "Hero or Heroine's Journey" in their own way.

After all these years of working in my field, I am convinced that we all love solo shows because we are all craving intimacy. We are all looking for models of how to overcome pain, sorrow and adversity. We are all needing to laugh and cry together. This is what our heart longs for.

I do this work because of the love. The love of expression. The love of owning "what is" and the play of creating "what could be". The love of the alchemical process that happens in the theater. The love of transformation that authentic stories tell. And the love between the performer and audience as for one shining moment, we rise on glory..looking straight into the fire and holding each other.

Change your life this year. Write and perform a show. Don't wait any longer to offer your gift, change your life and inspire the world around you.

Love, Tanya

Friday, February 24, 2012

A Solo Performers Prayer

Dear Great Supreme Divine Theater Junkie,

As a solo performer...please support me in the following

1) Let me move beyond writing monologues that really belong as "shares" in an Alanon meeting

2) Let me learn how to create interesting, funny and unique characters that bring my story alive.

3) Let me understand the difference between offering a great and compelling show to an audience vs. holding an audience hostage and making them listen to all my childhood trauma

4) Let me see the difference between intimacy and indulgence

5) Let me inspire and bring joy to my audiences through my whole, funny, open, poignant, powerful, enraged, tempered, alive, authentic, one of a kind Point of View

6) Let me have the courage to be myself, not a poor imitation of someone else. I am not here to be trained as a "Mini-Nina" or a "Mini-Ruth"

7) Going back to #6, let me have the strength to walk away from any performance/improv/acting/dance teacher who wants their students to embody a younger version of themelves, rather than supporting them in their original process. Let me remember that this is called "narcissism"

8) Let me believe in myself and be transparent enough to offer a true offering for my audience. Let them walk out of the theater stretched a bit. Larger. More expansive. Open. Provoked.Thinking. Feeling.

9) Help me find a great solo performance coach and director before I attempt to put my show on stage. Have mercy on the audience

10) Above all, let me have a sense of humor about myself. Life isn't so serious and it's my job as a performer to find the laughs, perspectives and inspirations along the way!

Thanks a lot for my gifts and for letting me born in the Era of Spalding Gray and John Leguizamo who have led the way~ Love, Your Servant of Love and Truth

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Staying Kosher or Why I am Performing A New Show


a one woman show
written and performed

This is the title of my new show and I am performing it this year, come hell or high water. Come financial ruin or panic attacks. Come global warming or weight gain. Come menopause...well, you get the idea.

I am a single mom. I teach solo performance, direct and produce an enormous number of solo performances every year. I train others to do what I do, run a business and produce a festival.

And, these are no longer compelling reasons for me not to be performing my own shows. My shows are what began all of this. My shows are what gave me my life, my calling and my purpose. My shows taught me what I needed to do to offer this form to others.

My shows changed my life more than any other thing that has ever happened to me with the exception of becoming a mother.

I am going to tell you the truth. The honest to God truth.

And it goes back to the aforementioned panic attacks. I got them. Unexpectedly and terrifyingly in the middle of my life. At the age of 38 to be exact.The first attack was right before I went onstage in one of my shows. I was sweating, felt nauseous and though I had been performing with ease since the age of 14, I almost didn't make it up onstage. I remember my director talking me off the ledge and once I got onstage, I was fine. But that turned out to be temporary. More severe panics came followed. My body was out of control and I would have these burning chest sensations that were terrifying and felt like heart attacks. I would become convinced that I was choking on food because it was so hard to breathe and swallow. For a few years they were quite debilitating. For about six weeks, I became agoraphobic and flying on planes became out of the question. And, so did performing my own show.

And, with the exception of a few times a year storytelling nights, I essentially just stopped. A few years ago, the writer, Natalie Goldberg said to me "Tanya, you have to begin again. It's what keeps you kosher" And, I know she is right. And yet, I have avoided it by saying that I am too busy with all my students, other writing projects, and parenting. But, I cannot avoid what my Soul knows. That I cannot become a teacher who doesn't perform. Because all I do for others is actually informed by my own art. And my art, like it or not is solo performance. As a performer.

My Soul also knew that I would need way more support that I have ever had before to get back on the proverbial horse. And so,what did it do but give that support to me.

My show is called LOVE. It is the show I have wanted to write my entire life. It is the show of my deepest longing, the impossibility of that longing and the longing denied and fulfilled. The show has been partially written for years. But I never had a satisfying ending. Now I am living it.

And so I am booking the theater for this fall. I ask you all to ask about it, and hold my feet to the fire. The way I hold yours.

And come to the show.....

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Finding a Director/Coach

OK..right off the top. Full disclosure. I am a director/coach who specializes in solo shows. Yes, I know you know. I just want to put out there that this could just be interpreted as a self promoting discourse so you hire me. Well, maybe that IS partially true. Yes, I am being glib. But here's the deal. You must not do a solo performance without a director.

It takes many people to create an excellent one person show. Almost all the greats develop their material closely with a collaborator/partner/coach (I am thinking Spalding Gray, Eric Bogosian, Mike Daisey...all directed by their partners/wives)

Solo performances are the most likely of ANY forms of theater, in my opinion to fail. That's right, I said it. Why? Because of the self indulgence problem. Because one works in too small a container and one is generally too attached to the story. Because one believes that a story, their story is enough to be art. Because they love their own story.

Please do not, do not, do not fall into this trap. A good story must transcend the storyteller. A story must find the the pathos, the Universality, the belly laughs, the irony, the perspective, the Silver Lining, the loopy characters, the mystery, the poignancy, the connection to the bigger world.

So, who are you searching for when you are on your quest for a director? Traditional theater director? Someone with a back-ground in improvisation? A writer? Another solo performer?

There really is no formula. However, there are things to look for in a person you are considering working with.

#1. Have a conversation with the person. Do you like her energy? Is she a good listener? Most importantly, does she ash you interesting, provocative questions about your story/vision? Do you leave the conversation more inspired? If you do, that is a very good thing.

#2 Talk to other actors he/she has worked with before.

#3 Does she have a script or video of her own work as a solo artist or of another script she has worked on?

It's important that she resonate with your vision. This is about chemistry and synergy and it is an un-predicatable quality. Like a new lover or friend, you need to feel that there is a creative connection between you. I would say avoid anyone who seems rigid, domineering, or controlling. Ultimately, this is your show and it is important that you are working with someone who is there to support you. In other words, avoid big egos.

Some coaches/directors whose work I recommend (besides my own of course) are (in NYC: Cheryl King at Stage Left Studios, Jo Bonney, Jean Michele Gregory, Theresa Giambacorrta)

Remember that unlike a conventional director, you are actually writing and developing a script with someone. This is a much more complex process and in my experience, it is super important that your director both has a good sense as a writer/editor and of compelling storytelling/acting.

It's a big job and the right person can make or break your show. In the end, make sure that they have your back. Then you are safe to go onstage and really SHINE!

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Your First Show...Where do I begin?

I get a lot of phone calls from people who want to do their first show. Very frequently, people tell me    "I've wanted to do a show for (ever!) 5 years or 10 years or for as long as I can remember but I have never known where to begin."

Before I did "Honeymoon in India" (Top 10 Shows of the Year, 1995, Santa Fe Reporter) I carried that longing with me for eleven years. From the time I saw my first show, that longing was intense. But, it is such an undertaking. And generally one's first solo show (unless one is already a t.v. star and someone else will do the producing/promoting for you) involves writing, performing and producing/promoting. This can all be overwhelming and daunting.

So where do you begin. Just to get the energy really moving. Well, to begin with I think that on a creative level, writing, writing and more writing is a great place to begin. When I got on that journey toward my first show, I had almost no comfort level as a writer. Especially writing for the stage. I began working with 2 books that shifted the course of my life. One was "Writing Down the Bones" by Natalie Goldberg. The other was "The Artists Way" by Julia Cameron. This was 21 years ago and I had just moved to New Mexico. Both of these writers live in Santa Fe, but their work scopes way beyond "local" into the Universal. Basically, Julia gave me permission to claim myself as an artist and Natalie taught me how to write in a way that was true and authentic to me. In a way, her work offered  me my "Voice"

This is essential when working on a show and it must be uncovered/discovered  either before the process or during it to have something that is worthy of being put up onstage. Every artist who is creating original material that involves writing, must come to know and rely upon the voice that is uniquely their own.

Then I would suggest seeing/reading as many solo shows as possible. There are certain structures that "work", certain rules that "work"....just like in any other art form. And one can only be free to break the rules once one knows what works. Specificity works in my experience, both in the writing and performing of a piece. Will you incorporate characters in your show to bring the piece alive? How do you become embodied in the work? What is your point of view overall for the piece. Also, a show must have movement, just like dance or a piece of music to take the audience on a journey. What journey are you taking them on? Is it internal, external or both? What is the moment of reckoning? Is there a transformational element in the individual characters or the overall story.

Once you become comfortable in your voice, these are the kinds of questions you can begin to pose for yourself in your first draft.

After this you will need a coach/director and to put together a production plan. As I am heading out for the evening and I don't want to overwhelm you, I will cover these issues in my next post or two.

In the meantime, write, write, write. On paper, on the computer or by playing around on a tape recorder. But getting the stories out, is the place to begin.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Mike Daisey, the clear heir of Spalding Gray...Changing the World with his Solo Show

There is a reason that Mike Daisey has been called heir apparent to the late, great Spalding Gray. He sits at a desk and shares engaging,funny stories of life and the human condition. He has a strong and compelling voice. Both men's voices are/ were unique, ironic and specific. Both came from New England and are/were very smart. Spalding, a Gemini and Mike, an Aquarius are both air signs. O.K, dis-regard the last comment. I've just lived in Santa Fe too long.

I think that both men changed the world in very unique ways through their artistry. For me, Spalding gave many of us permission, through his modeling, to speak intimately onstage of our lives. This was way before The Moth, and monologue slams and Fringe Festivals. He was really a revolutionary,  sharing the details of his life in a way that was "speaking the unspeakable" especially for the culture at the time. This was the Reagan 80's after all and authenticity was not the word of the day. In the society at large or in art. But it was always Spalding's way.

He was also a deeply troubled man. Wounded and neurotic. His shows all were about him, his life, his process. He foreshadowed his death and talked about his suicidal ideations. He struggled with addiction and deep pain from his mother's suicide. In the end, he took his own life on a frigid New York day eight years ago now.

It was a horrible day. He left a legacy in his two sons and of course, in the shows. He also left a different kind of legacy in the theater. He created, almost single handedly, a new kind of storytelling. A breaking of taboos onstage. Not shock value taboos like performance artist Karen Finley who appeared onstage naked around the same time, portraying Eva Braun or having the audience examine her clitoris with a magnifying glass. Or Holly...oh what was her last name? "Dress Suits for Hire" woman. East Village. Challenging Gender stereotypes with feminist theater.

I always found Spalding's work much more intimate. His intimacy came from a deep revelation of emotional truth that ran deeper than the mind. It was edgy, yet warm, something lacking in some of the other solo shows coming forward at that time. He is a legend for a reason.

Mike Daisey is very much his own man and performer, yet building on that legend and this art form. Mike's new show about the horrible conditions in factories that make Apple products in China is taking the form to a higher level. Like Spalding before him, Mike presents as warm, funny and razor smart. He also shares some neurosis pretty freely onstage. But, unlike Spalding, Mike's focus is not just on himself. This is the last in a string of shows including "The Last Cargo Cult" where he uses his art to bring attention to an injustice.  In "The Agony and Ecstasy of Steve Jobs" he calls out one of the most popular and successful corporations in the world. He had his opening at The Public Theater right as the man himself was dying. While most of the world was offering Steve Jobs sainthood, Mike was telling stories of the Apple factories in China that he visited in disguise and the appalling conditions that he found. Mike has been getting a lot of well deserved attention for this show and now, the issues he brought up are being highlighted in the news almost daily.

This is an act of courage and inspiration and this is how Solo Performance at it's best really can change the world. I love how Mike is taking huge issues and making them very accessible and intimate through his gift of embodied storytelling as a monologue. Both these men are inspirations to me and assist me in deepening my understanding of the tru invitation of this work.

FYI: You can listen to a good chunk of "The Agony and Ecstacy of Steve Jobs" on This American Life.

Monday, January 16, 2012

The "Business" of Acting and Finding YOUR own way..

This week-end my fourteen year old daughter Chloe was in NYC for a teen Broadway Intensive workshop. There were days scheduled with casting directors, acting teachers, vocal coaches, dance instructors and even a Master Class with some of the Broadway cast of "STOMP"She attended with her best friend since kindergarten, who is a singer.

Both girls study at the New Mexico School for the Arts high school. Chloe in acting and Sam in singing. NYC was different. Chloe reported experiences with cutthroat stage mothers, casting directors who were mostly concerned about "type" over originality and that intense vibe that one only gets to experience in NYC studios.

The experience was good for Chloe. She has more information on which to base her choices of what kind of actor she wants to be, what kind of path she wants to forge. And the various costs of various paths...Because we all pay in one way or another for our choices.

Her whole experience made me reflect on my own training, my own dreams of youth and how some of them played and some of them did not. And how some of them changed.

When I saw Meryl Streep in the t.v movie "The Holocaust" when I too was 14, I decided that I wanted to be an actor. Her performance rocked me to the core of my humanity. I asked my mother to sign me up for acting lessons in the DC suburbs which she did.

My first teachers were wonderful. I felt "seen" and "whole" for the first time in my life as I embarked upon the deep emotional journey of an actor. I thrived playing in the deep end of the ocean and my happiest times were spent in rehearsals for shows in a darkened theater. I instantly loved Shakespeare, Albee, Williams, O'Neal..I was cast in show after show and attended a summer camp for the Arts during high school at Goucher Collge where I studied with a truly amazing teacher, Pat Vitalglian.

My experiences in college was mixed in terms of teachers. I had a great one, Matthew Vakey at Carnegie Mellon and another great, Ron Jenkins at Emerson. Both continued to instill my love of the art. Both were deeply supportive in terms of developing my craft.

But the ugly shadow of competitive, one size fits all acting had also begun to creep in. At Carnegie Mellon, I had a female teacher who "went after" all the Freshman and Sophmore girls who were vulnerable in any way. She told one girl, Diana that she couldn't stand the sight of her and to get out of her classroom until she lost some weight. She told another girl that she would never work because of the size of her nose.

And one day, she pulled me aside and said that I was too unattractive to be an ingenue and too pretty to be a character actor. And so that at 18, I might as well give up on a career now. Because there was not a "place" for me. And I did give up for a while. Her words penetrated my deepest fears and deepest wounds. I began to get suicidally depressed. By summer I decided that I wasn't going back to school the next year. I went to NYC for a year and began to study with the late, great Bill Hickey at HB Studios. Bill confided at me that he would never teach at any of "the League' drama schools because they were all this way when I told him the story. I got into an abusive relationship to validate my worth and attractiveness.

I was running my life based on  the thought that I was not good enough to have my dream even though I knew that I was talented as an actor. The "business" of acting already felt brutal to me and I had barely begun.

Then I decided to go back to school in Boston.And I met Spalding Gray...a man who was creating his shows and touring with them. A man who had stepped entirely out of the system. From the moment I walked out of the theater after seeing him, I knew what my new dream was. To create and perform solo shows. In time the dream also included helping others create.

Deb Margolin, an early and well known solo performer who also teaches at Yale called solo performance "Outsiders Theater'. I agree with her wholeheartedly. No matter how the culture sees us, those of us who are drawn to solo theater, in some way, identify as outsiders.

I do not know what my daughter's path will be. An insiders path or an outsiders. Or an in-between. As artists, we all find our own way. And pain and failures along the journey can even lead to our deeper calling. That is what happened with me.

I met some amazing people and just kept following an inner voice over an outer voice. Isn't that what outsiders are here to do?

You can have your art. You can have your career. Do it the way you want to.