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.