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!