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.