What you have to offer in a one person show is yourself. Therefore, I strongly support using the 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 you can do on your own, working with me, or in another group supporting solo show artists to bring forth these vital qualities:
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. I suggest long walks/hikes, meditation and working out as part of your one person show training.
Focus brings clarity to your work, both in terms of 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.
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, and willingness 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 support my clients and students in through 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 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.
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 friendship where 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 a trusted support group or person 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. Develop your body, your intention, and your spirit. They are all part of stamina.
Commitment is the performer’s great asset. Commitment conveys 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.” It was Meryl Streep in “Sophie’s 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.
Develop these vital qualities in yourself over the course of the next year (and years) as you develop your one person show – and you will have a performance that is authentic, energetic and transforms audiences as it has transformed your own soul.
If you would like assistance in this process, you can always feel free to contact me about working together in a Solo Performance Bootcamp in person or via Skype.
I have put together a video that describes my Solo Performance Bootcamps below: