Next week is my fourth (virtual) solo show class, and I can’t wait. I’ve long pondered the idea of a one-woman performance. I regularly do readings from my books, and of course had a lengthy career in children’s theatre “once upon a time,” but this would be different—.a good bit scarier, for one thing. In our first class, we all shared our biggest fear around developing and sharing our solo shows, which was: our stories will be boring to an audience! It’s all been said/done before!! Our teacher had asked us to write the story of our lives to fit on one typewritten page, which we then read aloud. After the five of us had finished speaking, she asked, “Were you bored?” The answer, of course, was “no”—the other stories were fascinating, funny, poignant. I’m still not 100% sure about mine.
Each week, we have a really cool assignment, which we present in class, and then do different theatrical exercises. We are also supposed to read, and watch videos of, other solo performers between classes. I’ve become re-acquainted, for example, with the work of the late great Spalding Gray, who used to sit alone at a table on stage with just a glass of water, and tell spellbinding true tales about his life. It is quite intimidating to see how effective many of these performances are: just one person talking, minimal, if any, props and costumes. I’ve always relied on either reading my essays (clutching the book for dear life), or on Steve (my partner in show biz and forever, the Wizard to my Dorothy, the Hook to my Pan). But this would be without-a-net stuff, and I cannot possibly imagine walking a tight rope, even if there was a huge net, the rope was two feet off the ground and my feet were superglued to it.
Last week, we had to write, and perform, a short piece in the character of one of our parents. Each presentation needed to include: a joke, a song, and a costume piece of some kind. Luckily, my choice was a simple one: I wrote as my mom, Joanie. Channeling my extremely quiet father would only work if I was portraying a chain-smoking Marcel Marceau. Joanie, however, is a relative snap (she was naturally funny, sang hits of the 1940s and 50s nonstop, and I think I still have one of her purses).
I’m learning SO much valuable info during these sessions (choosing a persona, stating the “I Want” that focuses the show, developing conflict). Even if “The Elise Files” remains a fantasy, I will use many of these nuggets to enhance my writing.
I have taken several classes and attended quite a few conferences since the pandemic hit—all online. I think this is one way I’m coping with the many losses of the past 15 months—with value-adds. I may have missed travel, visiting friends and in-person concerts, but they can’t take “Writing Topical Satire” away from me! So there!