Monday, January 31, 2011

Writing the solo show, Pt. 8: Reading and Research

If you're anything like me, you might find yourself avoiding the act of actually writing by going to the library to look up books about writing.  

Or perhaps, using Google or otherwise procrastinating on the internet? 

(Curse you, Facebook!)

Now, we know that research is often a necessary beast we must wrangle.  We may need a sense of what has come before us, or to be inspired, or to simply get away from our own projects.  But after awhile, there is that scary moment when reading takes the place of writing. 

That inner voice inside says, “No, not yet…I still haven’t read this yet…so how can I write something about it…nope…gotta do some research…”

This usually happens when whatever it is we want to write is daunting and fearful.

For me, that is this solo show.

I could go on and on about why this particular show scares the hell out of me (gee, other than the “solo” aspect of performing alone on stage?  Or the intimate, more personal conection with the audience, or…)
I have been reviewing some great resources on solo works, though.  The most interesting, and highly recommended is Extreme Exposure, edited by Jo Bonney.  

This book is like a sampler of some of the greatest and most exciting solo performers fron the 70s to today.  (Well, not today, since it was published about ten years ago.)  You can sample through seletions from Spalding Gray, Jessica Hagedorn, Lenny Bruce, Whoopi Goldberg, Eric Bogosion, Lisa Kron, Danny Hoch, John Luguiziamo and Luis Alfaro.  What you get is a lovely panarama of the possibilities of what solo shows can be.  They can be political, personal, epic, or deal with the every day.  They can be sexy and fun or dangerous.  I recommend this for everyone’s shelf, actually.

The other book I’ve looked at is The Power of One by Louis E. Catron.  
It has a more mainstream selection (not quite as radically charged as Extreme Exposure) including examples from Jane Martin and Lanford Wilson. It’s got some great quotes about theater and some helpful examples.  What’s particularly amusing, though, is the argument of how different solo plays are from other plays.  Yet, as he describes what makes a great solo play, he then says how you also need those same things for a great play—conflict, drama, characters, spectacle, etc. 

It’s in reading this book, though, that I’ve had my breakthrough.

Don’t think of solo plays as this "other type of play".  

A solo show is a play.  

It’s not much different than any other play.  It’s theater.  It just happens to be performed by one actor. 

Suddenly, I don’t feel so daunted by it. 

I know how to write a play


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