Thursday, December 10, 2015

Own a bit of Ruth Draper


Dear Ruth Draper friends and fans,
It’s been fifteen years since recordings by the incomparable Ruth Draper bounced back into circulation in new CD versions. Celebrate that anniversary, and Draper’s 131st birthday, by spreading the word -- because the very best way to keep Draper’s monologues alive is to introduce them to new admirers. And what better time than the holidays? As the Society Matron in “The Italian Lesson” observed of the Philharmonic: “Oh, lord, it seems to come so often!” Indeed, but make those pesky holidays a pleasure, not a chore, by giving Ruth Draper CDs to everyone on your list.
Enjoy the season, and thanks for helping to keep Draper’s work alive.
Cheers,
Susan Mulcahy

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Books by Solo Performers I know...

The neat thing about many solo performers is that they are multi-talented artists. In this post I want to give a shout-out to three solo performers who have released books in the last year. I encourage you to check them out...

David Mogolov's This Could Have Gone Worse



David is a seasoned solo performe and has turned out quite a few dazzling monologues. He collected some of them together and the result is this hilarious and smart book.

Here's a blurb...

In 2010, David Mogolov began a series of three comedic monologues that left audiences questioning their life decisions small and large, from their flossing habits to their anger at Ponzi schemers. A hilarious, deep dive into the limits of human rationality, Mogolov’s comedy also presents history’s most thorough analysis of the smell of a Subway sandwich. 

In This Could Have Gone Worse, the trilogy of shows is annotated and expanded with commentary on how they were written and produced, with an honest account of what failed and what succeeded, and why. The notes and new chapters look at it from both the perspective of Mogolov and his director, Steve Kleinedler.

Get a copy for yourself... HERE



Lesley Tsina's Restart Me Up: The Unauthorized, Un-Accurate Oral History of Windows 95 


This is the untold, unbelievable, largely untrue story of the creation of Windows 95. Lesley tells it with her own special brand of deadpan wit.

Go behind the system and meet those who made it all possible: the beleaguered programmers who became addicted to snorting Pixy Stix, the marketers who employed mass hypnosis tactics to trick the press, the violent battle to squash a literal giant bug in the code, the focus group idiots who only cared about getting pizza for lunch, and "mighty god" Bill Gates, who engaged in a money suitcase stand-off with Mick Jagger over the rights to "Start Me Up." It's the story of how a tiny operating system patch became a multinational, mundane media phenomenon.

Get a copy of your own... HERE


Brad McEntire's I Brought Home a Chupacabra



Brad has performed many of his own shows. In this piece, he sets down a story for another performer.

In this weird and hilarious monologue, a young woman finds a semi-mythical beast on a hike and brings it home. During the next few days she is forced to figure out why it is that she connects better with animals than people. 

Get your copy... HERE


If you know of a few good books by solo performers, list 'em below in the comments. Spread the mirth...

The Whole Widget

"Mr. Daisey, who gave a talk titled “Why Solo Performance Matters,” contends solo performers are the last vanguard of independent artists in a corporatized theatrical landscape. And this, more than the economy or any other factor, has propelled the rise of solo performances. “It’s becoming more difficult to get any work produced,” Mr. Daisey said. “At the end of the day, many people realize that they have only themselves to count on. It’s a form where the whole widget can be controlled.”

from a New York Times article entitled "Getting a Little Help to go Out All Alone"

Monday, November 9, 2015

Robert Michael Oliver on The Incredible Shrinking Ensemble: Is Solo Performance Theatre’s Future?

Kathleen Turner in Philadelphia Theatre Company’s
production of Red Hot Patriot The Kick-a*s Wit of Molly Ivins.
Photo by Mark Gavin.

In an article posted on the MDTheatreGuide.com a few years ago, Robert Michael Oliver wrote an interesting piece about the rise of solo performance in the theatre. He hypothesized it to be the future of regional theatre...

[The] emergence [of solo performance] as a presence at mid-sized theatres, however, is most likely a harbinger of things to come. 

Though the entire article is implicitly aimed at deriding solo performance as actual theatre, he makes several strong points. It is worth looking at, even if to see what you may or may not agree with...

The audience can listen attentively and imagine their significance and what they must have been like, but within the frame of the one-person performance those scenes cannot affect us emotionally the way drama does.

Check it out... HERE


Sunday, November 8, 2015

SOLO forum in the UK

UK-based solo performers:

Something to check out... now around ten years in existence, the SOLO Contemporary Performance forum seems to be a great resource. From the site:
It offers practical, artistic, financial and production support to regional, national and international solo performance makers via several platforms, including artists’ laboratories, residencies, scratch and showcase events, public interviews and a new website. It was founded by Misri Dey in 2005, who works as artistic director, with Ria Hartley as the co-ordinator of the Bristol group.

Give it a look over... HERE

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Doug Wright on Functionaries


I had the pleasure of hearing playwright Doug Wright speak the other day at the University of North Texas. He read from his Pulitzer Prize-winning one-person show I Am My Own Wife.

During the post-reading discussion he mentioned an interesting tidbit that is specific to solo performance works. In traditional playwriting, with multi-character plays portrayed by multiple actors, it is considered hackish to put in really flat, purely fuctional characters.

These characters show up as waiters or waitresses, bank clerks, people waiting at a bus stop, and so on. They don't have complex, rounded personalities, but instead are in the play in functional roles. They serve as minor little catalysts. The waitress establishes that the other, probably main characters, are at a restaurant.

Actors hate playing these purely functional roles. Wright labelled them "functionaries." A really capable playwright would make these functional roles gifts for actors and add at least a little depth and background to them.

On the other hand, in his play I Am My Own Wife, he pointed out that despite the fact that it has over 30 roles, some of the characters that show up only appear for a single purpose, do their job, then disappear. They are purely functional. 

He went on to imply that one can get away with this in a solo show because the actor performing it has enough to deal with. A solo actor playing multiple roles doesn't need a gift of all the characters being super well-rounded. A charcater can come in and be functional and the story keeps going.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Applications now open for...

2016 Dallas Solo Fest (app deadline: Nov 8... fest: June 2-12, 2016)

Cincy Fringe (app deadlines: Dec. 3rd (or Nov. 13th for earlybird)...fest: May 31-June 11, 2016)

 Orlando International Fringe Festival (app deadline: Nov. 16th... fest: May 18-30, 2016 )

 Atlanta Fringe (app deadline: postmarked by January 4th. (Yes, you have to mail it in)... fest: June 8-12, 2016)

 Edmonton Fringe (app deadline: Nov. 23rd... fest: August 11-21, 2016)

Ottawa Fringe (app deadline: Dec. 1st... fest: June 15-26, 2016)

Victoria Fringe (app deadline: Jan. 12th (or Dec. 11th for locals-only)... fest: August 26 – September 5, 2016)


Thanks to Grant Knutson of Minion Productions for this update

Siobhan O’Loughlin performs in a bathtub

Siobhan O'Loughlin in BROKEN BONES BATHTUB

"After a severe biking accident last October, her fourth in four years, O’Loughlin was left with a large cast on her arm that made showering almost impossible. Instead, she opted for a traditional, safer route: baths. The only problem? Her apartment didn’t have one.

“Friends would ask, ‘What can I do?’ and I’d say, ‘Well, do you have a bath?’” To O’Loughlin’s surprise, many of her friends eagerly offered up their bathrooms. She was soon bathing all over New York City. This gave her the idea for Broken Bones Bathtub, an immersive theater experience designed to bring people together around the themes of generosity and healing."

Read the whole article... HERE

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Apply for Razor's Edge

Bremner Duthie sent word on a new project he and group of folks are putting together in New Orleans this fall...


Hi Solo Performance Friends

A word about the first New Orleans Solo Festival happening this November. 


www.razorsedgefestival.com

‘Razor’s Edge Solo Performance Festival’ is looking for all types of solo performance: storytelling, cabaret, improv, dance, musical, puppetry, multimedia, stand-up, spoken word, magic, tragedy, comedy, performance art, and other expressions of one person alone on stage. Premieres of new works and previously produced shows are welcome from experienced artists and emerging new talents. Selected shows will be presented Nov 12th to 22nd as part of our first annual festival. Applications are now open.

The Festival is running two venues: one black box with full theatrical facilities and a more intimate café/cabaret space suitable for monologues and storytelling.

All Razor's Edge artists will have access to the Razor's Edge publicist, a detailed presence on our website, inclusion in all our promotional materials, full tech support, stage management, venue management, and the support of the Razor's Edge organizers before and during the festival.

We are thrilled that at the same time as Razor’s Edge, performers from across North America will be coming to New Orleans to be part of a new multi-disciplinary festival called Faux/Real. Faux/Real is the evolution of the New Orleans Fringe Festival. They are taking the Fringe’s huge success in facilitating BYOV production and making that the core of their new festival.

This year, each Razor’s Edge artist will also be a Faux/Real participant, with all the benefits that entails: a full listing in the Faux/Real program and website, participation in the central box office, and support from the Faux/Real publicist. Both Razor's Edge venues are steps away from Faux/Real's box office and food truck festival.

So the artists in Razor’s Edge will have the publicity from the Razor’s Edge, (website and publicist and some kind of simple brochure), plus all the benefits listed above (full tech support, stage management, venue management, and the support of the Razor's Edge organizers), and also the support and publicity from Faux/Real (website/printed program/publicist/eventbrite box office). We hope that this will be a winning combination to attract audience and the attention of the press.


Razor's Edge will be doing a 75% return of box office to artists. We're suggesting that $15 ticket fee, but we're open to negotiation for ticket prices.

The upfront fee for the festival is basically the fee for Faux/Real ($250). What we are hoping is that being part of this larger festival (Faux/Real New Orleans) that we will piggyback on their audiences and their publicity machine.


If you have a solid solo show and are interested, visit the websit at: razorsedgefestival.com

Application fee is $25 and application deadline is August 1, 2015.





Monday, June 1, 2015

Q-and-A with Lesley Tsina

Lesley Tsina
Lesley Tsina is Los Angeles-based writer and comedian. She has appeared on NBC’s Community, ABC’s Black-ish, HBO's Funny or Die Presents and NPR's Marketplace. She has performed in sketch, improv and solo shows at the Upright Citizen’s Brigade Theater, the Comedy Central Stage, the CBS Diversity Showcase, SF Sketchfest, and the Minnesota and Vancouver Fringe Festivals. Lesley can be seen in various national commercials, most notably the Geico ad where the camel walks around the office saying "Hump Day.” Favorite shows include “Slave Leia Improv,” “Extreme Tambourine,” and “Tournament of Nerds.” When not performing, Lesley is a Contributing Editor for the comedy magazine The Devastator. 

She will be performing her solo show "Lord of the Files" at the 2015 Dallas Solo Fest. TSP got her to answer a few questions.

Here we go...

Q: Please give us a brief bio, where you are from and how you started in theatre/performance?

A: I grew up in Palo Alto, CA. I did theater in school and went to college for it but pretty much right after college I stopped wanting to be an actor, so I did stage management, dramaturgy, playwriting, wardrobe, pretty much anything but performing. I moved back to the San Francisco Bay Area and worked for a bunch of theater companies. It took me a long time to figure out what I was good at and what I wanted to do. I took a left turn and studied animation for a couple of years, but I found out that that’s something I’m better off appreciating that doing. I moved to LA to work in film production and I started doing standup at night. And standup clicked for me, both as a performer and as a writer. And then to improve as a standup, I started taking improv and then from improv I got into sketch and then back into acting from that. So, my background is pretty all over the place but I like where I ended up.


Q: What event or desire brought you specifically into the world of solo performance?


A: I was exposed to a lot of solo performance before I started doing it. In college, I interned at Actors Theater of Louisville and watched tapes for the Flying Solo Festival, which introduced me to Lisa Kron, Tim Miller and Danny Hoch. I watched a lot of shows at the Marsh and San Francisco Fringe. Years later, when I was doing comedy, I started writing short monologues for myself to do at sketch or variety shows. I wanted to do a solo show, but I didn't have an idea for one until my day job blew up and then suddenly I realized I was in the middle of a story with a beginning, middle and end that I really wanted to tell. Eventually I wrote that show.


Q: Could you tell us about some of your recent solo work?


A: I’m performing the latest version of my show "Lord of the Files." It’s a true story about being laid off from a place that made cell phone ringtones in a truly spectacular manner and about the office slowly devolving into chaos. It has parallels to "Lord of the Flies" that pop up here and there.


Lesley Tsina

Q: How would you describe your particular kind of solo performance?


A: As a performer, I tend more toward storytelling than character work. My current show is an autobiographical narrative but I’m not sure if that’s what I will always be doing. I am a comedian, so my shows tend to be at least slightly comedic. I've noticed that I’ve been writing a lot about work, anxiety and loss. That makes me sound hilarious.


Q: What is your favorite thing about doing this work?

A: That it can be whatever I want it to be. Also, a solo show has a life of its own; you can travel with it and revisit it. It’s a little less tied to your current situation than standup. If your life moves on, the show still exists as a piece. I think writing a solo show is one of the best ways to stretch as a writer and a performer. And I like that writing a show makes you look at your day-to-day life and think about the stories you walk in and out of.


Q: What inspires you to keep going and how do you keep yourself motivated?

A: I’ve been working on the same show for several years, so every time I do it I try to build on what I learned in the last production, both logistically and performance-wise. With every new iteration I try to fill in the world of the show just a little bit more. I actually find it really hard to work on this show, because it’s so personal. I try to remember that it’s good for me to push myself. And when I’m writing I remind myself that everything I write gets done two pages at a time. But it gets done.


Q: What is your approach to the development process when putting together
a new project? Do you create a lot on stage, improvising? More on paper?
Tape or video record? Hold readings? Head up to a mountain top?

A: When I was first developing "Lord of the Files," I took two different solo performance classes, with Lauren Weedman and then Brian Finkelstein. In the first one I was mostly generating material. I audiotaped the sections I worked on in class and ended up with a large and unfocused outline. And then I put it aside for about a year. I got back into class with the goal of finishing my script and on the first day we cracked the timeline and I was able to start writing the first draft. Then it was mostly sitting at home and writing and bringing sections in for feedback. I got a performance date at UCB [Upright Citizens Brigagde Theatre] and started working with my director Julie Brister and we produced the first version of the show. Later on, I worked with director Kevin Pedersen on an expanded version that would be easier to travel with. Both of them are great directors and it was very helpful to get two different takes on the material. While I was working on that version I was in a writing group, so I brought in stuff to read. I'd do previews in my living room, where my most patient friends would sit on my couch, watch the show and eat chips. This is also a great way to force yourself to learn a 50-minute monologue. For me, it’s the only way.


Q: Who are some of your influences or people that inspire/embolden you?

A: Josh Kornbluth is a big influence. I read "Red Diaper Baby" and "Haiku Tunnel" during a bad year of temping and really connected with both of those shows. Also Spaulding Grey, Lily Tomlin and Brian Finkelstein. Lauren Weedman’s "Wreckage." There are a lot of shows I’ve read that have stayed with me, even though I’ve never seen them live, like Alec Mapa’s
show "I Remember Mapa" or Claudia Shear’s "Blown Sideways Through Life."


Q: How do you bridge the gap between the creative and the business side of theatre?

A: A lot of it is about trying to work within my capabilities as a producer. I try to set reasonable goals for every production. I think if I aim for marginally better every time, I get a lot farther than if I say I’m going to do a lot. I am very organized and very careful with my budget. Having a background in stage management helps a lot. On days when I’m performing, I have to give myself at least an hour before the show where I don’t flyer or deal with logistics, which is easy to forget when you’re doing the Fringe.


Q: Any advice for some aspiring artist just starting out in solo performance?


A: Watch and read solo shows. If something important or crazy or otherwise compelling happens to you, document it, even if you don’t know how you feel about it yet. Write about it in any genre or format. Keep objects and documents and photos. Go tell stories or do standup or character monologues onstage, anywhere. Follow whatever subject matter obsession you have right now. Be okay with the fact that shows can take a long time to
develop but when you decide to get started, find ways to give yourself deadlines. Study with people you admire. Don’t abandon your show after one production. Try to see what else you have to bring to it down the line. It’s an iterative process. Just perform a lot and read a lot and be aware of what’s happening to you. And keep writing it down.


Q: Share with us something funny that has happened to you recently.


A: A friend sent me an email asking me to join a “30 Day Abs Challenge.” I wanted to reply with just “NO.” I have enough things that are challenging without having to work on my abs.


Q: What do you see for the future of solo performance and for you
personally as an artist?


A: I can’t speak to the future of solo performance. For me, I just want to get the next show written.


Q: Links and such?


A: lordofthefilesshow.wordpress.com and lesleytsina.com



Sunday, May 31, 2015

Q-and-A with Brigham Mosley

Brigham Mosley [credit Erik Carter]
Describing Brigham Mosley's work, Clint May of Chicago Theater Beat wrote "To say he has a lot of panache would be an understatement...[A] beautiful curio—at once poetic, raw, and intimate...Mosley is yet a young man in the world of theatre, but shows a talent and wisdom beyond his years.

Brigham is a Dallas-based theatre artist. He is presenting his show Mo[u]rnin'. After. at the 2015 Dallas Solo Fest. He sits down here to answer some questions for us at TSP.

Here we go...

Q: Please give us a brief bio, where you are from and how you started in performance? 

A: I'm from southwest Oklahoma - went to school for theatre studies at SMU where I first got into performance work - moved to NYC after graduating; got into the downtown, queer theatre scene and then moved back to Dallas last summer!


Q: What event or desire brought you specifically into the world of solo performance?

A: At SMU I took a workshop with acclaimed solo performer Tim Miller - it just opened up my world.  I realized how immediate and charged solo work can be - it changed the way I saw theatre!  After graduating I moved to NYC where I pursued solo work at spaces like PS122, La MaMa, and The New Museum.


Q: Could you tell us about your show Mo[u]rnin'. After.?

A: Mo[u]rnin'. After. is a "mythic autobiography for the queer, prodigal son" - a journey to the ancestors and back to the homeland through magic, musicals, and time travel.  There will be dream ballets.



Q: What is your favorite thing about doing this work?

A: The immediacy.  I love being in a room with an audience and having that agency to break from the script and explore a moment - to have that conversation and acknowledge what's happening in the space.  No fourth walls!  No walls!


Q: What has been the biggest challenge?

A: Getting perspective.  It's hard to step back from a piece - especially autobiographical ones.  Removing myself from the show and looking at it from above or beside - that's a toughie for me!


Q: What inspires you to keep going and how do you keep yourself motivated?

A: The work keeps me going - the exploration - I love digging deep and when creating new work all these new little germs of future pieces bubble to the surface.  To stay motivated I read a lot, I see a lot.  I love everything - high-brow, low-brow - it's all good!  It's all meaty!


Q: What is your approach to the development process when putting together a new project? Do you create a lot on stage, improvising? More on paper? Tape or video record? Hold readings? Go to a mountain top?

A: I'm so text-based - I love scripts - I love having the work on paper.  For me it's about knowing a show backwards and forwards and then on the other side of that is all this freedom to break from the text.  For creating new work I do a lot of uncensored writing - often I have impulses for pieces - whether that's a character or a topic or a metaphor - and from there it's about unpacking and unfolding and then re-shaping into a new vehicle.
  

Q: Who are some of your influences or people that inspire/embolden you? Particularly as a solo performer?

A: Tim Miller started it all - I think he's incredible.  Taylor Mac is divine - I adore his aesthetic and style and humor.  Charles Ludlam and the Theatre of the Ridiculous, Young Jean Lee, DOLLY PARTON!  Dolly is God.

Brigham Mosley in Mo[u]rnin'. After.

Q: How do you bridge the gap between the business side of theatre and the creative aspects?

A: Oh goodness - that's the challenge!  To quote Dolly (so much Dolly!): "Find out who you are and do it on purpose."  I think all artists are brands - we're all entrepreneurs and inventors and we have to be able to represent the work we make.  For me it's about knowing who I am as a writer and performer.  It's about being able to sum up the work for an elevator pitch, for a grant, for an application, etc.  Once you know who you are and what you want you can sort of piece together what that life looks like - and then you can add in the day job on top!


Q: What do you see for the future of solo performance and for you personally as an artist?

A: You know people always talk about Theatre as a dying art form - which I so don't agree with. [Editor's Note: Neither do I ~ Brad]  I think theatre is Experience and that will never be something humans don't hunger for.  I think theatre must become more theatrical (because theatre will never be able to do film better than film!) - I think that solo performance as a medium is one with strengths in immediacy and intimacy - it's also inherently theatrical because it's so much exposed-wires and torn-down fourth walls.  Film can't do that - TV can't do that.  I want more collaboration (which is maybe paradoxical in solo work but whatevs!) - I think making theatre that's more dancerly, more musical - big costumes!  Makeup!  Wigs!  That's the future for me!


Q: Any links you'd like me to list?

Friday, May 29, 2015

First-Time Solo Performers Premiere at Dallas Solo Fest

Jeff Swearingen and Kris Noteboom tackle the solo format for the first time

The 2015 Dallas Solo Fest opens June 4 at the Margo Jones Theatre in Fair Park. The festival, in its second year, will feature eight solo performers from around the country as well as a few locals. Each artist will perform an original one-person show.

For two local performers in the festival, Jeff Swearingen and Kris Noteboom, the Dallas Solo Fest marks the World Premiere of new work. More than that, though each has an extensive background in the performing arts, their participation in the DSF serves as in introduction into the world of self-created solo work.

Jeff Swearingen has been a fixture in the Dallas theatre scene for over a decade. He has won Best Actor awards and worked on many area stages. In 2011 Swearingen co-founded Fun House Theatre and Film. The goal was to disregard the usual plays tailored for young actors and instead challenge them by casting them in plays usually performed by adults. Swearingen is currently directing adolescents in productions of Sam Shepard’s True West and David Mamet’s Speed-the-Plow.

Though Swearingen is not a stranger to solo performance (he performed Andy Eninger’s solo show The Last Castrato for Audacity Theatre Lab several times) An American Asshole in France, will be his foray into self-created solo work.

Jeff Swearingen

Several years ago, Swearingen took a trip to France. It did not go as planned.

“I told this story of what happened to me so many times,” Swearingen recalls “and people seemed to enjoy hearing it . When Brad [McEntire, producer of the Dallas Solo Fest] suggested I make it into a show, it seemed like a good idea.”

KrisNoteboom has worked as an arts journalist in the Dallas-Ft. Worth area for the past half decade, mostly for TheaterJones.com, while he completed his masters and PhD work in performance studies at University of Texas at Dallas.

“Initially, school didn’t allow me the time necessary to take part in theater as a participant,” says Noteboom. That changed when he was prompted by a class assignment to try his hand at creating a one-man show.

“I was taking a class with Fred Curchack called Creating Original Performances. Our first assignment was a four minute performance,” says Noteboom “I didn’t know it then, but that was the skeleton of the show.”

The class assignment gradually expanded into a full show called And Then I Woke Up, a series of humorous and bizarre monologues about dreams. 

Both performers believe premiering their work in Dallas in important. For Swearingen home is a key component of his play.

“It is fitting that I do the show first here at home in Dallas,” says Swearingen “One of the main through lines of the piece is a fear of leaving home, of getting lost in the world.”

For Noteboom doing his play at the Dallas Solo Fest serves as a means of reinvention.

“Its a good way to reintroduce myself to the Dallas-Ft. Worth theater community.” Says Noteboom “I took the job writing for TheaterJones, which let me stay involved in theater from a distance. But, I’ve always been a performer first. And, hopefully this is a good way to show people as I try to transition back to that.“

Kris Noteboom

Now that they have each created an original solo show, is there anything they are learning about putting the work together that is different from the usual work they do in the theatre?

“I have the freedom to do what I want on stage,” says Swearingen “I can format the show to fit my personality and follow my twisted little tangents, rather than have to mold my performance to fit a larger canvas like in work I am hired for. That’s kind of refreshing.”

For Noteboom, who is taking And Then I Woke Up to four other festivals this summer after the Dallas Solo Fest it is the behind-the-scenes work that is such an eye-opener.

“I’m learning what goes into actually producing a show. A lot of paperwork,” says Noteboom “I always respected producers, but now I worship them. It’s tedious and not fun, but necessary work for putting on a show. That’s been the biggest adjustment for me.”

The Dallas Solo Fest will be produced by Audacity Theatre Lab and will play at the Margo Jones Theatre June 4-14, 2015. Located at the Magnolia Lounge in Fair Park at 1121 First Avenue, Dallas, TX 75210, the Margo Jones Theatre features ample free, well-lit parking, access to the DART Rail, and a handy BYOB policy! 

Single tickets and Festival Passes are available. Individual ticket prices for each show are $12. Reservations can be made via the Dallas Solo Fest website or by calling (214) 888-6650. Details about the shows, artists’ bios, the full schedule and ticket information at: www.DallasSoloFest.com



Thursday, May 14, 2015

Q-and-A with Bremner Duthie


I saw Bremner Duthie perform a few years ago at the Seattle Fringe Festival. His show '33 was amazing. Simply put, Bremner is one of the most dynamic performers I have ever seen, in solo work or otherwise. He is the definition of unbridled energy, connection and focus. His performances are similar to watching a tornado unfurl with a lot of excellent singing thrown in. And emotionally, he plays the scales as well. From laughter to tears and back again. 

He is heading to the Dallas Solo Fest in June. Between stints of Bremner zipping around the world (he was in Armenia last week), we managed to get him to answer a few questions.

So, here we go...

Q: Please give us a brief bio, where you are from and how you started in performance? 

A: I was born in NYC, moved to Scotland when I was 8 and spent almost 9 years on that side of the water.  Singing is the first thing that I wanted to do - so I think I can say that I started in performance when I was 6, walking home from school and making up songs. 


Q: What event or desire brought you specifically into the world of solo performance?

A: I was about to give up as a performer after a particularly hard stint of auditioning and being involved in many crappy, exhausting shows in NYC.  I had been kicking around an idea for a solo show based on the music of Kurt Weill, and I thought that if no one was hiring me for roles that I wanted to do, then I'd create something that interested me.  It turned out this show was a hit and provided me with a better living and more satisfaction then anything else I'd been doing. 


Q: Could you tell us about some of your recent solo work?

A: I'm always exploring various kinds of music theatre.  Lately I've been trying to play with the dividing line between the audience and the performer, without dropping into the dreaded world of 'audience participation'.



Q: How would you describe your particular kind of solo performance?

A: I'm a singer/actor, so I'm always asking myself the question - why does this character need to sing at this moment?  As a solo performer, I'm always asking myself the question - why does this character need to be on stage right now and why should the audience care?  I think the sum of those two questions adds up to my style of work. 


Q: What is your favorite thing about doing this work?

A: One of the strange things about being a 'working actor' is how much time you spend waiting for people to allow you to do your work - waiting for the role where you are the right age, height, weight etc etc etc.  Those roles may not be very ambitious or push you to develop your skills - but still, you take the gig, 'cause it's a gig.  I got tired of sitting in audition rooms with a bunch of other balding guys waiting to audition for a walk on as 'Fed-Ex Man #2'.  Solo work allows me to set new goals and push myself with each new show.  


Q: What inspires you to keep going and how do you keep yourself motivated?

A: The fear of working as a barista, since I have no other marketable skills.  The joy of being on stage and feeling that I'm sharing some wonderful, fragile moment with the audience as they join me in some crazy dream that I'm trying to create. 


Q: What is your approach to the development process when putting together a new project? Do you create a lot on stage, improvising? More on paper? Tape or video record? Hold readings? Go to a mountain top?

A:  I write a rough draft and then workshop that rough draft - so I'm improvising and making constant changes to the text and performance as I find better options.  I never get to a final draft... I just get to a point where I have to perform tomorrow.  Lately I've been working with a video recording, which is time consuming and brutally honest, but has helped me immensely to focus on what is working.




Q: Who are some of your influences or people that inspire/embolden you?

A: I love the world of 'performance' - so Pina Bauch, Laurie Anderson, Robert Wilson's early work, Mnemonic, Le Coq are some of the names that have really inspired me.  In the last years I've been blown away by the work of young artists touring the fringe circuit playing with form and style in storytelling and performance. 


Q: How do you bridge the gap of the business side of theatre?

A: Endless mind boggling hours of Admin/Publicity/Planning/Budgeting/Website Development etc etc etc etc.... trying to approximate the skillsets of a staff of 10 people... it is an ongoing challenge.


Q: Any advice for some aspiring artist just starting out in solo performance?

A: Don't write shows about your feelings and hopes and dreams.... write shows about characters (and that character might be yourself) trying to accomplish something that is vital to that character and thrilling to the audience...  and only write one show (if you must) about your family's immigrant experience.  Remember that your job is to move, delight, thrill and connect with your audience, and that is insanely difficult to accomplish.  Watch a pro-football game - see how excited people are in the stands?  They should be that thrilled by your performance. 

Q: Links?