Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Only the Lonely

A one-person show, or perhaps more accurately in this context, a "monodrama", is something I have wanted to try on stage for a while. Scores of examples abound, from Chekov's one-act, On the Harmful Effects of Tobacco, to the full length Give 'Em Hell, Harry! by Samuel Gallu. There are also collections such as Neil LaBute's Bash, which consists of several one acts, some of which have only one character.

I even have a few ideas in my own head for this type of show.

I have never attended such a presentation, and I don't know if it would be better to see one before trying it myself, or seeing it first before watching one. Certainly performing one myself would forever instill in me a greater appreciation for any one else who took it on.

Understand that it isn't ego which feed my desire to appear on stage alone. Nor is it a disdain for other actors. A performance of this variety would be twice as hard in some ways as any other show. Not just because all of the lines go to one person, and that person has no recourse from other actors should the stumble. But also because 100% of the time must the attention of the audience is completely on you.

In a standard show, a person has some break not only from their lines, but from the symbolic spotlight. If they are in the background for a scene, they of course should always be in character, because someone at some point could be looking at them. Yet even so the majority of the attention, expectations, and scrutiny are on others who at the time are the focus of the scene.

One doesn't get such a break with a one person show.

It's the same for an audience. Any variety in the experience must come from one actor, and the parts of the story he is telling at any given time. It is a delicate balance in a one person show to prevent the audience from being bored with you. For if they are tired of the one person in the show for even a moment, the entire production has failed.

This type of play does have its advantages, however, not the least of which is the great challenge to one's skills as an actor. If one can pull of such a show, that says a great deal about one's talents. And one will come out of the experience a stronger actor, almost no matter what happens.

Plus, 100% of the pacing and control would be in a single actor's hands. No adjustments to the decisions, mistakes or presence of another actor (of whatever talents) would have to be made during the course of the show or a scene. If I were the star of a one man show, I would only have to answer to me. Despite the extra "dangers" and work of such a situation, that freedom does hold a certain appeal for me, I must confess.

Without any figures and studies to back it up, my observation has been that community theatres rarely if ever produce such shows. Could it be that companies fear the talent pools are too small in a community to find an amateur with the chops to pull it off? Or do the think that patrons of a community theatre expect a more traditional, or at least larger experience than can be offered by a one person show? My guess is that both these fears, and others explain the lack of monodramas at the community level.

Yet I hold out hope that one day I shall be cast in a local theatre's one show experiment, should anybody offer it. Or perhaps I can commit such a show to memory, and seek a chance to do a special presentation outside of a theatre's season. The same is possible if I write my own and pitch it. It would be more difficult to get the chance where I am, on the community level, but I don't count it out.

Have you ever performed in a one person show? Have you even seen one at the community level? If so I'd like to hear you stories.

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