I just finished up a session of working on my one an show. (As yet untitled.) As I've mentioned before, it is a show that incorporates Shakespeare speeches, particularly from the histories. My hope is to make some of them seem more accessible to every day people than they are generally recognized as being.
I am at this point totally off book for the first half of this presentation. Originally intended for a presentation this fall, plans changed and I will now perform it locally at the end of February 2015. Given the time frame I did slow down the preparation pace a bit, but I am still making progress. Frankly, I think the first half of the presentation is the harder part of it anyway, though much work remains to be done.
There have been many things I've learned on many fronts during this project. On the Shakespeare front of course I have learned something new, or discovered a potential nuance in the writing almost every time I review the speeches. As is so often the case with Shakespeare, it opens up the more you do it, as opposed to some writing which closes down, shrinks, and becomes less palatable over time. Whether you are experienced with reading/performing the words of Shakespeare or are tackling them for the first time, there is an internal gratification that comes with the almost constant education and near-limitless possibilities that open up the longer you study the speeches.
I am also learning on the one-man show front. I have never been in a one man show written by anybody, let alone one I have written myself. Except for an intermission I won't be off stage at all, of course, and that requires constant energy on my part, more so than in a standard play, when I can go off stage for a time and re-calibrate and brace myself as it were. I'm still a ways off from doing this with all the props and costume on the actual stage, (I've been rehearsing and workshoping it in my home), but the skeleton of what it will have to be like is coming to me now. It helps that at least for the debut of this show, I am intimately familiar with the stage I will be performing it on. I'll rehearse on it here and there in the months to come.
Willingness to edit is an invaluable trait in any writer. I've always known that, but it is especially true for a one man script such as this. I find that many one man shows over indulge in lines. There has to be enough there to make the show worth doing, of course, but there is a common conceit that audiences will be willing to absorb as much talking as possible out of sheer appreciation for the fact that someone is doing a shoe all by himself. I think that's a tad obscene in a way, and certainly self-important on the part of the playwright. I perhaps may have the willingness and energy to talk for hours about something, either as myself or in character, but that doesn't mean an audience is willing. I don't believe in catering 100% to a future audience, but at the same time they are going to be the ones I am performing this for. To assume they will give me undivided attention for as long as possible would be foolish.
Then there is learning about myself. It's not as navel-gazing as you may think. I;m learning what my strengths are as a writer and actor. I'm learning the boundaries of my persistence and creative energy. Though the concept of my one-man show is not revolutionary, it is the first time that I personally have tackled writing, performing and directing my own production. (Ideally someone else would direct even a one-man show, but nobody was available to me.) I'm learning as I go the value and the cost of going alone when I want something to happen on stage bad enough, and don't have others willing or able to help me do certain things. This entire experience was born out of the supreme difficulty of getting others excited about or interesting in participating on my ideas. So I turned to myself, and have learned that it is sometimes the only way to get creative enough. I don't know how the final product will look, or be received just yet, but I know I made the right, and possibly the only decision to undertake this task, given the shifting promises and willingness of others.
So it is, and will continue to be, a learning process for me on multiple fronts. now that a great deal of the memorization is complete, I have at last begun to delve into the nature of base character, as well as each of the Shakespearean ones I use in the show. Once I get further into that, a who new set of things to learn will emerge. In the end, that's the second best thing about doing this, the learning.
The best thing, of course, is the possibility of entertaining other people.