As actors, it can be discouraging to go to audition after audition, only to be rejected over and over again. That’s why some actors take the initiative to create their own solo shows so they can show the world what they can do.
That’s exactly what Jack Schultz, a former Green Shirt Studio student, decided to do when he put up his own one-person show, “I’m Falling in Love All the Time,” through the Agency Theatre Collective in March. The show followed how Schultz developed an addiction to coffee in the wake of his brother’s death from heroin, and his exploration of how both of their addictions were similar. It was a story that was deeply personal, yet its themes of love and loss were universal.
Schultz says the process of creating a one-person show can be a very daunting task, but if you’re willing to put the time and effort into it, it can also be empowering both personally and professionally.
“Getting to write about what was most important to me and say that out loud was a really difficult but worthwhile thing to do,” he says. “It really helped me develop my own voice as a writer and performer. And when your story resonates with other people, it’s really great.”
Schultz also says writing and performing a one-person show can help you learn how to be more vulnerable on stage, which can improve your ability to authentically play characters in other scripted plays.
“Andrew and Sommer’s Meisner training is all about how you are inherently interesting and you just need to be yourself on stage,” Schultz explains. “Getting to practice that kind of vulnerability is really important if you want to do the kind of work that Andrew and Sommer teach at Green Shirt.”
So if you are thinking about doing a one-person show, where should you begin? Here are some of tips to get you started.
- Start Doing Open Mics
A great way to begin the process of creating a one-man show is to doing open mics or storytelling events where you can practice writing short pieces about your life and putting them up in front of an audience. “Start with five to 10 minutes of something. Explore that topic that is on your mind,” Schultz says.Schultz says he built up confidence by doing open mic nights as part of the Agency Theatre Collective’s No Shame Theatre series, held every Saturday at the Lincoln Loft. Once he had done several short pieces, he knew he could handle doing a full 45-minute piece.
- Come Up with an Theme
When you’re brainstorming about what to write about, its best to start with something personal, because audiences connect with actors who are willing to be vulnerable on stage. Schultz suggests thinking about a topic that has had a monumental impact on your life that you would like to explore. If you’re not sure, try writing several shorter pieces for open mics and see if you hit upon something that resonates with you.
- Give Yourself a Deadline
Coming up with an idea for a one-person show is the easy part. Sitting down and actually writing it? That’s where the rubber meets the road. To make sure you follow through, Schultz suggest giving yourself a deadline and trying to write a little bit of the show each week. Schultz says he gave himself a deadline of six months to have complete a first draft of the script.
- Hire a Director
When you’re putting together a show about your own life, especially where you’re the writer and performer, it can be very difficult to look at the piece objectively. That’s why it’s essential to bring in an outside director to help you shape the piece and give you feedback.“I think it’s hard to see the forest from the trees when you’re doing a one-person show,” Schultz says.And because you’re being so vulnerable by putting your own story on stage, Schultz says it’s important to work with a director you feel comfortable with. “Get a director you really know and trust,” Schultz says.