Whether you are a fan of Netflix specials like Hannah Gadsby’s “Nannette,” Mike Birbiglia’s “Thank God for Jokes” or storytelling events like “The Moth,” it seems like one-person shows are all the rage these days.
That’s why Green Shirt instructors Jack Schultz and Cordie Nelson are offering a brand new class at Green Shirt Studio entitled “Create Your Solo Performance,” starting April 16, where they will be guiding students in writing, editing and performing a one-person show.
Schultz and Nelson worked together to produce Schultz’s one-person show, “I’m Falling in Love All the Time,” which premiered at the Agency’s Basement Series in July 2017 and has since been performed at Greenhouse Theatre’s Breaking Ground Festival as well as at several colleges around the country.
In this six-week class, Schultz will start by having the students do some Meisner exercises and body work to get them in touch with personal moments and memories that could be the impetus for a full-length show.
“So many people say, ‘Oh, I’d love to do something like that, but I don’t have anything to talk about. Nothing’s happened to me,” Schultz says. But he says often, once people do some of these exercises, they are able to recognize stories from their lives that have personal meaning and universal emotional resonance.
For example, Schultz says you may have a vague idea that you want to do a show about baseball, but when you dig deeper, you may realize that you love baseball because it meant a connection with your dad, which can make your story carry meaning and weight.
Once the students have their ideas, they will then spend the next 11 sessions (the class meets for two-and-a-half hours a night, twice a week) crafting their individual shows. Schultz and Nelson will help them create tension and conflict in the story, edit the piece to maximize its impact, and find ways to make the piece feel more theatrical.
“Solo performance can get a bad rap because stereotypically it can seem like people putting their diary on stage,” Schultz says. “You have to have an exciting container to put your feelings into. And above all, it has to be a good story, like any other piece of art.”
The class will be limited to a total of six students, so each student will get approximately an hour per night of individual attention from either Schultz or Nelson.
At the end of the six weeks, Schultz says the students should have a fully-fledged show that they will be able to perform at the Agency Theater Collective’s Basement Series.
Even if you don’t plan on pursuing a career as a stand-up comedian or storyteller, Schultz says almost any actor can benefit from producing a one-person show.
“It’s empowering,” Schultz explains. “It give you the chance to own something, because as actors, we’re often waiting around for other people to cast us.”
Plus, Schultz says, it’s a great way of making yourself more known among casting directors. “It’s a really wonderful way to showcase your skills because it’s just you up there for 45 minutes,” Schultz says. “And storytelling is what good acting is – being personal and honest.”