In May of last year, I wrote a blog based on a new Mike Daisey show at Joes’s Pub in New York City, HOW THEATRE FAILED AMERICA, a controversial work where he took on regional theatre in the USA. (Daisey is a celebrated solo artist, based in New York.) Inspired, I applied it to HOW THEATRE FAILS ST. LOUIS, and ranted for a while on what I perceived as some of our stage community’s shortcomings.
Daisey’s back in the news again, delivering a presentation last week at the soloNOVA Arts Festival (where he was awarded the soloNOVA artist of the year award). Daisey’s speech: “Why Solo Performance Matters: A Manifesto.”
Simplifying it from a Daisey email, he posited “that the solo form is the next great American contribution to world drama.” Its low budget is actually part of the allure since mounting a one-man piece enables a flexibility that big productions cannot match. The goal, as he put it in a previous show, is “a theater that can survive the apocalypse.”
It couldn’t fail to drag me back into reflecting on the stages of solo work. I’ve done so many of them. I was invited/encouraged/recruited to do the first one I ever did (I’d never entertained the thought before.) I learned how to do one. I became entranced by their convenience. I was encouraged by critical and popular response. And I keep finding new scripts that bowl me over, new spaces to fit appropriate solo shows in, and new reasons to do them.
I honestly feel defensive about them. I may be wrong but I sense an attitude from our afore-mentioned stage community that I’m some kind of egomaniac ingrate who just won’t work the way other people work, who continues throwing out these solo shows for my own glory and my own unfair portion of publicity. (Anything solo tends to make one a bit paranoid.)
But inspired by Mr. Daisey again, I have to admit, despite best efforts to do otherwise, circumstances, scripts, opportunities etc continue to push me towards consideration of other solo shows. Nothing set yet, but things are cooking.
I learned about Daisey’s one-night event in the NY Times, and in the introduction to it,
the Times writer Jason Zinoman wrote, “Among the loyal friends who accompany me to the theater, there is one game soul whom I can rely on to be willing to see almost anything. Puppet Shakespeare? Jukebox musicals? Polish experimental dance? Say the word and he’s there. The only exception – and it’s a big one – is a solo show. His is not an unusual prejudice, especially because part of the impulse to produce this form is – let’s be frank – financial. But the good news for this derided form is that Mike Daisey is taking up its cause.”
This may seem like justification, or self-justification, but, especially when you’re doing something solo, support of your own type of ventures tends to give one hope, heart and courage.
For more information on Mike Daisey, visit mikedaisey.com.