I am afraid to write my solo show and then I am afraid to do it.

January 2, 2007 at 10:48 pm (Bloom Status: Sideways)

I watched Inside the Actor’s Studio tonight, the interview with Matt Damon. He was great, I thought. Whenever they have somebody really good on there it lights a fire in me. And the fire it lit gave me a good look around the joint. (The joint = me.)

Here’s what I saw:

HOLY SHIT I AM TERRIFIED OF MY SOLO SHOW.

shrub

In March I’m slated to do ten minutes during an evening of solo bits. And I have a deadline to have a first reading of my script in March for a little invited audience, people in my theater company and whoever else makes the cut. So, the time is now for getting to work in earnest. There’s no way I can really get momentum started unless I address this fear thing. In fact, I think I’m going to use Bloomerang as a place to process this fearsome journey.

Ten years ago, I saw my friend Kristen Kosmas in a solo show she’d written called slip. I remember going home afterwards – and I’d never had the thought before that I’d want to do a solo show – and sobbing. I felt like Salieri. I felt like I’d seen Mozart at work and that I was Salieri and that I would never be able to do anything like she’d done. I felt hamfisted and dense and unformed and coarse and stupid. It was brutal. I remember grabbing a book off of my bookshelf in desperation and doing a book oracle for some comfort. (You open a book at random and point at the first passage your finger goes to and there’s your divine message right there.) I pulled an Osho book off the shelf and there was a passage about being your own plant, some advice to the effect of not being jealous of a rose if you’re a wisteria, just growing your own way. I remember doing my best to embrace whatever plant I was, this Not A Kristen Kosmas Rose.

Ten years later, I’m a better actor than I was, and a better writer than I was, and I don’t feel like I’m supposed to do a show that’s just like Kristen’s or Heidi’s or Sarah Rudinoff’s or Lauren Weedman’s. I know that I’ve got something I can give that’s worth giving if I can find it – maybe not on the level of these women, but something worthwhile in its own way. But can I find it? Will I be able to get past my fear enough to do it? Or will I be able to work with it? Will I be able to see clearly enough? Do I have the right skill set for this task? I don’t know.

I can’t say I’ve never done anything scarier, as I have a child now. But, yeah, wait. Yes, I can. I was afraid to give birth, and had qualms about becoming a parent, but I knew it was right. And there’s a lot on the line in becoming a parent, but nothing that it worried me to put there. This is different. So, yes. I’ve never done anything scarier.

With a solo show that you write yourself, you’ve got a recipe for all the terror possible that an actor can face. I mean, having a solo show get stomped on is about as personal as it can get. It’s you out there by yourself, your material, your presence, your artistic sense. And there’s such hubris attached to this kind of undertaking – real and perceived – that people get positively gleeful with their vitriol if it fails. I have a couple of friends in L.A. whose theater company has a show they do called Easy Targets, wherein they put on faux solo shows and have people throw tomatoes at the actors. I went out to dinner with these guys last week, and you can bet your ass I wasn’t all like, SO HEY, I’M DOING A SOLO SHOW! What’s new with me? Uh….the baby…and uh…nuthin’.

Oh, lord, people. I’m slated to do this show in the fall of this year. How I wish I didn’t feel this weird imperative to do this. And I do! I feel sure in the worst way that I’d be furious with myself on my deathbed if I chickened out of this. Son of a BITCH. No way but forward. I might crash and burn, mofos.

All right. Enough for tonight. Next time I’m going to be yammering about the process of choosing material. YACK GACK. God help me.

salieri

Bloom Status: Um, do I have to keep doing this bloom status thing? I only use it to pat myself on the back, it seems. See, normally I’d be like, look at ME all TALKING about my FEAR! How BRAVE! Bloom Status Upwards, bitches! But let’s face facts. I have got a lot of work to do here. Bloom Status is Sideways. If I quit, then it’ll be downwards. But doing this post was a lateral move if there ever was one.

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8 Comments

  1. la Ketch said,

    I was thinking what might be helpful is to remember that this show was actually requested of you. There are some pretty specific people out there (myself included) that are practically dying for you to perform this story. So much so that they have requested, no IMPLORED you to do this. I mean, you have this hilarious story. It’s already there. So maybe it would be helpful to think about writing it specifically for those of us who are dying to hear it and not those tomato throwing yokels who will not be invited to watch it. you have all of the tools to do this. you’ve been training for it for a long time. STEP on that fear. it’s an illusion. GODSPEED BLOOMER! xo.

  2. beige said,

    I second everything la Ketch said, especially the fear = illusion thing. I’d only add that the illusion is self-created as a means to keep you where you’re “comfortable.” i.e. no risk taking.

    The rewards at the other end of this illusion are many, and it’d be a shame for you not to’ve tasted and enjoyed them.

    So, bloom on, dear one, like that 50k book in November, the challenge seems more arduous than it is.

  3. flamingbanjo said,

    I have a slightly different take. I was around to watch some of the writing process for Ms. R’s show at the Re-Bar (and the next one at OTB to a lesser extent) and I think it’s safe to say that the fear thing is normal. The “Oh my God what the hell am I doing? Who am I trying to kid?” stuff seems like part of the process, for most people anyway. Fear is an excellent motivator as long as you don’t let it stop you.

    The whole idea of performing a solo show makes me want to hide under a stack of old newspapers in the garage. I know this because somebody recently suggested I do one and I went and hid under a pile of old newspapers in my garage. In fact, I’m typing this from there. It’s cold! If you are reading this message and you live near my garage, please send someone over with a warm blanket and some sandwiches. Thank you.

  4. Eleanor said,

    HI. I don’t know you. I googled “writing a solo show” and you popped up on top. Weird, huh? So why was I typing that? Because I’m writing one? No, actually. I wrote one. Toured it. Went through hellfire and fear like I’ve never felt. Got panned worse than I’ve ever been panned EVER. (In Toronto. Alone. I knew NO ONE.) Been praised to the skies. Standing ovations. Sold Out shows.

    Now, I’ve been asked to teach a workshop. And I said yes. I’m such an idiot.

    They think that writing a show qualifies me to TEACH. Can you imagine?

    What the hell were we thinking?

    And yet, you teach what you need to learn. Which is why I guess I’m writing.

    You do it. You wakee up in the morning and you go for walks and you bring a moleskin nopebook in your pocket or some 3X5 cards and you brainstorm and you walk and you write shit down. You write ideas, phrases, lines, thoughts, to-do list items. Whatever.

    You do it every morning. PReferably somewhere you don’t have to think about which direction you’re going. I used to do a loop in the Santa Monica mountains, but cemetaries are good too. You can say stuff aloud and no one notices.

    You piece it together. you add some characters. Or not. Maybe it’s just you.

    Wear the kid on your back or put her/him in a stroller. Walking will shake out your ideas.

    Just my two cents. best of luck (and hey, at this point, it might be over. Hope it went well).

    Eleanor

  5. jimmy said,

    I googled the same way and I’m here. I am on the Lirr right now heading home from my first solo show class and I’m exhausted from recalling my life on a page. I read my own life story to the class and it really was tough. I can imagine what’s to come! I have to say iam thrilled to be on this journey. We all have so much to say about ourselves. Go for it!

  6. jess said,

    Hey, I googled the same thing, because I have to do the same thing! How did it go? You wrote the blog ages ago. Any advice? I feel Exactly how you did. And yet the time draws nearer and inevitably opening night will arrive. So I must Act.

  7. Karin said,

    I’m in an agony of procrastination and self-loathing. I’ve tried umpteen times to find a subject other than myself about whom to write a solo show. The ‘my story’ beast won’t leave me alone. Like Eleanor, I googled ‘writing a solo show’ and this blog came up. Unlike Eleanor, I haven’t taken the leap–neither have I complete the slow, grinding leap of writing and refining the damn thing (although I’ve started many versions), nor have I taken that screeching jump into performing it in front of the judge and jury. The audience. If, in fact, anyone comes.
    I have nothing more to say. Just want to moan. I live in NYC and am going to do some chores now, in my ongoing effort to defer my writing. If, in fact, anyone has even a seed-pearl of wisdom (where do you teach, Eleanor?), then I’m open. I’ve tried to find a mentor/teacher/guide and have learned much from many. But haven’t found my ‘teacher’ yet.

  8. Melissa Aston said,

    Wow,

    I am another googler. Imagine that, look what you have started, a forum for the terrified but determined. I have been performing for years, and have never written a solo show, have put it off until I cannot put it off any longer. thank you for existing, fellow solo artists. I truly believe we all have something valuable to offer the world, or we wouldn’t be struggling through all this fear facing to get our stuff out there in the world. I would like to start a forum or support/success group for fellow artists struggling through the stages of writing a solo show. Go TEAM!

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