A cast party for a solo show is basically somebody wearing a little too much eyeliner drinking alone. There’s no one with whom to reminisce about the nice save when one actor forgot his lines or joke about the lead actress’ penchant for hiding props.
But, while the parties are a bit of a drag, the performances can be awe-inspiring for audiences. One actor takes the stage and commands it, each line spoken, each action made with no one (except maybe the viewers) to bounce off of. To perform solo takes guts, and the actors of Solofest have them.
In only its second year, Solofest has expanded from eight to 13 performances, all by local artists. Some names, such as UNM Department of Theatre and Dance’s Kristen Loree and Brian Herrera, are familiar. Others, like Rosemary Keefe and Diane Chase, are less well-known. That’s not a bad thing, that air of mystery brought by new names. The familiar faces draw in the crowd and push the newbies to expand their skill, to rise up and be, themselves, the stars of the show.
Performance isn’t the only draw for Solofest, though. This year, producer and Filling Station owner David Sinkus, along with his wife Beth Bailey, have added three workshops to the festival. Two of the workshops, “Action Theater Improvisation” and “Autobiographical Solo Performance: Nuts and Bolts,” allow people to get in touch with their inner storyteller, while “How to Book Your Solo Show, EVERYWHERE!” does just that.
Sinkus doesn’t want the workshops to happen in a vacuum, which is why the final night’s open mic also serves as an invitation for workshop participants to show their works-in-progress.
To perform solo takes guts, and the actors of Solofest have them.
Sounds like Sinkus is planning for next year’s fest already.
Probably not a bad idea, since Sinkus says they expanded this year because the number and quality of the submissions was so much higher than before. "The only things we aren't using, I think, are things that ended up with scheduling problems," he says.
The performances revolve loosely around the theme “The Power of One,” which Sinkus says embodies the idea of solo performance. Some of the works tap into that power by embodying real-life, historical characters. In Lynn C. Miller’s “The First Woman,” Miller explores the life of Victoria Woodhull, a suffragist who became not only the first woman to address Congress but who in 1872 ran for president.
Other stories aren’t quite so heavy, such as Frank Melcori’s “There Are No Dunkin Donuts in LA,” a tragic yarn that is sure to horrify any Bostonians in the area. Not quite the empowering tale of a heroic woman, but one many people can connect with anyway.
Each performance gets two showings (save for Diane Chase’s “Emptiness, Picasso and the Porcupine”) allowing festival-goers the chance to take it all in as their schedules allow.
“The pairings change,” Sinkus says, “which is kind of interesting. They don’t always go with the same performances. That dynamic will change the whole feeling of the evening—for the performers as well.”
Some nights audiences will be treated to three shorter performances, while others will see two longer pieces—the length of shows ranges from 15 minutes to an hour.
One of the longer pieces, “Where’s the Living Room?” by Linda Rodeck, is a 45-minute, fully improvised show in which Rodeck converses with the audience to form a story within a few already set parameters.
Rodeck and Vivian Nesbitt, with her “The Bark and the Tree,” a personal story about the artist’s great-great grandmother, kick off the first evening of performances. These plays are followed by a festival party, complete with Albuquerque Americana band Three String Bale. These brave performers already have to get on stage alone; don’t make them party afterward that way, too.