In February, we were fortunate to have writer/performer and long-time Guild member Anita Hollander in Boston, where she performed her show, Still Standing, for audiences at New Rep. She was kind enough to take time to talk with Guild members and other Boston writers about her experiences creating her one-woman show that she’s performed across the country and around the world, including at the White House. She spent sixteen years crafting and developing her show about her experiences as an amputee, and she’s been performing it for 26 years.
Yes, she sings and acts and writes, but she’s also a badass—when she lost her leg in 1977, she left Mass General Hospital in Boston every day to go to rehearsal for a show she was in.
Anita was very generous in sharing her insights. Here are a few takeaways:
Reasons why you should NOT write and perform a solo show:
• They don’t sell easily;
• Hard to do well;
• Very demanding as a performer, physically and vocally;
• It can be lonely. No ensemble to hang out with;
• It can be expensive to get it up and running (and keep it running);
• No understudy (especially if you only have one leg and write a show where you take off your prosthetic in the first five minutes);
• If done badly, it can really bore people (She thinks 60 minutes a pretty good length for a solo piece, hard to keep attention with just one person on stage beyond that.);
• It can be risky. Not always an easy sell.
And reasons why you SHOULD write and perform your solo show:
• You get to engage deeply with a story that is uniquely tied to you and comes from your perspective;
• You possess complete creative control;
• You get to exercise all your creative muscles, especially as you take on multiple roles (both in the creation and performance);
• To make a contribution to the world on a topic that is important to you.
• To give people hope and show that we’re not alone.
• To keep working and get paid for it (If you’re lucky you can get two contracts and get paid for both being a writer AND performer.);
• It’s risky, in a good way. You put yourself out there;
• As writers and performers, we’re already storytellers, so why not?
Anita shared details on a whole range of aspects of solo show creation, from touring, to finding people to act as sounding boards, to tips on possible festivals to approach. For her, the four-week run at New Rep was an exciting challenge, because she’s more used to short stops.
Boston has a strong tradition of solo shows over the years—Johnny Kuntz has created some especially notable ones, and Melinda Lopez’s show Mala moved thousands of audience members last year at the Huntington and ArtsEmerson. We’ve also seen small groups like Office of War Information and Sleeping Weazel present impactful solo shows. I’m curious to see if this form will show an increased presence in Boston and New England over the coming years.
In other regional news, Andrea Lepcio has agreed to serve as the Guild’s long-distance Ambassador to Maine. She’ll be helping me to set up Guild events and programs in Maine and northern New Hampshire. Andrea lives in Bar Harbor, where she’s the artist-in-residence at Acadia National Park. She’s an experienced playwright and also served for ten years as director of the Dramatists Guild Foundation Fellows program. With her on board, we’ll be able to much better serve Guild members in the northern part of Eastern New England.