By Renée Santos
Los Angeles, California (The Hollywood Times) 05/24/2023
Theater Fringe Shows are known for their small and intimate nature and none more than the Solo Autobiographical Performance piece. This year the Atwater Village Theater is offering a Festival of 7 Solo Shows June 21st, 22nd, 24th, and 25th. Seven women embark on this journey and I have had the pleasure of switching my multi-hyphenate hat and joining this very group on this Solo Show expedition. It’s been a fortunate delight to see and review a number of Solo shows including Kimleigh Smith’s acclaimed “T-O-T-A-L-L-Y” the director of this Atwater Festival. Having the unique perspective of being both the reviewer of One-Person Shows and now being one of the artists bringing this private platform of storytelling to life, it has prompted me a reflection on why Solo Shows are worthy of the spotlight.
The words “One-Women Show,” for many evoke an image of angry women lamenting about the burden of being marginalized and unseen in an often self-aggrandizing emotional vomit speaking to the injustices of walking through the world with a disadvantage. This festival is different, there is a levity juxtaposed with our dominant and complex voices.
As a writer, I have always been inspired by Toni Morrison’s perspective on the author’s search and her testimonies speak perfectly to this Solo Show Festival. She writes in her PEN/Borders Literary Service Award acceptance speech, “Writers-journalists, essayists, bloggers, poets, playwrights- can disturb the social oppression that functions like a coma on the population, a coma despots call peace. Certain kinds of trauma visited on peoples are so deep, so cruel, that unlike money, unlike vengeance, even unlike justice, or rights, or the goodwill of others, only writers can translate such trauma and turn sorrow into meaning, sharpening the moral imagination. A writer’s life and work are not a gift to mankind; they are its necessity.”
I echo the sentiment of Morrison’s wisdom seeing that storytelling is a tool for knowing who we are and what we want to impart. It probes deeper into the singular gift and responsibility of its creator. Solo Show performers are among the most sensitive, most intellectually turbulent, and most representative. The Solo show artists must imagine what is no longer the direct self-experience, garner the memory of their story and familiarize what was so strange for them into a characterization of what was their distorted familiar knowledge. This exercise truly is the test of the human spirit. In the separatism of these Seven Women’s stories, we find the collectivity of the human condition by each one of us taking the public on a crossing beyond bearing witness to the world as we thought it should be. As Morrison buttoned up in her award acceptance speech, “Art invites us to know the beauty and to solicit it from even the most tragic of circumstances. Art reminds us that we belong here.”
The success of a Memoir Solo Show, in most cases, is dependent on how well a single character is created and portrayed. This calls for detailed, multi-dimensional, engaging characters to come to life and capture and sustain an audience’s interest without needing an ensemble to inject new energy into the piece. The more that these interesting, female-dominated shows are celebrated and encouraged by audiences, the bigger the influence on other playwrights and the industry, in general, will be. Writers largely write what they know and a female-centered piece is a forum society is hungry to hear after the reemergent of oppressive legislation like the overturning of Roe v. Wade. However, it’s important to remember that female plays do not have to explicitly discuss women’s issues to be beneficial for women. Each of the seven women in this showcase, including myself, share their experience, strength, and hope for being in this world, and because it’s emanating from a female’s voice it automatically is speaking to this symposium. I got to sit down with my fellow group of creative queens to discuss this experience. I opened our discussion with what a solo show meant to them…
“I see a solo show as a living breathing memoir and the idea of expressing my memoir on the stage through this kind of performance I was charmed to do.” ~ Jennifer Lee Weaver
“Overcoming fear, coming in closer contact with myself and my stories by sharing them with others allows me to become closer to other people and learn the layers of differences and similarities that unite us.” ~ Pantea Ommi
“ I saw Kimleigh Smith’s show and it changed my life, it was fear and unity that inspired me to bring my story to the stage.” ~Amanda Casarella
“We have an inherent need to tell our truth, so that we have wings to truly fly.” ~ Kimleigh Smith
“ I watched a solo show and was in awe of the courage it took to stand up there for an hour and tell a private story. It was inspiring. I knew it was my calling to find myself through that creative outlet.” ~J. René Peña
“I was touched when I saw Kimleigh and J. René Peña’s shows, we all connect at the heart and I wanted to be a part of that journey and get to know myself better.” ~ Linda L. Michaels
“I was inspired by Whoopi Goldberg’s Solo Show. This platform is the pinnacle of an actor’s journey to share who we are to help heal others and entertain them along the way.” ~ Tiffany Phillips
I created much of my show from my past enacting what came up in the caricatures I assembled inside of my Stand-Up Comedy and from the free-writing process assigned by our director/producer Kimleigh Smith. Being in an intimate classroom setting I also witnessed the other artists in this showcase cultivate their content in a similar way. None of the creation was contrived or deliberately explored simply to make a point. There is something so special about seeing a performer communicate their own work directly. As Lin-manuel Miranda captured Alexander Hamilton’s famous words he ultimately gave us the human assignment, “ Who lives, who dies, who tells your story?”
Here is the full interview with this incredible crew of storytellers.
This is the time of year when live theater is truly embraced and loved. If you’re looking to see these 7 Women tell their stories, directed and produced by the award-winning Solo Show artist Kimleigh Smith and do it at an affordable theater price, come create this dance of being with us June 21st, 22nd, 24th, and 25th @ The Atwater Village Theater. These Solo Shows are really worth the risk.
Link to buy tickets for INDIVIDUAL NIGHTS: https://www.tickettailor.com/events/embraceyourcapeenterprises/917761
Link to buy a Season Pass to ALL NIGHTS of shows at a discount: https://www.tickettailor.com/events/embraceyourcapeenterprises/store
Every night but Thursday is a two show night with an intermission. All 4 nights will have a RED CARPET and an AFTER PARTY where you get to meet the writers and creators of these amazing solo shows and the director and producer.
In addition to my own show, “Crossroads,” here is the list and dates of the other women’s shows you don’t want to miss.
Wednesday, June 21st :
Pantea Ommi’s PANTEA (Everything) in Exile
Amanda Casarella’s BRICK-BY-BRICK
Thursday, June 22nd:
Tiffany Phillip’s I NEVER MET A JERK I DIDN’T LIKE
Saturday, June 24th:
Renée Santos’ CROSSROADS
Jennifer Lee Weaver’s THE GREAT BRAIN ROBBERY
Sunday, June 25th:
Linda L. Michael’s SUCH A PRETTY FACE
René Peña’s TRAVELING WITH ANGELS
Find the cast on Social Media here!
@jenniferleeweaver @reneesantoscomedy @renpen62 @amanda.casarella @thelindalmichaels @iamtiffanyp @pantea_om”