Imagine the biggest bed you've ever seen, a California King next to a California King next to a California King and so on and so on. It looks amazing, this bed, you've never been in a bed so expansive—a field of daisies and clouds for you to rest upon, an endless relaxing silken desert of dreams. Why wouldn't you get into this bed? You deserve it, right? Of course you do!
Just watch yourself. Because once you start climbing into this bed, the edges blur and disappear, and then it's just you and bed and bed and you, for all eternity. You may never get out, and no one else may ever get in.
Consider deeply before you make a solo show.
What is it about solo shows? A shit-ton of performing artists either have one or want to make one. I see it in their eyes when they come up to me after a show.
Oh I have an idea for a solo show...
oh there's this SOLO SHOW I want to make...
Wow... you have a solo show, I WANT A SOLO SHOW...
Is it the obvious financial advantage of not having to split your potentially-paltry monetary compensation? Is it the ease of not having to work around anyone else's life choices but your own? Is it some sort of marker of total success—if you can get 'em to stand up just for you, then you're REALLY THAT GOOD and maybe the WHOLE WORLD WILL WAKE UP AND SEE YOU FOR THE MESSIAH OF PERFORMANCE THAT YOU HAVE ALWAYS SECRETLY KNOWN YOU ARE...
Those are all reasons why I made a solo show. Here's another one: ever since I was first getting on stage as a little kid, I have always felt more connected to the audience than whomever I was on stage with. There have been moments where I felt connected to a fellow performer, certainly, but for whatever reason, I have always felt some sort of film around myself when I'm on stage, a thin filmy membrane that feels like it is directly flowing into the audience's membrane, like we're in the membrane together... we vibrate together, the audience and me, and thus forms a weird gelatinous force field that prevents me from feeling something as deep with other people on stage, because I don't need it somehow, because when it's me and them I'm already whole...
How did that filmy membrane develop? Who knows. All sorts of ways. It could be a pathology or a virtue or none of the above. But it's for sure that filmy membrane that really propelled me to go it alone, and still does, more than the finances or the convenience or the imagined glory.
Do not misunderstand me. It is profoundly lonely. It is, possibly, unsustainably lonely. If we are thinking of the Artist Life as a marathon and not a race, it may not be the right call in the long run. Difficult to say.
It's worth considering deeply what your reasons are for making solo work, and understanding what the bad parts are going to be upfront.
Here are the bad parts, bullet-numbered for your ease of reference:
- You're alone.
- You're alone.
- There's no one else.
- There's just you.
- It's lonely.
- It's isolating.
- Do you hear me? Total Solitude.
- And no one else will really understand, not really. Other solo artists, sure, but they are so busy with their own bullshit that they don't have time or energy to absorb yours. You're on your own.
- You're by yourself.
- Is anyone else there? Anyone at all? NO!
- Just you!
- Do you get what I'm saying?
And yet, maybe it's going to be great! I have great experiences all the time.
You know what's great? That feeling after a show that has gone well. It is the closest I have ever come to utter peace. It's better than a day at the Korean spa. It's the absolute best. You're high on life and nothing at all. You're utterly centered.
Maybe you're wandering around in a park you find near the venue, because you're too jazzed to go home but there's nowhere else to go, so you just wander around this park in the dark and the drizzle and you watch the city lights twinkling not so far away, and in the park there are some young men playing some sort of role-playing tag-game with their phones, and you think that's cute, and you eat the two chocolate turtles that an audience member gave you, and you don't need a thing, no-thing, not one thing. You are complete and you are with the world and the world is with you and you're not lonely in the least because you are with everyone.
But technically speaking, let's be honest, you're still by yourself.
My opinion is always the same, when it comes to figuring out if anything performance-related is going to work for you. Build a 10-minute solo piece and perform it a lot and decide if you love it so much you wanna marry it. Because that is the only reason to make a full-length solo show. You gotta be willing to marry yourself over and over and over again. Does that sound nice to you? Have at it.
Consider your options, that's all I'm saying.
If you actually like performing with others, if you feel unity on stage with others, then for satan's sake go with that. Go with it despite your ego's calls for more attention. If you feel really good and connected on stage with other people, you will probably prefer that to solo performing, and the audience will probably prefer you that way as well.
More people make solo shows than should. That's okay. Just the same, does the world really need your solo show? Do you need it? Just think about it, that's all I'm saying.
Once you get into that big empty bed, there's no guarantee you're ever coming out.