This is the first in what will (hopefully) be many entries as I travel the country this summer with my one man show, And Then I Woke Up, to various fringe festivals and the like.
This isn’t Day 1, though. That was technically last Thursday, opening night at the Dallas Solo Fest.
The entries in this blog are intended to be more about the road. Also, I was still so busy preparing in the days leading up to and during the fest that I didn’t really have much time to blog.
So, I’ll give a quick post-mortem on the 2015 Dallas Solo Fest…
It was okay. Brad McEntire does a great job with the fest and there are some really talented performers this year. Among them, I’m definitely the most amateur. And, it showed.
Opening Night was nerve-racking, though not as much as one review from a friend who has access to my Facebook page would have you believe. To me, it was the normal run up to a show. Stressful, but optimistic.
That said, I was definitely nervous. Ironic, given that I talk in the show about how performing has never scared me.
Pretty early on in the opening night performance, I got a little lost. My concentration was shaken early from an overworked voice that was on the verge of throwing in the towel. It cracked and quavered with every rise of the voice. It got to me and I lost my place. Not for long. I soon found it and the rest of the show went fairly smoothly. I dropped a few lines, including a bit that would prove to be pretty much everyone’s favorite in the last two performances. But, I got through the whole thing relatively unscathed. The (admittedly minor) scathing would come later when the reviews came out. Scattered compliments that got the wind knocked out of them by some pointed criticisms.
But, it was my first performance. Kind of. Really, it was the first time I ever performed an entire, complete piece that I wrote. I’ve performed smaller sections of the show in public. But, this was the first time it was all ever presented in one place.
So, considering that, I guess it’s not too bad.
After all, half the show had never been workshopped. I have no director (yet). This was about as true to “one man show” as you can get. This was a Kris Noteboom joint all the way. And, just like with my writing, it turns out I need an editor.
There’s no shame in that, for any other writer/performers reading this. Pretty much every great writer of the last several hundred years has had an editor. A good editor is worth her or his weight in gold. I learned this when I became a journalist and saw that Mark Lowry was able to take my rambling sentences and make them sound much better.
Forgive the self-congratulatory tone…but both reviews said, in one way or another, that I’m smart, talented and funny. Lindsey Wilson of Culture Map called me a “wordsmith”. Amy Martin (of my employer Theater Jones) said: “Woke Up is full of zingers, witty phrases, and bon mots to make a dependable hour of laughs.”
I can work with that!
But, both reviews also noted that the show is sometimes unfocused and a little too exposition heavy. They’re right. I’ve taken enough writing classes at this point to know that “too much exposition” might end up being my epitaph.
Arguably, I’ve gotten much better. Taking a short story creative writing class last semester helped a lot. The story I eventually submitted for publication went from over 10,000 words in the first draft to just over 5,000 after a couple of revisions.
So, even as this blog post is already well over 600 words, I’m getting better!
My performances on Saturday and Sunday went much better than Thursday. Those opening night jitters were exorcised, but I also just got more comfortable with the material with each passing day. Also, my voice recovered, somewhat.
In the end, a lot of family and friends came to see me perform. That was very meaningful. I’ve been telling these people for years that I’m working on something. I’m glad they finally got to see me. And true to being good friends, they all said they liked it.
Ultimately, I was right that it was more difficult to perform in Dallas. I’ve been a critic for the past five years. I don’t have a lot of friends in the theater community, but I’m friendly with all the other critics. To that end, the only part of my reviews that miffed me a little was when my private Facebook postings (which only my friends would have been able to see) were used as a plot point. It made me sound like I was having a breakdown in the days leading up to the show, which wasn’t really true. I’ve performed in front of audiences hundreds of times. I’ve spent 6x more time in my life performing than being a critic. The week before a show is always stressful.
Anyway, I’m not complaining. The reviews were accurate and fair. It’s not the greatest show in the world. And, that’s okay. It’s my first.
And, yes. I’m telling everyone right now, I’m not destined for Broadway just yet. But, you should come out and see it anyway. People have seemed to enjoy it and have been laughing a lot.
So, there’s that.
And, that’s the post mortem.
Now, I’m in LA for the Hollywood Fringe Festival. I perform Friday. For now, I’m visiting friends in Orange County. I’ll post about that next.