There are no set guidelines for how to write a one-person show as it is as unique as the person who experiences and tells the story. However, with how popular this genre of theater has become in modern culture, there are a few basic rules that can help you on your way:
Learn more about how to write a solo show, how to produce it, and how to get started from an expert with over 40 years of experience on and off-Broadway – Performance Projects with Mel Shapiro.
A solo show and a one-person show are the same. It is an autobiographical story that takes place on stage but has only one actor. This genre of theater is best for those who want to tell a personal story and how they experienced it. For example, if you were stuck in a hotel room with your girlfriend and had to take care of her as she was going through alcohol withdrawal, you could put the play on stage so people can see how tough it was for you. Other things you can write about are how the 9/11 attacks affected your life, how your summer abroad changed you, how you experienced World War II as a soldier, how fame affected you and others during the time of celebrity obsessions.
A one-person show also gives actors more time to express themselves on stage. In a five-minute theater piece, there can be three characters and how they interact with one another. In a one-person show, the only role is how you would react to what you have been through. You can also express how you felt when something or someone made an impact in your life. This genre of theater is very popular in today’s culture. Each actor can tell how he or she had experienced something and how it changed them. Actors like how the genre gives them more time to show their talent off of the stage, but also how personal storytelling has become in this day and age.
A benefit of writing a one-person play is that the actor can express how they feel and how they reacted to different events in their life. The audience can see how you, the actor, experienced it and how you changed because of it. This is a great opportunity for an actor to connect with the audience and make them feel as if they are right there with you. It is also a great way to share your story with the world and how it affected you.
Another benefit of writing a one-person show is that the actor gets to experiment with their craft. They can try new things out and see how the audience reacts. This is a great way for actors to grow and learn more about themselves.
And, writing a one-person show can be a great experience for an actor when they are performing. The audience gets to hear how you, the actor, experienced something and how it changed you forever. If you are able to make people laugh or cry in only thirty minutes, it truly is amazing how much talent exists out there.
Writing a one-person show can be a daunting task, but it is definitely worth the effort. The first step is to find a subject that you are insanely passionate about. Make sure that you pick something that you are not only passionate about but also something that you know how to make very interesting and riveting.
First, pick your story carefully. You must know how to make it interesting and how to grab an audience’s attention. When I choose my stories for my solo shows, I always do research on how hard or easy the writing process is. By doing this, I know how difficult it will be to write and how good the writing must be so that an audience can enjoy it.
Secondly, pick a story you love and one with a lot of potential for interesting interpretation. Of course, how do you interpret how your grandmother changed your life? Well, there are many ways you could go about doing this. I suggest picking a story where the events that transpired are interesting and how you reacted to them is even more so. For example, if you wrote a one-person show about how your grandmother was an incredible cook, it would not be as interesting as how you reacted to her cooking. Did you ever get in trouble for eating too much? Did you learn how to cook from her? How did food bring your family together? These are the questions you should ask yourself when you are choosing your story.
Third, and this is very important, make it personal. This genre of theater is all about how you experienced the events in your life, not just how they happened. Yes, it is very interesting how your grandmother was the best cook in the town and how she taught you how to make her secret chili, but that is not how it pulled my heartstrings. For me personally, my grandmother was a really good cook and I loved how she always made us feel welcomed when we went over for dinner and also how she and her friends used to get together and play cards. These are the things I focused on when I wrote my one-person show.
Fourth, make it a piece that is easy to produce. This does not mean you have to dumb it down or make it childish in any way. What this means is how can you make your story interesting without having to add a lot of bells and whistles. For example, my show was about how I reacted to my grandmother is a great cook. I did not have to add special effects or costume changes because the story was interesting enough on its own.
Last, always remember that this is your personal story. This means you can make it as long or as short as you want. It also means how you write about how your grandmother used to make her chili is all up to how you perceived the events. This genre of theater is very subjective, which makes it unique because no two stories are exactly alike.
A lot of how you start your story and how it ends will depend on how the story goes and how you want to structure it. Some ways you can start a story are:
Seeing how a one-person show is all about how you experienced the events of your life, how you start and end your story will be completely up to how you perceive it.
It is time to start writing your one-person show. I know how difficult it will be to write and how good the writing must be so that an audience can enjoy it. Pick a story you love and one with a lot of potential for interesting interpretation, then make sure it’s personal and easy to produce.
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Jeremiah O’Brian is a faculty member at the USC School of Dramatic Arts. His exceptionally diverse background – from gritty nuts-and-bolts firefighting to film and theatre credits and accolades – is bolstered by his several graduate degrees.