Building Your One-Person Show: Workshopping

Before you throw a ton of effort and money into an official production of your show, make sure you’ve got the best show possible: that your writing is tight, staging is compelling, and that the show communicates what you want it to. How do you know?  You workshop your material and get feedback.

A general note for when listening to feedback

STAY QUIET. Do not argue or defend. JUST LISTEN. You do not have to agree, and you do not have to take their advice, but you have asked for an opinion, so you listen to it.  TAKE NOTES!  It’s impossible to take in all the ideas and feedback at once, especially if some of it surprises you. Take full, clear notes that you can consult later.  If someone’s feedback is unclear to you, ask for clarification.  Ask any specific questions you have and listen to the answers.

Some ideas for workshopping

Invite an audience of friends to watch and critique

This you can do in your own home, you don’t need a theater. If space is limited, you could at least do a ‘table read’ and describe the staging. Invite people whose opinions you trust, and in front of whom you feel comfortable performing. It’s nice to offer snacks and drinks as a ‘thank you’ for the time and consideration they’re giving you.

Organize a feedback session with fellow artists

This goes back to my reciprocation idea from the last blog. Bring together several other actors/writers who also want feedback. You can take turns performing/reading for each other and give notes.

Public workshopping

I’ve heard it said, “How can you tell if a bit is funny? If they laugh, it’s funny. If they don’t, it’s not.”  This is a handy reminder that an impartial audience will give you lots of answers (not just for comedy, but for all kinds of performing). As a performer, you can start to notice when the audience is really ‘with you’ and when they’re bored or distracted. So, the challenge is to find an impartial audience. In Los Angeles (and I imagine NY and other big cities, too) there are lots of opportunities for non-stand-up-comedy, short spoken word performances. These are spoken-word, storytelling-type shows, where several performers each do a brief piece. It’s a great way to test out portions of your full show.
Do some googling to find out more about these LA shows, and how you can participate:

  • The Smart Gals Speakeasy
  • Sit’n’Spin
  • Tasty Words
  • Slideshow at Fake Gallery
  • The Moth (I believe this is held in many cities nationwide)
  • Spark Off Rose
  • Word Play at Fake Gallery
  • Get Mortified (also nationwide)
  • Uncabaret
  • Pinata at Bang Theater

Also, consider video- or audio-taping your performance so that when you’re calmed down from the hubbub of performing, you can watch or listen with impartiality and hear what worked and what didn’t.

Onward! And, hey, please ‘comment’ below with any questions or specifics you’d like me to address in future blogs.

With great love,
Jonna Tamases
www.madlively.com

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