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So, I was wondering about the classics.  Shakespeare, Moliere, Ibsen, Strindberg, and on and on.  Because there are few female writers preserved through the annals of time, there must be ways women have had to play catch-up.

As for me, I’ve done four solo shows.  One by John Ford Noonan.  That was, “All She Cares About Is the Yankees”.  He wrote to me that Samuel French had put it out of print at the time and that it was his favorite.  It was an incredible experience.  Then, Cynthia Coopers, “How She Played the Game”.  Six female athletes that had gone virtually unacknowledged.  I was able to meet one.  Gertrude Ederle.  She was humble and joyful and 98 years old.  I sat with her in a nursing home for three hours.  We chatted while Kobe Bryant was on the news talking about buying his way out of infidelity with diamonds.

I wrote two solo shows myself.  “Til It Hurts”.  And, eventually it did.  It really did.  I started performing that piece on the birthday of my estranged Father and wrapped on my own birthday.  None of this intentionally planned.  That was the play that should have had the kitchen sink fall out and onto the stage instead of a curtain call.  I was able to perform it EVERYWHERE.  Bookstores.  The back of bars.  Source festival.  Arts on Foot.  Innovator’s Series at Gunston Arts Center.  All, or sections, of that play were performed from April to October 1999 (I think).  I remember having to wait at 1409 Playbill for Joy Zinnomen to wrap up her Mother’s birthday dinner so that I could clear the room and take the “stage”.  The stage that some patrons had mistaken for a bathroom in the middle of a monologue.  It was an interesting journey.

Then, after writing a show for twelve performers, then two, then three, the Molly Maguire ten year obsession turned into a one-woman show.  This is published in an anthology and taught in a class at Penn State.  I performed this piece for years and years.  Through states. There were moments where I met with Grandchildren of the woman I portrayed and told them about their own relatives.  Stories they’d never heard.  Really fascinating experiences, altering.

As I read my Strindberg and Moliere and Shakespeare and Ibsen, I yearn for the female perspective of yore.  Virginia Woolf said that Anonymous was a woman.  Funny.  True.  Strange erasure.

So, it brings me to question the female solo show.  Because at least half of the time (and, this is based on no scientific study) the characters are resurrected from history.  My friend Carolyn has one about Joan of Arc, Calamity Jane, and it leaves me wondering.

I remember waiting tables at the Paper Moon in Georgetown in the 80’s.  Lily Tomlin came in because the French restaurant was overbooked.  Everyone bought her wine and when I offered her a bottle from my table she asked if they wouldn’t mind buying her a cup of coffee instead.  How I wished I could have pulled up a chair and asked her some questions.  Like, what was the significant of “Searching for Signs of Intellegent Life in the Universe”?  Was it a vehicle for her?  Why would she take on such a risky task when she’d already acquired status and experience?  I know that someone else wrote it.  It was a collaboration.  It wasn’t historical.  But, it did give her a chance to fly through varying roles and embrace many facets of her abilities.  I wonder about it.

I myself am standing here on the corner of Walk/Don’t Walk and wondering.  Trying to adjust the tinfoil on my head, one could say.

First, in terms of filling in the historical gap.  Just looking at process alone is staggering to me.  These men usually were actors first.  They were writing for other actors they liked to work with in many cases.  Company  members.  They were oddballs.  Outcasts.  I’m generalizing, I know.  Which is always dangerous.

But, for women everything seems so institutionalized.  How much can actually be accomplished in the context of the educational microcosm which tends to be devoid of the real?  Everything is already paid for.  It changes the stakes.  It alters the color.  I wish I had more access to the contemporaries of these men I so admire.  There are some women preserved.  Note the pic of Aphra here.  Virginia Woolf had to buy a used printing press and she was a novelist, that helps but it doesn’t go all the way in answering what female playwrights were writing.  Edwardian Comedy boasts a deluge of amazing female theatrical artists through the suffrage movement.  Essentally ALL of those plays are now out-of-print.  Why aren’t they being taught?  It’s so confusing.

I have a strong intuition that as a female artist we dig to find it because we need to know who we are and where we come from in order to stand in our best light in the day to day.  It’s hard to do that when one gender has had that power for so long. I mean it drove Shakespeare’s protagonists mad, you know?

It would be amazing to hear stories -if there are artists out there that care to share their experience- with cultivating solo projects.  Because, I’m torn.  Theatre is collaborative by nature.  It’s liberating to be able to throw your set in the car and hit the road with maybe one technician and road manager-if you’re lucky.  But, it’s not really collaboration.  It’s liberation.

It’s such a liberating alternative to playing the standards.  But, it’s limiting too.  Many times we tell our own stories.  Many times, we capture ourselves through the unknown shoulders on which we stand.

How important is the solo play process to women developing their artistic voice?

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