I passed that little theater hundreds of times before I decided to see a show. Which happened to be David Ford’s class performance of solo monologues. I was amazed. Truly, this is better than Shakespeare! In Poland, where I grew up, theaters used Shakespeare to speak about current events, because of the censorship. Even if you wanted to recite a poem in public or have it copied in a copy shop, it needed a stamp from the Central Office of Control of the Newspapers, Print Publications and Performances in Mysia (Mouse) Street… Who would have bothered to write anything knowing the first person to review would be a censor… No ad-libbing, no improv! So we had very elegant high culture with all our classics, but no contemporary people’s stories. I did not know such theater even existed. Now I do – and I am telling mine today!
In yesterday’s show there were four pieces by my classmates – Gary’s fantastic tale of his grandma extraordinaire, Dave’s horror story from Vietnam, Alison’s piece on coming to San Francisco and doing EST Training (never heard of this before, hilarious!), Holly’s exploring the legacy of slave trading by her ancestors. So real and unique, each of them, it gives you shivers.
I will be talking about my first singing lesson at age 7. The one that made me shut up for the next quarter century. I usually tell it at some point during my concerts, but this time it is not about opera. It is about how the environment you grow up in influences your expression. I hope to develop it further, maybe this fall.
Holly found this article about solo performance in San Jose Mercury News by Pat Craig.
“Where I entered this vein of the theater community in term of solo performance, writing about my Cajun roots, I found San Francisco has an incredibly generous tradition celebrating different cultures,” said Anne Galjour, whose mid-1980s show “Alligator Tales” premiered at Berkeley Repertory Theatre and went on to become a major national hit. “I don’t know if I would have gotten that kind of support if I’d been in New York.”
About The Marsh:
“Toward the end of the stand-up boom of the ’70s, rooms opened where less frantic comedy and other solo shows were encouraged. And from this evolved The Marsh, now with theaters in San Francisco’s Mission district and in Berkeley. The venues operate kind of like a Major League Baseball team: There is a main stage (the big club) but also smaller spaces and tryouts where anyone can take a shot at performing, and if the club management sees something they like, there is an in-house development program.”
On solo theater:
“Theater, at its earliest, was the caveman recounting his hunt as his shadow flickered on the cave wall, with his applauding cave cousins providing a boffo review of the performance.
The longer you hang around theaters or drama classes, the more it becomes apparent that performance boils down to four small words: Tell me a story — which shows that solo theater is neither new nor cutting-edge.”
I have Masters Degree in Theatre Studies, but we were not taught about any of this. Well, maybe in Medieval Theater they should have taught it but our Professor of this subject had some phobia about lecturing and never came to the classroom. Funny story in itself (but did not make it to my show at this time).
However, I remember another professor, Lech Sokol, quoting some classic (Strindberg?): “When theatre is good, it is REALLY, REALLY good. When it is bad, it is very, very bad!” . Unlike music, that can be ok, or bad, but you don’t turn off the radio. The Marsh produces that REALLY good kind, and consistently so.