Enrichment and the solo performer

October 26, 2011 § Leave a comment

In this economy schools, libraries, museums and other organizations are having a tough time making ends meet, just like families and the government. Whether it’s trying to justify a field trip or getting more visitors into the library or museum, how are the expenses justified. This is where a solo performer can provide lots of value.

For schools, a field trip can mean contracting buses, adding out of school insurance, lining up chaperones and collecting permission slips. On the other hand, bring in a solo performer and you’ll almost certainly save money and time. A solo performer can also bring curricular enrichment. When I visit a school, the students get to meet Galileo, learn about his discoveries, ask him questions and look through his telescope. It’s almost an in house field trip to the 17th century. Other performers might bring Mark Twain to deliver his “Advice to Youth” or perhaps Harriet Tubman to tell of her life as a spy. Whatever the program it can bring history, science, literature or social themes to life in a way a book or lecture by a teacher never could. (For other possibilities visit SoloTogether, the home of many of New England’s best solo performers)

Libraries love to have authors visit to discuss their latest endeavors, but how can they bring in Walt Whitman, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow or Mary Rowlandson. They can bring in a solo performer.

Museums looking for a unique way to open an exhibit or enliven a special event might have P T Barnum entertain, Charlette Cushman sing or Paul Revere’s Mother in Law let them in on the latest gossip on the revolutionaries.

A couple of pieces of advise. To ensure programs are accurate as well as informative and entertaining, check to see what organizations performers belong to. Most will let you know if they are listed with state or regional arts organizations. One good source for such information is CreativeGround.org, a public service provided by the New England Foundation for the Arts and the Massachusetts Cultural Council, in partnership with the state arts agencies of Connecticut, Maine, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Vermont. You’ll find performing histories there as well as many other resources.

Solo performers can be found lots of other places as well. Hal Holbrook, James Whitmore and Julie Harris are among the most famous of the genre, having brought their characters to Broadway. But in the end it all comes down to the actor on stage alone.

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