August 17, 2016 § 8 Comments
Film actors may find themselves working on a city street, up to their waist in a swamp or in front of a green screen on a sound stage. Stage actors can be found plying their trade in a black box theater with the audience sitting on folding chairs, in an historic music hall or even on a town plaza doing guerrilla theater. Solo performers? Well you may find them just about anywhere.
My friend Jim Cooke once brought his personation (a word invented by the late Bill Meikle who was Ben Franklin) of Calvin Coolidge to a dinner party for a group of authors who had all written books on the 30th president. His performance even ended up being the basis for an article in the Daily Caller .
In the summer of 1840 Daniel Webster addressed a crowd of 15,000 on the side of Vermont’s Stratton Mountain. He spoke in favor of presidential candidate William Henry Harrison and vice-president candidate John Tyler. It was the “Tippecanoe and Tyler, Too” campaign. “Log Cabins and Hard Cider!” Dan’l began his address: “I have come to meet you among the clouds!”
Around a 150 years later Jim performed his Daniel Webster: I Still Live! near where Mr. Webster spoke. The audience he met among the clouds was considerably smaller, but none-the-less – more clouds soon gathered and grew darker and darker. Lightening flashed and was followed by rolling thunder. When the first large drops of rain began to fall he collected his few props and resumed in the Stratton Town Hall.
Gwendolyn Quezaire-Presutti once performed in an open farm field in Vermont with a 15ft bonfire behind her. It was at night and she could not see the faces of her audiences. It was October telling scary stories. Sparks flying from the fire …it was a challenge.
Another time Gwendolyn performed in a Historical Fort (1800’s) in winter time. No heat or flushing bathroom. that was miserable! Dressed in Native gear and blanket she almost froze, well almost.
One of Gail Hamel’s most unique venues for Abigail Whitney is on Boston’s Freedom Trail; Abigail has personal connections to many of the sites and she often mentions these connections when at the site, thus, making the tour Unique and Personal.
Sally Matson’s most unusual gig was appearing at Hofstra University for the 2008 and 2012 Presidential Debate events as Susan B Anthony. There were about twenty historical performers appearing in tents as in the old Chautauqua days. In one tent, a slave auction was going on. On the main stage, President Lincoln was speaking with Frederick Douglass.
Steve Wood brought Abe Lincoln to the Springfield (MA) Expo (better known as the Big E) in the NH Building. He was on a raised platform at the far end of the building. The crowd entered at the other end, walked by all the exhibiters’ stalls, rounded the corner in front of his stage making a U-turn and continued to walk by past the exhibiters on the opposite long side. Occasionally 1 or 2 would stop, stand in front of him listen for a few minutes before continuing by, but most passed him at a slow walk, looking up in wonder! He felt like he was an animatronic Abraham Lincoln in Disney World!
John Horrigan once presented his program “The Robinson Crusoes of Wake Island” in the basement of a frat house at a university while a kegger raged upstairs.
Rob Velella has performed as Edgar Alan Poe at a cemetery in Philadelphia standing nearly atop graves. No sound system, no lights (other than a reading lamp aimed at his face), and in near total darkness by the end. He’s actually performed at so many cemeteries that none of them seem like unusual venues to him at this point (Poe, after all).
As for me, I’ve also performed on the side of a small mountain or it may have been a big hill as Galileo at America’s Stonehenge in New Hampshire. I’ve done parlor theater in the living room of the guest house at Headlands Dark Sky Park. Galileo has even been spoken at the foot of the Apocalypse roller coaster at Six Flags America on Physics Day and at the foot of the Block Island Light.
So, to sum things up. Where might you find a solo performer. Anywhere they find an audience.
ps. If you’re a solo performer or have seen a solo performer in a unique venue, please leave a comment below.