Creating a solo show is a unique process. I’ve done two before Survival, and each was very different. The first was huge, a staging of Pamela White Hadas’ book of character poems, Beside Herself: Pocahontas to Patty Hearst, involving eleven separate portraits of women both historical and fictional. That was first produced in Lancaster PA, 1990/91, and I can’t clearly remember what the length was, but I think it was about two hours. Lotta lines to memorize, and eleven different characters to embody—a marathon. My best compliment was that two audience members got into a hot quarrel over post-show drinks, one claiming that there had been several performers, the other insisting that there was only one.
The second solo outing was Dream House in 2006/7, after we’d moved to Sebastopol. It was seven characters, maybe 80 minutes, and unlike Beside Herself it was our own writing. I let my alternate personalities out of the bag, using my incompetent clown self Bozo as the ringmaster. That felt scary as hell at first, but then it got to be honey and wine. I miss it.
Now I have another Bozo, the inner child clown self within a tough, wry small-town woman named Lou, who has been invited to do a talk on survival. The seven sisters of Dream House were all very familiar to me, since they were me, and all I had to do was focus on one at a time. Lou and Bozo are more distant cousins, so to speak, and I am just now beginning to fit them comfortably into my own skin.
And that’s a strange process. I’ve never before been so aware of how characters mature and ripen in rehearsal and performance, how they become like old comfortable clothes that can almost be felt by the body, warm and welcome. We expect to do Survival for a long time, and I look forward to surviving.