Create Your Solo Show

How to do it and why you should, even if you never perform it.

Posted Mar 15, 2019

Marty Nemko
Source: Marty Nemko

One of my life’s more rewarding experiences has been to create my autobiographical one-man show, Odd Man Out.1.

Here’s how I did it and you might too

1.  List your life’s most emotional events. Theatre is about emotion. (That's why theatre’s symbol is a pair of masks, one happy, one sad.)  

2.  Look for a thread common among most if not all the events.

3. Put the stories in a logical order, usually chronological, but perhaps thematic. For example, family of origin, career, romance, miscellany.

4. Off-the-cuff, conversationally, practice telling the story of each event, aiming for genuine humor or sadness. That’s especially important in the first and last story. Generally, stories should be 30 seconds to two minutes in length.

5. Delete any stories that aren’t very good. Don’t worry about the show being too short: Better a 15-minute show filled with good stories than a two-hour padded show.

6. Add costumes: perhaps hats, stuff already in your closet or that are obtainable at a thrift store.

7. Add props: perhaps including enlargement of photos of you in amusing or sad situations. Also, include items of emotional or explanatory significance. If an item is too small to be easily seen by your audience, make an enlarged photo of it.

8. Practice your show, recording it on a video camera, perhaps the one on your phone. Review each run-through until you’re satisfied with it.

9. Give your show a catchy, emotion-centric title.

10. Consider doing your show for one or more family and friends.

Even if you never perform your show, you’ll likely be glad you created it because the act of creation is enjoyable and because inventorying your life’s milestones can be edifying. And if you perform it even once for just a friend or family member, it will deepen your bond.

And who knows? Maybe you’ll, as I have, get to do your show on a regular basis. How about as an event at your next family gathering, place of worship, library, or service club? I started out doing my show at a community theatre and now have performed it a dozen times including at the Koret Auditorium in San Francisco’s Civic Center.

1 I’ve since added my wife and a singer.