Live theatre continues with Whitefire Theatre’s Solofest 2021!
What is Solofest?
Solofest is a festival of one-person shows, or solo theatre, that is a celebration of the solo journey, not a competition. This year, all shows will be streamed.
The annual Whitefire Theatre SOLOFEST 2021 runs January 8 through March 28.
The Whitefire Theatre streaming. http://www.whitefiretheatre.com
The Whitefire Theatre first opened 39 years ago. Artistic director Bryan Rasmussen saw the possibilities in this theatre not only as an owner, but also as an actor and director. Having acquired it in 2005, it took a few years to learn and develop the business. Hosting a solo festival was always part of the plan, though it did not come to fruition for several years.
Solofest began in 2012 with a handful of solo performances. As a solo artist and having launched his own show, Rasmussen knew firsthand how cost prohibitive performances are for artists and wanted to create a more accessible model. Most festivals require the fee paid in full prior to the performance so he developed a financial structure that allowed artists to feasibly launch their show. The brilliance was in the simplicity. A deposit is paid to secure the date, and the balance comes out of box office sales. Once the fee is met, the rest of ticket sales goes to the performer. There is no other structure like this in the US and this model is part of the foundation for continued success of Solofest.
Through unending hard work, creativity, and relationship building, Whitefire produces the second largest solo festival in the US with an authentic and positive reputation among the solo artist communities on both coasts.
Growing consistently each year, Solofest 2020 had 80 performances scheduled prior to the opening night of the festival. Mid-March of 2020, the world was upended by a global pandemic, and the artistic community was devastated. But for Rasmussen, there was a path forward. Whitefire started recording performances as early as 2011. Technology advanced, and better equipment became more affordable so Rasmussen invested in live-streaming equipment in 2017 with the goal to expose the solo artists and their work to a global community. With the help of Technical Director Brandon Loeser and award-winning Lighting Designer Derrick McDaniel, the magic occurred – live streaming could be intimate theatre through the camera lens.
The main hurdle was for the solo artists to embrace this change. Ten brave souls who had performed earlier in the year were invited to return and live-stream their shows in “Best Of Fest.” While many theatres across the country had gone dark, Whitefire found success in its first live-stream festival. In addition, with a GoFundMe campaign and many theatre supporters, Whitefire was able to keep its doors open. In June, Whitefire launched “Streamfest,” with Laurence Juber, guitarist for Paul McCartney and Wings, opening the festival. By mid-July, as the country reckoned with racial injustices, Rasmussen was inspired by the Black Lives Matter protests and was compelled to offer up the theatre to the Black solo artists. Juliette Jeffers, a prominent teacher, solo artist, actress, writer and director, curated the festival. “Black Voices” solo festival emerged in the fall of 2020 and will now be an annual festival.
Well, 2020 was a significant and unforgettable year. The pandemic wrought devastation on so many communities, and with people facing countless hardships, they have turned to the arts for expression and solace. Whitefire adapted quickly to a new normal, and when live theatre returns, live streaming will continue to be integral to the theatre’s offering, making theatre more accessible than ever.
It is with gratitude from the heart to all the artists and supporters that Whitefire Theatre’s Solofest can celebrate 10 years.