Happy Anniversary Solofest!

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.

WHEN:

The annual Whitefire Theatre SOLOFEST 2021 runs January 8 through March 28.

WHERE:

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. 

Brandon Raman in "I Can't Indian Good"
Brandon Raman in “I Can’t Indian Good”

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. 

Rudy Ramos in “Geronimo”

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. 

Juliette Jeffers in ” Judgment Day”

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.

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lisa BIANCONI
Author: lisa BIANCONI