This month’s Soaring Solo blog focuses on “How to Be a Successful Solo Artist” and features an interview with Kevin Neighbors on his successful solo show “VERSATILE: Stories From Inside The Closet of a Half Black Gay Man.”
“One thing is more frightening than speaking your truth, and that is not speaking.” -Audre Lorde
As we enter into 2022, you may have decided that this is the year that you will finally make your solo theatre dreams a reality and complete the script for your one person play or maybe even step on stage for your world premiere.
Perhaps, you have had ideas and goals swirling around in your mind for quite awhile, and now it feels like the time has arrived to truly make it all happen. Yet, you find yourself questioning what it actually takes to be a successful solo artist.
If this resonates with you, then today’s blog will surely help guide you along your journey on how to become a successful solo artist.
In this edition of Soaring Solo, I have the pleasure of interviewing a young man whose work ethic, creativity, and powerful point of view has afforded him a great deal of notoriety in the genre of solo theatre in the early stages of his solo career.
Meet Kevin Neighbors, my dear client and the brilliant creator of the award-winning, one-man show, “VERSATILE: Stories From Inside The Closet of a Half Black Gay Man.” I had the honor of being Kevin’s director and developer on this profound solo show in collaboration with Soaring Solo instructor and Kevin’s solo coach, Heather Dowling.
Check out our conversation below…
JESSICA: Kevin, you recently obtained an award for your work in “VERSATILE.” Can you tell our readers what exact honor you received?
KEVIN: The award I won was Best Solo Production from Broadway World.
JESSICA: Wow, that is truly incredible. While I know you have a tremendous amount of acting experience under your belt, I understand that the genre of solo theatre specifically has been a rather new venture for you. We began our work together at the start of the pandemic. It is so outstanding that you have achieved so much in a relatively short amount of time.
Can you tell our readers a bit more about your experience as a solo artist thus far?
KEVIN: I have been in this genre for two years. I received encouragement and the drive to create a solo show from my now dear friend, TL Forsberg, after seeing her critically acclaimed solo show“The Book That Won’t Close.” TL then introduced me to you, her director and solo shaman, who developed and directed my show.
“VERSATILE” began as the memoire I knew I wanted to write, eventually, about my time in foster care in an all white family with my older brother Victor. It only made sense that this would be the title of my solo show of the same topic.
What started as a revenge piece about a bitter ex quickly turned into an analysis of my life in the intersectionality of race and sexuality.
“VERSATILE” was written over the course of nine months and premiered in the 2020 Black Voices Theatre Festival and then shortly after remounted at the Whitefire Theatre’s SoloFest, where it won a Best of Fest Award.
Because writing is rewriting, after SoloFest, you (Jessica) and I went back to the script to make significant edits in preparation for the Hollywood Fringe Festival where “VERSATILE”was nominated for Best Solo Performance and received a Best of Broadwater Award and rave reviews.
JESSICA: Truly outstanding to see how much momentum your show had in its first year and also the amount of accolades that it received. Can you please provide our readers with some of the sentiments that the reviewers expressed about your show?
KEVIN: Absolutely. Here are a few of them…
“Versatile by Kevin Neighbors is the kind of mixed race, LGBTQ, power conversation we all need to have.” – Dawn Garcia
“I almost forgot that I was watching just one person on that stage. Beautifully executed. Beautifully told. Beautifully staged. Bravo!” – Fringe Review
“The genius of this one-man play is the multiplicity of voices he not only incorporates into the story but his ability to perform all the parts himself on stage and assume the voices and characters of a large cast, modulating voices and characters in rapid-fire motion.” – Hollywood Times
“Kevin Neighbors’ Versatile was a tour de force. A brilliant, honest and compelling performance, […] This show needs to be on Broadway! – Fringe Review
“The way he morphed so fluidly into the many characters of this show left me spellbound! It was honest, brave, and uncomfortable (in a good way).” – Fringe Fest Review
JESSICA: Those are some pretty flattering reviews. Congrats! So, aside from all of these amazing feats, what is the most challenging aspect of being a solo artist?
KEVIN: The most challenging part of being a solo artist is the fear of standing in your truth. In solo work you are a lone human standing before an audience sharing a version of your truth. How that truth may be received is daunting, and further, discovering what your truth is can be uncomfortably revealing of your own nature. Forcing you to practice radical self-love and find comfort in the most uncomfortable places.
JESSICA: Very well said Kevin. And, what would you say is the most rewarding aspect of being a solo artist?
KEVIN: The most Rewarding aspect of being a solo artist is the freedom to shed your heart, mind, creativity and soul onto a stage play and let it stand for what it is, a piece of you. That is also a piece of your truth and it is simultaneously the most terrifying aspect. A completed solo show urges you to walk away knowing more about yourself, your world, and your place in it more than any other experience, theatrical or otherwise, ever could.
JESSICA: Indeed. So, what advice would you give other solo artists for them to be successful in this genre?
KEVIN: The advice I would give is to write, write, write all the time. About everything you think and feel in any way that makes sense to you, on the topic of your show or off. For me, it was poetry that allowed me to formulate my show, turning metaphor into scenes, moments and monologues. Your writings in whatever form they may take will serve as a map to what your solo show wants and needs to be.
I would also encourage artists to be patient in their process. Every single day you have to show up for yourself. No one can hold you accountable for your solo work but you. And somedays you won’t want to show up and that’s okay. What’s important is that you pick yourself up and show up the next day. Consider finding a friend to be an “accountabil-a-buddy” with. For the Fringe Festival, I paired with my friend TL. We rehearsed an hour a day twice a week for two months, splitting our time, in preparation for the festival.
The other advice I would give is to think and create wildly. The most out of box, or conversely, the most vulnerable and intimate ideations and creations are always the most entertaining and moving moments for audiences to watch and the most fun for you to perform. And that’s important that you have fun.
JESSICA: I could not agree more with that advice Kevin. Thank you so much for your words of wisdom for your fellow solo artists to absorb and thank you for taking the time today to let us all in on your process and your journey in this unique genre.
Well, solo artists, I sincerely hope that today’s blog interview with Kevin gave you some insights and inspiration as you continue along on your solo journey. It may not be easy, but it is so worth it!
Enjoy these Solo Theatre Resources to further guide you on your solo journey!
Tune in and support the Soaring Solo Community as we participate in the REVEALED Virtual Reading Series this winter!
Award-winning director and developer, Jessica Lynn Johnson, hosts a slew of powerful solo show script readings addressing various impactful and inspiring topics.
This enticing lineup can be found by CLICKING HERE FOR MORE INFO.
Start writing your own solo show one Freewrite at a time with “FREEWrite Friday!”
Join BEST NATIONAL SOLO ARTIST WINNER Jessica Lynn Johnson for FREEWrite Friday!
Utilizing thought-provoking writing prompts, Jessica will lead you in writing exercises that are sure to assist you in the development of your solo show.
A one-person play is not typically written in one fell swoop. Rather, the Soaring Solo Methodology teaches that the creation of solo art is much like that of creating a mosaic…one beautiful piece at a time.
All that is required to attend this inspiring event is a willingness to explore, having a pen, paper, or some other means of capturing your thoughts, the ability to access Zoom, and signing up on this page as your official RSVP.
We look forward to having you join the Soaring Solo Community in this event because your story matters!
CLICK HERE TO RSVP and obtain the Zoom link and password.
Attend the Soaring Solo FREE One-Person Play Development class ONLINE!
No matter where you are in the creation of your solo show, idea phase, curiosity phase, full draft written, touring the festival and college market, BEST NATIONAL SOLO ARTIST and founder of Soaring Solo, Jessica Lynn Johnson, will meet you where you are at and take you to the next level! All that is required to attend is a willingness to explore, a pen, and some paper. No previous writing or performance experience necessary, and no need to have written anything to bring to class. Each week Jessica will guide you in exercises to help generate and stage NEW material! So come and meet other creatives in a supportive space for expression and exploration! The class is ongoing and so you may pop in and out as you please as long as you RSVP by clicking here for this FREE ONE PERSON PLAY CLASS.
Schedule an Online Coaching Consultation with Jessica Lynn Johnson to discuss the possibilities for your solo show!
Jessica brings her 15+ years of solo theatre expertise to work privately with solo artists from all over the world on an as needed basis.
A 1 on 1 Consultation is for you if…
-You are curious about creating a solo show, but you need writing prompts to help you generate material.
– You are tossing around ideas for your solo show, but you need some accountability and encouragement to commit those ideas to the page.
-You have already written some material, but you need expert feedback on editing, story structure and play formatting.
-You have a great first draft, but need guidance on how to utilize multimedia and solo theatre technique in order to make your show a dynamic piece of solo theatre.
-You already premiered your solo show and now you want some tips on how to tour colleges and festivals, and garner accolades and great reviews!
-You have heard great things about Jessica’s work and you’re curious about hiring her as a director and developer for your solo show, but first you want to feel her out and see if she is the right fit for you and your project.
Wherever you may find yourself on your solo journey, Jessica will help you overcome whatever immediate obstacle stands between you and your solo success.
If you resonate with many of the things on this list, then take the next step by emailing SoaringSoloArtist@gmail.com for more information.