Keys to Distinguishing Characters in Your Solo Show

This Soaring Solo blog focuses four keys to distinguishing characters in your solo show.

“Remember, there are no small parts, only small actors.” -Constantin Stanislavski

Constantin Stanislavski said it best when he declared that there are no small parts, only small actors. 

That is especially true when it comes to solo theatre.

While many people mistakenly think that a one-person play is a single person sitting on stage in a pool of light telling the audience their story in first person, it can actually be much more dynamic than that. 

That’s where characters come in.

Yes, giving yourself a voice in your own story is a wonderful role to play in your solo show. Yet, as you survey your life, I encourage you to also identify other people who have helped to shape your life journey. This sort of examination will allow you to discover who the “cast” of characters are in your solo script.

When a solo show is written with that in mind, it will likely begin to resemble an ensemble script. Yes, it is a ONE-person play, but it’s still a PLAY. Therefore, having various characters come to life to help tell your story makes it much more theatrical.

Unlike an ensemble play, as a solo artist, you do not have the luxury of another person entering the stage to demonstrate the arrival of another character into the story. Instead, you are the sole person on stage, and it is up to you to believably create a world of characters for your audience.

You may be questioning your ability to portray a myriad of people on stage, but I assure you that there are simple tricks you can implement that will help you build a solid foundation for your characters.

So if you’re on board with the idea of playing multiple characters in your solo show, here are some keys to consider as you start to distinguish them from one another.

Four keys to distinguishing characters in your solo show.

1. Head to Toe Physicality 

If you have a scene in your solo show where two or more characters are conversing, you will want to be aware of the stage picture you are depicting with your body for each character from head to toe.

Whether someone is the front row or the nosebleed section, they should be able to look at you and know which character you have just stepped into.

For example, perhaps you are playing your dad and so you hold your head high, take a wider stance and puff out your shoulders a bit to take on a more traditionally masculine pose. A moment later you may shift into your mother and so you bring your legs together in a parallel pose, gently lay your hands at your side, and slightly dip your chin in a more demure fashion.

Simply put, you want to pay attention to what your body is conveying to your audience as each character in order to help them visually keep track of who is who.

2. Vocal Differentiation 

Now that you are beginning to discover your characters in your body, that will naturally inspire the voice. 

Consider that one of your characters may speak in the higher part of your register, whereas another may drop down low.

Maybe one of your characters has a speech impediment, a lisp, or even an accent.

Perhaps the pace of speech for your characters is slightly slower or faster.

All of these differentiations allow your audience to acclimate to vocal qualities as they meet and memorize the cast.

3. Vernacular Choices

As you play with the sound and speed of your character’s voices, you may also begin to pay attention to their word choices. 

Is this character someone who articulates themselves well with an intellectual vocabulary? Are they down to earth with their conversation and speak predominantly in layman’s terms? Is this character someone who curses a lot or are they prim and proper with their language?

The words that people use or do not use reveal so much about who they are, so give thought to the verbal life of your characters.

4. Energy & Emotion

Think about the energy and emotion that each character you portray gives off when they appear on stage.

For instance, does your character have a chip on their shoulder and there is a tough, hard edge to their presence? Maybe your character is very lovey-dovey and there is such a sweet and genuine quality to them. 

Are they sensual? Are they awkward? Are they always in a pissed-off mood or abundantly joyous?

Wherever they are coming from in terms of the energy they give off and the emotions they are exuding, your awareness of these things will help your audience have yet another character quirk to distinguish when you have switched into a new persona.

Well, solo artists, I could certainly go on and on into the rich world of character differentiation in a Solo Show as there is no shortage of devices one can use to set each person apart, but I sincerely hope that the four keys I shared in today’s blog gave you some insights on how to begin to create a captivating cast of characters in your one-person play!

You have my continued support as you persist along on your solo journey. It may not be easy, but it is so worth it!

Jessica Lynn Johnson
Soaring Solo Blog
Founder and CEO of Soaring Solo LLC

Enjoy these Solo Theatre Resources to further guide you on your solo journey!

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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”!

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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!

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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 for more information.

Jessica Lynn Johnson (Director and Developer) is a published playwright, recipient of BEST NATIONAL SOLO ARTIST AWARD, Advisory Board Member of the LA Women's Theatre Festival, and Founder and CEO of Soaring Solo LLC. Jessica has aided in the development of over 150 solo shows (and is still going strong)! As a performer, Jessica has “edu-tained” international audiences touring her own one person shows ZE and OBLIVIOUS TO EVERYONE for over 15 years. Jessica's projects have taken home awards such as TOP OF FRINGE, HFF ENCORE PRODUCER AWARDS, TVOLUTION BEST SOLO PERFORMANCE, LARRY CORNWALL AWARD FOR MUSICAL EXCELLENCE & several other accolades! Jessica was also nominated for the Female Director of Distinction in Theatre by Girl Trip LLC at the 2018 Hollywood Fringe Festival.