How to make a living and an impact with your solo show? Through Edutainment.
“Good education has got to be good entertainment.” -Nicholas Negroponte
Nearly two decades ago, I was living in New York City and regularly performing my first solo show “Oblivious to Everyone” Off-Broadway while pursuing a career in film and television. I recall stepping into the busy and buzzing theatre lobby after one of my performances to chat with the appreciative audience.
As I enjoyed post-show banter with the theater goers, I was approached by a college professor with an interesting proposal.
Thomas taught at Berkeley College in New Jersey and he wanted me to come to his college to perform my show and lead a workshop on how to create a solo show for his students, and he was happy to pay me for this opportunity.
While I was flattered that he found my show to be both entertaining and educational, this invitation was not part of my “plan” for my creative career. I was an actor for film, tv, and traditional theatre. I had never considered performing my show at a school, let alone try to teach anyone how to do what I did on stage as a solo performer.
Could I really step into the role of a teacher even for just one day? Did my solo show truly have educational value the way Thomas said it did? Would the themes of sexism, racism, homophobia and media influence that I explored in my solo show be too much for a college audience? Would performing at schools take me off track of achieving my true industry goals?
Luckily, despite my long list of questions, personal unworthiness and general skepticism, I still accepted this proposition and it would change the trajectory of my professional life forever.
I discovered the world of campus entertainment.
Performing at Berkeley was a truly wonderful experience. They resonated deeply with the issues presented in my show. I also had wonderful, in-depth discussions with the students after the show. They earnestly picked my brain for creative career tips and I ultimately felt such fulfillment knowing that I was being of service to them.
I also discovered that I am, in fact, a teacher. When I put my limiting beliefs to the side and actually thought through how and why I constructed “Oblivious to Everyone,” I was able to articulate the steps I’d taken to put my solo show together. This information empowered them to do the same with tangible directions.
It was a profound experience and it paved the way for me to tour colleges and universities as a performer and guest teacher for the next 13 years. Not too shabby.
Have you ever considered that perhaps your one-person play has the potential to edutain people, too?
And no, I did not make that word up. Edutainment is a real thing, people. Not only is it a real thing, edutainment is a lucrative and impactful art form which combines education and entertainment. One of the best places to share this artform and make a living with your solo show is the college market.
So, in today’s blog, I am going to offer you some tips for getting into the edutainment line of work and discovering all it has to offer.
Build Your Solo Theatre Resume
When Thomas invited me to perform and teach at Berkeley, I had already been performing my solo show for at least a year. I had workshopped it, collaborated with a director, performed in a slew of festivals, received some press coverage, captured video and photography of the show, and felt confident in it as a solid piece of Solo Theatre.
That said, if you are at the beginning stages of your solo career, before you consider approaching the competitive college market, you may want to build your solo theatre resume a bit more to ensure that you are offering these schools the very best version of your show possible.
Getting involved in the festival circuit, producing an independent run, or seeking out other performance opportunities with your solo show can be a great way to really hone your craft as a solo artist before trying to sell it to schools.
Create a Sensational Solo Package
As I mentioned, Thomas did not just want me to perform my show, he also wanted me to work with the students to help them imagine a solo show for themselves.
Many schools will want you to present them with a “package” that includes your show, a talkback or Q&A with the students, and possibly an educational workshop or lecture.
When you look at your personal set of skills and reflect upon how and why you created your one-person play, what tools and tips can you uniquely offer to college students?
Perhaps your show infuses poetry and music and therefore leading a poetry and music workshop could be your offering alongside your solo show.
Maybe you are an incredibly gifted writer and you can host a creative writing workshop for the students to help them find their voice.
Perhaps you grapple with important themes of our times and you can lead a lecture or discussion after your show to discuss and unpack these topics a bit more.
Whatever expertise or insights you possess, start thinking about how you can incorporate these things into a “package” that you offer to schools to provide a well-rounded edutainment experience.
Find a College Booking Agent
I don’t know about you, but I had no clue that there were actually agents that specialize in booking talent for colleges, universities, conferences and conventions. While I had my film and television representation, finding a college booking agent was all new territory for me.
So, I worked diligently to compile all of my materials into an electronic press kit. I then pursued an agent and was ultimately successful in finding one. Having an agent means that you are sharing your performance stipend with your management, however it was well worth it to me in order to have professionals who could negotiate higher rates for me, navigate contracts, and ultimately connect me to campuses I would never have met otherwise.
If you don’t want to go down this campus entertainment road alone, then start doing your research to uncover which agency might be the right fit for you. Let Google be your guide or simply contact me and I will share some of my favorite agents.
Showcase at Campus Entertainment Conferences
Another advantageous move I made was attending various campus entertainment conferences nationwide. Organizations such as APCA, the Association for the Promotion of Campus Activities, and NACA, the National Association for Campus Activities, allow artists of all kinds to showcase and network with students, faculty and staff at various schools all around the country.
While my agent was the coordinator of my participation in these conferences, you can still attend as an individual and represent yourself.
These types of events are a fabulous way to get your name out there as a campus entertainer and build a career for yourself that allows you to make a living and an impact with your solo show.
Even though I never expected to share my solo show on the stages of schools nationwide, I am so glad that I accepted that unexpected invitation from Thomas to step into the world of campus entertainment. I would not be doing what I am honored to do today, getting to teach hundreds of solo artists from all around the world how to write and perform their one person plays had I not said yes to that purposeful proposal nearly 20 years ago.
Hopefully, today’s blog will illuminate new possibilities for you as a solo artist in the world of Edutainment and guide you along your own solo journey.
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 Hollywood Fringe Festival this August!
Award-winning director and developer, Jessica Lynn Johnson, directs a slew of powerful solo shows 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 one-on-one 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.