This month’s Soaring Solo blog looks at seeing your solo show through the eyes of a technician and gives five helpful tips.
“We do not see things as they are, we see things as we are.” -Anais Nin
Have you ever been sitting in the audience of a technically disastrous one-person play and feeling so sorry for the helpless actor on stage? Then, you notice that the sound cues are cutting off the actor as they speak, the lights seem to be illuminating everything else on the set except for the performer as they stand in the only dark spot on stage. And then, the images never seem to appear when the actor is clearly expecting a visual aid as they gesture toward an empty projection screen?
You probably walked away from that theatrical experience thinking, “Wow, that poor performer. Their technical team must have really sucked!”
Or, perhaps you have experienced this sort of creative catastrophe personally. Maybe you were the solo artist up there on that stage feeling embarrassed and frustrated as you try to harmoniously make it through your solo show with your technician(s) while you and your team seem to be working from two completely different scripts and are totally out of sync with one another.
While there are certainly ill-equipped people in every line of work, the aforementioned scary scenarios can certainly be avoided if a few very important steps are followed. First, start with trying to see your solo show through the eyes of a technician. A technician needs you to do your part so that they can do theirs.
So, in today’s blog, I am going to offer you some tips for ensuring that you and your technical team are on the same page, literally. Keep focused on seeing your solo show through the eyes of a technician with these five helpful tips.
Visualize your one-person play from a technical perspective and then communicate that vision clearly to your technical team.
If you are a solo artist, then the odds are good that you are more than just an actor. You are likely also a writer and a visionary. As you wrote your solo show, you probably envisioned dramatic lighting looks or powerful sound design. You may have imagined dynamic videos and illustrative images that would appear on screen to compliment your sensational story.
However, even if you do not consider yourself to be a solo artist who has an eye for the technical components of your solo show, you will still want to give these things some serious thought. You may also consider partnering with a director and other members of a creative team who can help you start to define and identify these elements of your show as well.
Once you begin to get a clear vision of the technical attributes of your solo show, you will want to make very specific notes for your technical team throughout your script or on a separate cue sheet so that they can understand your vision too. As technical professionals, they may have ideas, suggestions and improvements that you will want to take into consideration.
Also, you will want to think through the timing of every single technical component of your show. What I mean by this is simply saying, “I want a spotlight to come up and then I want music to come in loudly,” is not enough. You want to give your technician exact timing. For example, “When I raise my hands above my head, I would like for a spotlight to encircle me. Then, after I finish my last line of the monologue on the bottom of page four, I would love for the love song to come in loudly.” Now you have provided your creative vision and you have communicated the timing in which you wish to see it take place.
The point is, set aside time to really ponder the technical presentation of your show and be as specific and detailed as you possibly can. Afterall, your technical team may be very talented, but they are not mind readers, so communicate your aesthetic.
Schedule a paper tech with your technician.
If your technician is available and willing to sit down with you to conduct a “paper tech” to talk through your technical vision page by page of your script in advance of your technical rehearsals at the theatre, this will significantly increase the likelihood that you and your technical team will come to an understanding about the technical aspects of your show. Then when you finally do meet at the theatre to actually add in the lighting, sound and projection design, you won’t be starting from scratch. You will already have a shared understanding of what you wish to achieve technically.
Know your cues inside and out and deliver them accordingly.
More often than not, I find that technical aspects of a solo show are off or go missing during the performance due to the performer dropping cue lines and actions. In other words, the solo artist failed to say the lines or perform the physical actions given right before a technical cue is meant to occur.
Whenever an actor tells me that their technician didn’t play a sound cue or missed an image or left them in the dark for a moment, my first question is, “Did you give them your cue line?”
Unfortunately, nine times out of 10, the answer is no. Sometimes, the actor has changed their lines or cut their lines and never bothered to communicate this altered script to their technical team. Again, your technical team cannot read your mind. Communication is key.
The script and the cue lines and actions within that script are your technicians map to success. You would not blame or scold a driver if they missed turning onto your street if you never told them to turn. How would they know?
It is the same thing with your technician. They are waiting to hear those magic cue words or see that specific movement, gesture, or piece of blocking that tells them to take a cue. If they don’t get it, they will probably take the cue late, hence your timing being off with your tech. They may also not take the cue at all because the moment has now passed and they may deem it disruptive to do so.
While you cannot control the job performance of your technician, you can set them up for success by knowing your cue lines inside and out and at least have the peace of mind that you have done your part.
Yes, it is live theatre and sometimes you will accidentally drop a cue line or forget your blocking. And sometimes your technician will have a slip of the hand and fire off a cue early or zone out for a second and come in late with your lighting change. We are all human and these things happen, but the more you know what you want, communicate that desire and then prepare and rehearse to execute those desires effectively, then the better your chances are of having a seamless show.
Start your technical preparation early.
It is common for the technical aspects of the solo show to fall low on the list of priorities as a solo artist prepares for their big day. Yet, waiting until the last minute does not support you in having a successful show. It takes time to select the right multimedia, to test things out, and to conceptualize a cohesive technical presentation.
Start carving out time to consider your tech as early in your creative process as you can. You do not have to set anything in stone until you actually get into the theatre for technical rehearsal, but at least you will have thought long and hard about what it is you want and you will have given yourself and your technical team plenty of time to collect the necessary materials to make your vision a reality.
Be grateful and express your gratitude sincerely and repeatedly.
Just like you, technicians have a lot of pressure on them. They are often the ones who look bad when technical elements of your show are off, even if the reality was that you did not accurately deliver your cue lines to them.
So, be sure to treat your technical team with respect and give them tremendous gratitude whenever you see them, and maybe even a gift card for a cup of coffee would be nice. Us theatre folks need to stay caffeinated!
In all seriousness, your technician deserves to be recognized for their contributions, and knowing that they are appreciated as part of the creative team will likely motivate them to be the best they can be for your project.
Hopefully, today’s blog will illuminate multiple ways you can set yourself up for a successful technical experience with your solo show and continue to guide you along your own solo journey.
Remember, “Seeing Your Solo Show Through the Eyes of a Technician” makes a better solo show experience.
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.