Great things can happen when given the space and encouragement to create. The Whitefire Theatre has given artists this platform since 2012 with their annual Solofest.
The NoHo motto is unofficially: “NoHo is only as great as its people.” In this case we applaud the many dedicated actors, writers, directors, producers and tech folks who create and produce the annual Solofest at Whitefire Theatre. We chatted with Bryan Rasmussen who founded Solofest and continues the yearly tradition with an expanded line up of 80 shows in 90 days for “Solofest 2020” running through March 28, 2020.
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. We do a completely different show every day during January, February and March and it has become the largest solo show festival on the west coast.
When and why did you start Solofest?
We sttarted eight years ago. In 1991 did my own solo show about Vincent Van Gogh, I learned a lot about the difficulty of producing a show. When I got the theatre, I wanted to create a safe harbor for solo artists in order to create and develop their shows. I started with the solo series at the Whitefire running multiple shows in “rep” (meaning running once a week for six weeks rather than two or three weekends in a row) then came up with the idea of “Solofest” by learning about producing shows.
One of the things they are different than other shows because it is only one person and always a challenge to get audiences. I was lucky because Van Gogh was a famous name, but if you don’t have a “name,” the subject matter will be more difficult. Knowing the large amount of issues, I set out on a journey to find a way to help the solo artist.
During the recession of 2008, I needed to come up with a way to fill the calendar. “Taking a page from the solo template running once a week, in order to run solo shows” gave me an idea to produce all the shows at the Whitefire. I created the vertical rep paradigm. Lots of logistics that are involved so I spent a few years experimenting with the idea. And because it went so well, I decided to make the entire season as vertical rep. I needed also find out what were the things really needed. Most solo shows area notoriously low budget but high quality and dealing with issues that film and TV had not yet done.
In 2012, I began with the first Solofest. And it worked so well I decided to do it at the same time every year. The solo genre has become the purist form of storytelling in theatre.
What type of shows are you looking for?
I don’t go with review or credits. I found that if I went with my instinct about the story, that is what helped make my choice. That has proven to be successful. br /> br /> The other thing that made it work, because of budget issue, was “paying for the show” with ticket sales instead of all money upfront. This was a game changer for solo artists.
Solo shows are usually done with other people’s sets and lights which is not conducive to a good production. With the development of technology, it allowed high production value for low cost.
We are fortunate to have one of the best spaces in the city and are allowed to do this. If everyone did just one show, then they could get their show paid for by ticket sales.
What suggestions do you have for solo show performers?
Keep it simple and focus on the story. Great lights and great acting and great writing are the key ingredients to a powerful solo.
Do you have any success stories? Or any interesting stories to share?
The success is the journey and success of all the shows that have launched at the Whitefire.
Whitefire has produced over 1000 solo shows over the years I have owned the Whitefire. I am extremely proud of the stories I have been able to produce and develop which have gone on to performing all over the world.
Success show: “Billie! Backstage with Lady Day” now in its 10th year!
Anything else you’d like to highlight?
One of the things I’m most proud is the diversity that we have brought forth: ie. Geronimo, Billie!, Martin Luther King,
The incredible amount of stories have has been the most surprising discovery for me personally. Everybody has a path. In the past, solo shows were vanity showcases. Going through cancer was the story, unfortunately now that is so common, but the real story is how the person dealt with their journey. That is the most important.
Live streaming is new for us. It allows us to share these stories worldwide.
The annual Whitefire Theatre SOLOFEST 2020 runs January 4 through March 28.
Performances are scheduled for select Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays, Fridays at 8:00 pm; Sundays at 3pm and 7:30 pm.
The Whitefire Theatre
13500 Ventura Blvd.
Sherman Oaks, CA 91423
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