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Transforming Trauma with Your Solo Show

This month’s Soaring Solo blog post focuses on three ways of transforming trauma with your solo show.

“As soon as healing takes place, go out and heal somebody else.” – Maya Angelou

In my two decades of working in the genre of solo theatre, I have had the pleasure of working with hundreds of solo artists. What is truly remarkable is that almost every single person who comes to this work has survived some sort of trauma in their lives. 

It is as if, on a soul level, these artists understand that if they are willing to go on the journey of the solo artist and face their demons, there is a miraculous transformation available to them. 

It is not an exaggeration to claim that solo theatre provides healing and growth that simply cannot be tapped into in quite the same way as talk therapy. 

That said, no one comes to me and outright says, “Jessica, I have gone through some serious trauma in my life and lived to tell the tale. Now, I would like to get emotionally naked on stage all by myself and receive a profound level of healing, transformation and growth! I know this will be some of the most challenging and confronting work I have ever done, but I recognize that the rich rewards of this work will be totally worth it. Sign me up!”

Nope. As you may have guessed, that is not at all how it usually happens. 

Instead, most solo artists simply have an inkling that writing a solo show would be a cool thing to do. But, they are not necessarily conscious of the therapeutic threshold they are about to cross. 

Don’t mistake this for “therapy on stage” as critics and naysayers like to call it. Rather, when the creation process is safe, supportive and deeply excavated, the result is a much stronger and wiser human being who has gone through a complete metamorphosis standing on stage before you.

While solo theatre is not for everyone, if you are one of the brave souls hungry enough to choose this art form, then you may find the following tools incredibly cathartic as you craft your one-person play.

Here are four ways of transforming trauma with your solo show:

1. Personification

Simply put, personification is a theatrical device where the solo artist assigns human qualities to an inanimate object, animal, body part, or otherwise nonhuman entity.

When dealing with traumatic events, it can be very useful to create some safe distance between you and the details of said event. It may even be helpful to bring a bit of humor or at least levity to the retelling of the incident. 

Personification is one of the most effective tools I have seen utilized by solo artists to achieve this. 

For example, I have encouraged performers to turn their shame into a character that taunts them throughout the play. I have championed actors as they give their cancerous tumor a voice who reports their awful medical experiences. I have witnessed performers embody nature such as an old oak tree who holds prolific wisdom for them to receive.

By having this nonhuman character speak about our human experience, often in 3rd person, the Solo artist is then able to recall hyper specific details without getting so close to the memory and retraumatizing themselves.

2. Fantasy

One of the greatest things about writing our stories is that we can write them any way we wish. We can write the ending the way we feel it should have happened. In addition, we can have that conversation that never truly took place. We can take those heroic actions we did not have the capacity for when we lived through that moment in our past. That is power of the pen.

I am not talking about stepping outside of integrity and lying about how things transpired in real life, but I am declaring that it is more than okay to acknowledge to your audience that this is inspired by real events, but is still a play. As a play, you have the authority to take fictitious liberties. Not only can this make the plot more entertaining, but it can also serve as a tremendous tool for healing.

I recall one show in particular where the young woman rewrote the ending of her show so that the rapist who had violated her was arrested after she had captured him herself. It was not the way that things had gone in real life as sadly her perpetrator was not held accountable. Yet, in her solo show, she was able to find a sense of empowerment by the character in her play getting the justice she sought to experience in her own life.

3. Empowered Expression

We may not have had a choice in the traumatic event that happened to us, but we do have a choice in how we wish to creatively express ourselves around that event.

Many solo artists find this freedom of expression to be so empowering. This power comes from the fact that they can take a horrendous life event and turn it into a work of art that not only serves their own healing process, but also has the potential to work toward someone else’s healing.

As a solo artist, your entire job is to authentically express yourself and make your own unique masterpiece. You get to decide what characters you will play. Then, you make the final edits on what is and is not said from the stage. You choose the aesthetic of your show’s design elements. Every aspect of your one-person play is your sole/soul creation. 

There is truly nothing more empowering than that.

Hopefully, today’s blog gave you some insight on how your solo show can play a meaningful role in creatively thriving after surviving trauma. 

Keep going on your own 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
SoaringSoloArtist@gmail.com
www.SoaringSoloStudios.com

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

Binge Fringe Festival
Binge Fringe Festival

Tune in and support the Soaring Solo Community as we participate in the Binge Fringe Festival this fall!

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.

Check out “REEDEMher” closing out the Binge Film Festival.

free write friday no date flyer

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.

Jessica Lynn Johnson
Author: Jessica Lynn Johnson

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.

Jessica Lynn Johnsonhttps://www.soaringsolostudios.com/bio/
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.