Sunday, June 3, 2012

That's right, I wrote a solo show

By James Harrison Monaco

I picked this headline (of the three that were offered) because it's only partly true.  The byline on this play, “Reception,” is mine, and the fast stream of words I say during it (it's a full-length fictional story-telling show) are also all mine. But in building this show, actually sitting down and writing was never part of the process.  I improvised in the room, only ever building the words in connection with the physical performance.

Many people I've talked to after previous runs of the show at HERE and at The Tank have been intrigued by this -- I'd been performing the full show for months before I ever wrote down a word of it (and the word count, as I later found out, is around 15,000).  When I eventually did write down the script, I just watched a video of the show and transcribed it.

Reception is a show where I simultaneously make rhythmic music with my body and voice (I'm a drummer) and orally tell a fictional story with many characters about a wedding reception on Long Island (I'm a fiction writer).  The goal building it was always that the language and its delivery be rhythmic and musical, and that the music I'm making throughout be active, take on literal meaning, and tell a narrative story.

All that's to say in making this show I've been trying to fuse live music, live theater, and fictional narrative into one, inseparable form.  I only ever ʺwroteʺ out loud and on stage because I didn't want the words and the music to be two different things.  The hope is that this allows a show with just a performer and a chair to, in a way, end up feeling large, spacious, innovative, and visually captivating.  My favorite fiction writers (and this show is in many ways a live book) are or were all trying to make their writing work like music -- Joyce, Proust, Sebald, Marías, Woolf, Fitzgerald, Stein, others.  I'm trying to tag along in my own way, with live performance thrown in the mix.

Come and check it out and you can let me know how well it's succeeding.  I would appreciate the help in figuring this out.

Find out more about James and "Reception" here:

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