Performances and Artists
Steve Solomon has a trusted secret to keeping his voice during repeat performances of a one-man show.
“Lots of throat lozenges, and lots of water,” he says.
For an actor to perform a 90-minute show alone is no small feat. But Solomon has mastered the process.
The actor/comedian has built his career around writing and performing one-man shows, beginning with the award-winning “My Mother’s Italian, My Father’s Jewish, and I’m in Therapy,” which he has followed with two sequel one-man productions.
There’s much more to a comedic one-man show than simply telling jokes on stage, he says.
“Some critics say it’s just stand-up. No, it’s a theatrical piece,” he says. “There’s a process, there’s a set, there are characters.”
Stretching an Idea Into a Show
Creating a one-man show must start with an interesting topic — something Solomon has no shortage of.
With each of his shows based on his unpredictable family, he plays up to 30 characters on stage, including his doting Italian mother and elderly Jewish father.
His family provides endless material, he explains.
“Growing up in an Italian/Jewish environment was hysterical,” he says. “I’m also blessed with my memory. I can repeat dialogue from years ago.”
Taking stories and transforming them into a full show takes work, however.
That’s where collaboration comes in handy. Solomon starts developing a show by penning several pages of memories and jokes, then works with his long-time director Andy Rogow to find a common thread and craft a script.
They also establish a simple set that can be easily arranged on stage.
“I come up with the content, and (Andy) creates storylines,” Solomon says. “He’s quit 100 times and I’ve fired him 10,000 times, and we love each other.”
Playing Multiple Characters
Solomon believes in owning each character’s identity in a one-man show, he says.
When he teaches other actors to perform his productions, he trains them on the specific vocal range and body language for each character.
Playing his father means brusque and without a filter. For his mother, a softer voice and accent.
“It creates the realism of the show,” Solomon says. “It’s not, ‘Ok, there’s Steve trying to do an old Italian man.’ I become the old Italian man when I go on stage.”
Endurance on Stage
The real key to performing a one-man show is endurance, Solomon says.
Physical fitness helps there, he notes, something he learned by losing 70 pounds over the last year.
“My energy has gotten better,” he says. “Now I can do 90 minutes without stopping and take a bathroom break and do another show.”
A one-man show must be constantly refined to remain fresh, Solomon says.
He changes something for every performance, ever gauging audience reactions, and constantly drafts new material.
“I never quit, because this is not easy,” he says. “Every single night I’m up there, I’m tweaking. I’m adjusting what I say, adjusting the emphasis of what I’m trying to put out there. Every word is critical.”