Writing a Solo Show, Part 1 of 7

So you want to write a solo show? Not everybody does. It used to
be most people felt they had one good novel in them. One good album.
Five minutes of good standup. Maybe one good screenplay. You take the
particulars of your life and assemble them in a funny or touching or
absurd or poignant way and they become universally understood as human.
And after that, you have to actually get good a the craft and technical
know-how.  There's charisma, and there's skill.  Possessing charisma
might bring you to the stage, but building skill is what can keep you
there.  But let's not worry about the skill part yet.  Plenty of time for that.  What's important right now is that you want to create.

Today, especially in the San Francisco theater and
standup comedy scene, solo shows or monologues are becoming a great
venue to speak your life.  And many people are taking the form to the
level of mastery.  You've heard Eric Bogosian on CD, you've seen
Spading Gray on DVD, maybe you went to the theater and saw your first
solo show in person.  And now you're Inspired.  "This is it!" you realize.  This is how I want to tell my story!  (I'm
chomping at the bit to go see two shows at the Marsh in San Francisco:
Ann Randolph's Loveland, and Dan Hoyle's The Real Americans.  I'm on my
way in the next week to see Dan Hoyle!)

So if this is your first
foray into the world of possibility in creating your first solo show,
where do you start?  Well, you start where only you can.  You already
know in your heart why you're reading this.  Something incredibly
important, intense, and powerful occurred in your life.  It may even be
connected to some issue out in the world that is equally important,
intense, and powerful.  That's where you start. 

Begin by
allowing yourself to speak what that is.  But keep it to yourself for
the moment.  This is a precious moment, when you acknowledge to
yourself what it is you know you have to tell the world.  Take 30
minutes and sit.  Let yourself write the it down.  Write in whatever
form: bullet points, a poem, short pieces of prose…  Write what comes
about the CENTRAL MOMENT of this powerful event or truth in your life. 
During this central moment, where are you?  What time of year is it? 
What are you wearing?  What does the air smell like?  Who is with you? 
What music do you hear?  What did you eat that day?  What are the
sensations in your belly?  Write with a pen and paper if you can… 
let those images and emotions wash over you and spill onto the paper
directly from your heart through your hand to the page, and make
Natalie Goldberg proud.

When you finish, don't yet show it to
anyone.  It's a tender and sweet piece of work you're doing, and you
deserve to have it held with your own utmost compassion before opening
it to others. 

Ready for Part 2 of 7 on "So You Want to Write a One Person Show?"  Stay tuned!  I'll be writing it in the next few days.

Ending World War Through Laughter


 I came across a little blurb in the New York Times a couple of years ago that intrigued me, and I clipped out… I started using it as a bookmark and it would pop up at various times when it seemed coincidentally apropot.  Here is the gist… it’s, well, possible end to the world war… So Yoki Kamuar of Kansai University (Osaka, Japan) believes he might have the answer to ending world war. It’s simple, healthy doses of laughter.

Yoki, an expert in communications, has invented a machine that charts laughter in a unit of “aH”.  He says adults tend to calculate weather it’s appropriate to laugh and in a sense forget how to do it.  Children, on the other hand, laugh more freely and put out almost double “aH’ measures. Yoki Kamura’s goal is to measure laughter and to make the measuring device as small as a mobile phone and sell it as a health and amusement device.  He wants to use this new information to “shift from a century of wars to a century of humor and tolerance.”

I wonder what would happen if we actually started recommending a certain aH for people?  If we had a government-suggested Recommended Daily Dose of Laughter?  Vitamin A 20 mg, Vitamin B 30 mg, Vitamin L 50 aH…

At the doctor’s office, along with weighing you, taking your blood pressure and temperature, they could also measure your aH!

Doctor to man in office, “Ok John, turn your head and laugh.”

I wonder if they laugh much at terrorist meetings…  I’d like to see what a couple of Marx Brothers movies would do to their vengeance level.

So I’m going to find one of these machines and get my laughter up to the RDDL to end some world war here.  You in?

No Laughter Yoga for Fido.

Dog-bedThink us humans are the only ones who need comedy in our lives?  Turns out animals have neural circuits for laughter in the ancient parts of the brain, that predate even the existence of humans! There was laughter even before there was people.

Recent studies are debunking the theory that animals don't feel joy or sorrow.  "Indeed, neural circuits for laughter exist in very ancient regions of the brain, and ancestral forms of play and laughter existed in other animals eons before we humans came along with our 'ha-ha-has' and verbal repartee," says Jaak Panksepp, a neuroscientist at Bowling Green State University.

A recent study suggests that animals from rats to monkeys partake in joy and laughter that very much resembles a humans joy and laughter. Monkeys chase each other and pant in ways that resemble a humans laugh, even rats, as they play chirp in ways that resemble our very own giggles.  They actually found that–no joke–rats might be into Sid Caesar.

"Although no one has investigated the possibility of rat humor, if it exists, it is likely to be heavily laced with slapstick," Panksepp figures. "Even if adult rodents have no well-developed cognitive sense of humor, young rats have a marvelous sense of fun."

Panksepp says more studies need to be conducted in order to really tell if these behaviors are truly an animal's way of expressing laughter, but laughter could be a deep seeded brian function that not only exists in humans, but in the animals around us as well.

So, no need to take your dog to laughter yoga with you, he's already laughing at you–I mean, with you.

Check out Cinnabar’s Solo Mio Festival

Johnny Steele in Solo MioA theatrical showcase festival of solo performance artists



I highly recommend checking out Clark Taylor and Johnny Steele here–two great (and may I say unsung) heros of San Francisco comedy.  And, for full disclosure, also buddies of mine.  It's great that we're getting so much solo show work happening in the Bay Area–especially from standups.  We're so good at being on stage, and often have so much more to offer by adding a story arc that glues our jokes together like a sturdy arc over the stormy waters of the stage.


Cinnabar's Solo Mio Festival illuminates the compelling nature of solo performance that exists between one performer onstage and the audience, celebrating the beauty and immediacy of story-telling in this theatrical showcase spotlighting comedians and solo performers Fred Curchack, Will Durst, Dave Pokorny, Johnny Steele and Clark Taylor. 


Will Durst – 8 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 28; 
Dave Pokorny – 6:30 p.m. and Clark Taylor 9 p.m. Friday, Jan. 29; 
Johnny Steele -  6:30 p.m. and  Will Durst 9 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 30;
Clark Taylor -  5 p.m. and Dave Pokorny 7:30 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 31;
Dave Pokorny – 8 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 4; 
Fred Churchack – 6:30 p.m. and Johnny Steele 9 p.m. Friday, Feb. 5; 
Dave Pokorny – 6:30 p.m. and Clark Taylor 9 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 6; 
Frech Churchack – 2 p.m., Johnny Steele 5 p.m. and Will Durst 7:30 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 7;
Fred Churchack – 8 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 11; 
Will Durst – 6:30 p.m. and Fred Churchack 9 p.m. Friday, Feb. 12; 
Clark Taylor – 6:30 p.m. and Johnny Steele 9 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 13.


Single Tickets: $25 per person. 
All Five Shows: $100 per person. Four-Show Pass: $85 person. Three-Show Pass: $68 per person.


LOCATION:   Cinnabar Theater, 3333 Petaluma Blvd. North, Petaluma, CA


PHONE:   707-763-8920 
Order tickets by telephone 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday or purchase at the door. 
Reservations highly recommended. 

 Dave Pokorny - Based On A True Story

A (mostly) true journey of one man’s life as he attempts to procrastinate finding his calling.
For a full decade Dave Pokorny toured the U.S. as a working stand-up comic, however after his first daughter was born he no longer wanted to tell jokes to strangers in bars for money.  After seven years as a stay-at-home dad he still doesn’t want to just tell jokes, but he’s realized he has a lot more to say than, “Hey, put that down…leave your sister alone…because I said so that’s why…and pick that up!”
Johnny Steele - Johnny’s Inferno
Fast talking, semi-improvisational, sometimes controversial, always funny.
Johnny Steele is an entertainer best known for his fast talking, semi-improvisational, sometimes controversial, comedy performances. Johnny, a former winner of the San Francisco International Comedy Competition, is also a former bay area radio and television host. Currently Johnny is working on a solo show and The BOOMERS! a three-man skit and sketch comedy revue about coming of age in the sixties and seventies.
Clark Taylor - Mad'Ville
A mad romp through junior high school and small town life in Louisiana in the 1960’s and 70’s.
Clark is a long time storyteller and stand up comedian in the Bay Area.  He worked as a screenwriter in LA and earned a Masters in US History from San Francisco State before returning to the stage.  He recently completed work on an environmental documentary entitled Deep Green slated for a September 2009 release. He currently resides in Fairfield, California.

bombay to kerala… om!

hari om… so… we last left our heroine in bombay… (that sounds so strange to say–like we stashed our smack in an alley in india) she was just finishing a performance of her new comedy show "eat, pray, laugh" along with her comedian friend samson at the jewish community center. she–ok, i–was worried that the indian jews wouldn't really enjoy or understand the racier bits of my indian travel tales… 

but it turns out that those were the parts they enjoy the most. i capture most of the show on my awesome canon elph camera, which i then leave in a rickshaw the next day, along with all the other photos i took in england of jasper and i. jasper is six weeks old and adorable.
letting go
i am sad for a couple of days about losing the photos. and the camera too. it served me well on my last trip to india. so now i am learning lesson number 8,341 on letting go. but like i'm actually getting it. i mourned the loss, and then i got that, hey, this shit is all temporary. and it's a great addition to my losses. meaning, now i don't have a laptop, a cell phone, or a camera to distract me from what's right in front of my nose. 

nothing exists but here and now. and what i'm seeing in the here and now with my eyes is also marginal on the reality scale.
whispering woods
co-incidence of strange co-incidences, the method acting teacher i studied with for four years, who has never been to india, is in bombay the exact same week that i'm here. i visit him at the film school where he's teaching and sit in on a couple of classes. the studio is called whispering woods, and it's like the canyon in LA. lush, green, undeveloped. i even get to do a deathbed scene while a kind of famous (so i'm told) actor is in the class. talked with some of the other professors there and the head of the film school and might get to teach a class on standup the next time i'm in the hood. 


i remember sam and his sister alice dropping me off at the train station, but i don't remember anything about the ride. all i know is that it was overnight and i arrived in khanangad as the sun was coming up. one of my kirtan heroes, krishna das, told me after a concert that there's a place in india where they chant "om sri ram jai ram jai jai ram" continuously. an ashram called anandashram. so that's where i'm going. i arrive and somehow i'm not in the guest book, but they let me stay anyway–give me a private room and everything. and it's a very special time to be there because a saint from tamil nadu (a state in india) is visiting for several days named thuli baba. i've never heard of him until now, but it's very exciting. after each meal, i have the opportunity to have satsang and prasad with his group of devotees. the skinniest, frailest, loudest cat i've ever seen curls up next to thuli baba every day. they tell me that the cat was a guru in the last life and is working out some heavy karma for the world by coming back as this cat and not eating.
sun and moon
friends of my friend haridas bring me to the ocean to see the sunset and the full moon rise on the opposite side of the earth. i climb the mountain behind the ashram and leave all my worries there hanging in a tree. 

letting go for the 8,342nd time. you know what they say… "8,342nd time's a charm!" the next day (or the day before… who knows!) my german friend sandra and i are walking back from a beautiful little temple in a field and we pass the cows' maternity ward. on the ground is a five-minute old calf being licked by its mother. they milk the mamma cow and i peer into the giant milk pail of colostrum saying, "whoa." "you like?" the guy says. 

the next morning they knock on my door with some cake for me made from coconut milk, sugar, and this thick cow colostrum–let me tell you–i have never eaten anything more rich. plus, when i was trying to "om" it started coming out as "moo" that day.
i joke!
i'm getting daily two-hour massages from these two young women with medicinal hot oil. after five days, it actually gets to be kind of boring! they don't speak much english, so i'm cracking them up with my mime humor for two hour straight. "cheery" means smile in malayalam. and "tamasha" means joke. (these words strangely come in handy later when i'm being harassed at the train station.) 

"ichally" means ticklish and "idally" is a kind of breakfast rice dumpling. and they kind of rhyme so i'm just saying "ichally, idally, ichally, idally…" there's nothing funnier than jokes between people who don't speak the same language. i'm joking with gestures about how the oil they're using smells like cooking oil and that i'm afraid all this basting means they're going to cook me for dinner… and on and on…… stuff that's way funnier without words.
i know by ths time in my trip that i'll be spending more time in india in this life. it calls. 

i hope your day of giving thanks was full of grace. i have returned from my time in india and i'm back in the bay, so blessed in so many ways. have a gander at the next installment of my adventures below… more to come about Tiruvanamalai in my next note.. 

In the meantime, I invite you to join Suzette Hibble, Erin Brandt and I, for the next Creativity, Sexuality, and Spirituality Workshop! Please register for the December 10th workshop event with me if you're interested–soon–it is filling up–only a few spots left!

Tucson less phreaky than Phoenix…

Phoenix: I am inspired by the magical bird who, every 500 years, builds a nest, sets it alight, and burns in its own fire. It then rises anew from the ashes and lives again. Reminds me of Passover. Like the flood story from the Torah, a version of the Phoenix story exists in China, Japan, Russia, Egypt, Greece, originating in… you guessed it, India (Garuda, the bird of Vishnu.)
Show Report: Tucson less phreaky than Phoenix…
I'm sitting in my friend Abby's dining room in Tucson, Arizona. Abby's three month old baby, Juna, is adorable and amazing. Bouncing Juna in my arms is at once peaceful and thrilling. It's sunny here with a light breeze that carries the tune of morning songbirds. The air is dry and intermittently dusty, the land dotted with cactus. Dogs bark at night in packs, reminding me of India, but with less death-cries. Today I visited my comedian friend Robert Mac and threw some ideas around for my show about India, "Eat, Pray, Laugh!"
I put on my show "The Punchline" five times in the Phoenix Fringe Festival these past few days. Emotional spaces opened up in my later performances that I had been longing for–there were whole shows, not just moments in which I truly enjoyed myself. I expanded into my characters more playfully, freely, deeply. It was both inspiring and relieving to know that it gets better and better as time goes on.
The audiences were so great… they really enjoyed the show and got what I was offering (although smaller crowds than I would have liked.) Here's one among many awesome reviews from a fellow Fringer/Storyteller from LA:
"You have a lovely show. I really enjoyed it. You are a very skilled writer and performer, with great command of the story arc… the Distraction Dance was awesome." -Antonio Sacre
Tucson is less weird than Phoenix. Phoenix is very hot and you can't walk anywhere. The only kind of "alternative" lifestyle that seems to exist there is the punk genus. If you don't go to the university and walk around in a bikini and shorts all day, (where is the beach, young ladies??) and you want to be different, you have to be a punk. It's very sad. The people from the ASU theatre department are great, and really dedicated to bringing more grassroots culture up into Phoenix with the Fringe Festival. Keep on fighting the good fight. Anyway, I stayed in the Hilton by the airport for $45 a night (thank you, Priceline) and was able to get in the jacuzzi every day and watch HBO, so that made up for various shortcomings of the city.
A final highlight: yesterday I drove up to Arcosanti, 75 miles north of Phoenix. It's an experimental community centered on the architecture and ecology ideas of Italian Paulo Soleri. Soleri, a Guggenheim fellow now about to turn 90, completely re-imagined architecture and city planning such that people, culture, and natural space are the focus, instead of, say, cars, roads, and parking. His city plans are like hives, built to maximize open space and human interaction. Some deep part of my soul called out to me, yearning for such a place to live and work. Even though 50,000 people a year visit Arcosanti, and they're actively building a city big enough to house 7,000 people, the pace is a snail's. They need an infusion of millions of dollars to really build it. Maybe they can get in on that stimulus package…?