Friday, March 04, 2005

Q & A

If you're always performing stories about things that happened to you, how do you get time to go out and have things happen that you can then perform stories about? Are all the stories from before you started performing stories? Or do you go out and try to gather experiences to make performances about? And if so, doesn't that taint the experience and, later, the story and the performance?

That's an excellent question, one that I suspect more people have of me than are willing to ask, so let me address it in full.

I used to worry, quite a lot, that I would eventually run out of material as a monologuist--that I would run out of death-defying, tumultuous events and be left empty, or worse start inventing or self-inflicting drama upon myself to get stories. I was worried about this, to varying degrees, up until I started performing ALL STORIES ARE FICTION a year ago.

Creating a show every week made it suddenly, blazingly clear to me that there are stories everywhere--I had simply blinded myself to the different scales those stories come in, only seeing the largest and most obvious ones in my own life. That's reflected in my recent work: ALL STORIES ARE FICTION is almost journalistic, weaving together the larger theme of the evening with events from the preceding week that reinforce and deepen the story. MONOPOLY!, my most recent monologue, has historical detail built throughout it that lets the story range widely from my own life. Some monologues, like THE UGLY AMERICAN, are about the parts of my life before I was working as a monologuist, but I don't think that's the norm.

What I don't do is gather experiences to have the performance be about--I know that's a mistake. It's enough to immerse myself in a story and look for threads and patterns in the past--anytime that I've violated that it's always worked out poorly, coming back to bite my ass by flattening and dulling the story. There are more than enough tools, between flashback, total narrative control, emphasis and omission that manipulating the events themselves is really totally beside the point--and real life is a lot more compelling, for this form, in the long run.