By All About Solo News Desk
Solo performers from six continents will once again unite in the heart of New York’s theatre district. Over 130 productions will be presented at this year’s United Solo, the largest festival of its kind in the world, now in its 9th year. With up to five performances every day until November 18 at Theatre Row, this year’s robust selection of one-person shows will attract thousands of theatregoers. Over 25 performances have sold out in advance, with more expected to follow. The festival will grant additional performance dates to its most popular productions. This year, United Solo also offers Master Classes with world-famous theatre creators and recognized experts, including Oscar-winning actress Olympia Dukakis, who will give her Master Class hosted by Omar Sangare, founder and artistic director of United Solo, on September 16, and Juilliard School professor Janis Brenner, whose Master Class is scheduled for September 17, 2018.
The United Solo Special Award nominees have been announced. This award recognizes artists who made significant recent contributions to solo theatre. This year’s nominees are Derek DelGaudio, Alison S. M. Kobayashi, John Lithgow, Chita Rivera, Bruce Springsteen, and Renée Taylor. The winner will be announced at the United Solo Closing Gala on November 18, and will join the ranks of the award’s previous recipients: Anna Deavere Smith (2010), Patti LuPone (2011), John Leguizamo (2012), Fiona Shaw (2013), Billy Crystal (2014), James Lecesne (2015), Staceyann Chin & Cynthia Nixon (2016), and Michael Moore (2017).
All participating shows will compete for various awards, including Best Actor, Best Director, Best Production, as well as the Audience Award, presented in partnership with Backstage Magazine. Participating shows represent various forms of theatre, dance, and performance art. Theatre Row has been home to United Solo since 2010. The festival is a resident company at the 42nd Street venue, where it has presented nearly 1,000 productions over the past eight years.
This year’s highlights include 15 productions returning as ENCORE selections – these include “A Train,” the winner of the 2017 Best Production Award, which will open the festival. An original musical about raising a child with autism, “A Train” is written and performed by Anne Torsiglieri, Broadway veteran (“Top Girls,” “Miss Saigon”) and professor at UC Santa Barbara. It is directed by Risa Brainin, chair of the Department of Theater and Dance at UCSB, and a past winner of the Best Director Award at United Solo. As another ENCORE selection, Plan-B Theatre Company from Utah returns to United Solo for a third time, presenting “Good Standing,” a new play about a Mormon excommunicated for marrying another man.
New offerings include the English-language premiere of “Frida Kahlo: Long Live Life,” performed by Susan Rybin, who brings the show to United Solo after a successful New York run in Spanish. Aaron Cash, Cher’s lead dancer for over 10 years and a judge on the Australian “So You Think You Can Dance,” will present a brief history of dance in his original play, “Last Dance.” “The Auschwitz Volunteer,” performed by Marek Probosz, acclaimed film actor and professor at UCLA. Lillian Colón’s “Lilly” presents her life story, from growing up in a Bronx convent to becoming the first Puerto Rican Radio City Music Hall Rockette.
The festival features award-winning, internationally renowned performers, as well as emerging talents, and presents shows in a wide variety of categories, including drama, comedy, storytelling, musical theatre, dance, multimedia, stand-up comedy, magic, and performance art. Many are original world premieres, while others are adaptations of classic theatre and literature. A full schedule of shows is available online at www.unitedsolo.org/us/ufest.
“At the festival, you can speak any language you want – if not verbally, then through body language,” said Dr. Omar Sangare, founder and artistic director of United Solo. “‘All the world’s a stage,’ and you can see this world here, at United Solo.”
ALL ARTS, the festival’s media sponsor, joins United Solo in support of this year’s artists. “ALL ARTS is thrilled to support this opportunity for artists from all over the world to present their work in New York,” said Neal Shapiro, President and Chief Executive Officer of WNET, the parent company of ALL ARTS. “United Solo and ALL ARTS’ goals are well aligned: to support and showcase the expression of unique artistic voices.”
Tickets for all shows at United Solo are available in person at the Theatre Row Box Office, located at 410 West 42nd Street in New York City, as well as through Telecharge phone sales at 212.239.6200 and online at www.telecharge.com.
Artists and companies interested in being presented by the festival in the future are welcome to submit an early application. Instructions can be found online at www.unitedsolo.org/submit.
Photo: “Last Dance” by Aaron Cash