By Lauren Wiener
The United Solo Theatre Festival will return to Theatre Row this fall for its tenth anniversary season. This international festival features solo performances from a variety of talented performers, some of whom are wonderfully new and some who are veterans of the United Solo festival. Running from September 19 through November 24, United Solo’s tenth anniversary season is a must‑see event.
This year, the festival presents a “BEST OF” category to celebrate past United Solo award winners and acclaimed solo shows. Kicking off this program of blasts from the past on September 19 is Janis Brenner’s “Inheritance: A Litany,” winner of three awards at the 2018 United Solo. This show explores through poetry and dance what Brenner inherited from her parents. The following day, you will be barking up the right tree if you see Vivian Nesbitt’s “The Bark & The Tree,” which won the award for Best Documentary Play in 2013. Nesbitt’s play deals with the actions she took to overcome her family’s history of mental illness.
This year’s festival is full of female empowerment and diversity, with many returning shows highlighting women’s experiences. There is Meirav Zur’s “Inconceivable: The Totally True One‑Woman Semi‑Fertile Quasi‑‘Musical,’” a hilarious and honest personal take on fertility (it would be inconceivable if you do not fall in love with it). Another wonderful feminist show is Amber Topaz’s “The Rude Awakening: Sex, Shame and Liberation,” which returns to United Solo after winning the award for Best Cabaret in 2018. This show is an “arousing, amusing, anecdotal romp through life, love, and libido.”
One of the great aspects of theatre is hearing stories from underrepresented voices and learning about historical figures left out of Western history. If you missed Richarda Abrams’ show about Mary McLeod Bethune last season, see “First by Faith: The Life of Mary McLeod Bethune,” a show that explores Bethune’s “personal journey from an uneducated child to a world‑renowned educator and humanitarian.” You also have the opportunity to see Bellina Logan’s “Confessions of a Mulatto Love Child,” a touching show that delves into the relationship between a biracial daughter and her English mother. This show earned Logan the Best Actress award at the 2018 United Solo (check out our interview with Logan to learn more).
Throughout this year, All About Solo has been fortunate to conduct interviews with many talented performers who will return to United Solo this fall. Check out our interview with Susan E. Isaacs to see why she takes God to marriage counseling in her solo show, “Angry Conversations with God.” Get a head start and learn what Tandy Cronyn wants you to take away from her show, “The Tall Boy.” Before enjoying her wonderful musical autobiography, check out our multiple interviews with DonnaD Lipari, whose show, “The Medium…The Music…and Me!,” won the award for Best Premiere. Finally, read our interview with Eva Petrič before transplanting yourself to her show “Eden, Transplanted,” which returns to United Solo in November.
If you can believe it, there are many more shows to enjoy at United Solo’s tenth anniversary season. With over one thousand performances in ten years, Frank Ingrasciotta’s show “Blood Type: Ragu” is a beautiful and timely play about a first‑generation immigrant child. Ingrasciotta took home the United Solo awards for Best Comedian in 2012 and Best Comedic Script in 2013. Your blood type will change to in love with “Blood Type: Ragu” after seeing this show.
After diving into the life of Mary McLeod Bethune, learn about Swiss‑Italian painter Antonio Ligabue, brought to life by Marco Michel in his show, “A Kiss – Antonio Ligabue,” which won the 2018 award for Best International One‑Man Show. Moving from biography to the semi‑autobiographical, there is Bob Stromberg’s triple‑threat show “That Wonder Boy,” which won Best One‑Man Show, Best Direction, and Audience Favorite in 2018. This show is an “exploration of life and art through the eyes of a youngster who ‘overcame’ a happy childhood to become a comedic artist.” Then follow Mike Folie’s journey in “3 Men,” in which he encounters three men who show him that there are many paths to a truly successful life.
United Solo’s “BEST OF” category is full of acclaimed performances returning to the festival, but many shows making their United Solo premieres have already become bestsellers. In 100 minutes, get 400 years of Manhattan’s history in Noah Diamond’s multimedia solo show “400 Years in Manhattan.” Then there’s Terri Weagant’s “Bo‑Nita,” a seven‑character adventure that “follows a mother and daughter’s elaborate plan to hold their dysfunctional family together.”
Other artists dramatizing their personal experiences include Ellen Gould, an Emmy Award‑winning writer and performer who brings her story of living with Stargardt disease to the inspiring and hilarious musical “Seeing Stars.” Then there is Evan Handler’s (he played Charlotte’s husband on “Sex and the City”) autobiographical show “Time on Fire: A Comedy of Terrors (Redux),” which delves into his battle with a near‑fatal form of leukemia. And then we have another Emmy‑nominated writer, Debbie Kasper, whose satirical show “Has Anybody Seen Debbie?” asks the question, “What happens when all your dreams fail and you’re already 60?” This “scathingly funny and occasionally tragic journey of a renewed hope” is a must‑see at this year’s festival.
Bestselling biographical shows include Marine Assaiante’s “Hedy Lamarr: Born in Ecstasy,” which focuses on the legendary actress and inventor Hedy Lamarr in the aftermath of the attack on Pearl Harbor. Follow the life of another actress in Bridget Kelly’s “Divining Bernhardt,” in which a Ph.D. candidate conjures an interview with 19th‑century stage diva Sarah Bernhardt. Then jump forward in time to learn about Pete Seeger in Mark Hellman’s “Pete Seeger’s The Incompleat Folksinger.” Taking its name from Seeger’s autobiography, Hellman’s show uses Seeger’s words and the music of many in this moving tribute to a legendary folksinger and social activist.
The truism that all art is political never rang more true than in Anna Snapp’s “I Found that the Sun Will Rise Tomorrow” and Michael John Ciszewski’s “Everyone is Dying and So Am I.” Snapp’s timely coming‑of‑age piece offers her “perspectives on health care and social attitudes in the time of #MeToo.” At a time of loss, anxiety, and political pandemonium, where everything can seem bleak, follow Ciszewski’s journey “through broken relationships and discovered identity – from challenge, through creation, to catharsis.”
Although the number of bestselling shows may seem overwhelming, there are many chances to see them, as bestselling shows will play multiple performances at the festival. The tenth anniversary season of the United Solo Theatre Festival will surely be one to remember.
New Bestselling Shows:
“400 Years in Manhattan” (Noah Diamond); “Everyone is Dying and So Am I” (Michael John Ciszewski); “Seeing Stars” (Ellen Gould); “Has Anybody Seen Debbie?” (Debbie Kasper); “I Found that the Sun Will Rise Tomorrow” (Anna Snapp); “Time on Fire: A Comedy of Terrors (Redux)” (Evan Handler); “Hedy Lamarr: Born in Ecstasy” (Marine Assaiante); “Bo‑Nita” (Terri Weagant); “Pete Seeger’s the Incompleat Folksinger” (Mark Hellman); “Divining Bernhardt” (Bridget Kelly).
Returning Bestselling Shows:
“Inheritance: A Litany” (Janis Brenner); “The Bark & The Tree” (Vivian Nesbitt); “Beat the Devil!” (Glen Williamson); “Blood Type: Ragu” (Frank Ingrasciotta); “3 Men” (Mike Folie); “Moonage Daydream” (Mary Monahan); “Spectacular Falls” (Anita Hollander); “Inconceivable: The Totally True One‑Woman Semi‑Fertile Quasi‑’Musical'” (Meirav Zur); “Almost 13” (Joan Kane); “I Won’t Be in on Monday” (Anne Stockton); “First by Faith: The Life of Mary McLeod Bethune” (Richarda Abrams); “Angry Conversations with God” (Susan E. Isaacs); The Tall Boy (Tandy Cronyn); Move on the Cha‑Cha’s (Diane Ripstein); “All Over the Map” (Bill Bowers); “The Medium…The Music…and Me” (DonnaD Lipari); “The Rude Awakening: Sex, Shame and Liberation” (Amber Topaz); “Roosevelt: Charge The Bear” (Phil Johnson); “That Wonder Boy” (Bob Stromberg); “Confessions of a Mulatto Love Child” (Bellina Logan); “At Wit’s End: A Home for Retired Comics” (Nancy Redman); “Lilly” (Lillian Colón); “Elizabeth I – In Her Own Words” (Tamara Meneghini); “Just For Fun: A Pop‑Up Magic Show” (Robert Jägerhorn); “Eden, Transplanted” (Eva Petrič); “Callas” (Paola Hadjilambri); “There’s an Accordion in My Closet” (LynnMarie); “A Kiss – Antonio Ligabue” (Marco Michel).
United Solo Theatre Festival
Over 130 unique productions from six continents
Up to 5 shows daily
September 19 – November 24, 2019
Photo Selection: courtesy of United Solo
Featured Image: Noah Diamond in “400 Years in Manhattan”
410 West 42nd Street
New York City
LAUREN WIENER is a NYC-based marketer, writer, director, and dramaturg. She is a 2018 graduate of Trinity College, where she received a dual Bachelor of Arts in Theater (concentration in writing and directing) and Film Studies. She received Trinity’s George E. Nichols III Prize in Theater Arts and the Frank W. Whitlock Prize in Drama. During her time at Trinity, Lauren wrote and directed an original play called, “Count To Ten and Repeat.” This memory play begs the question, “No matter how much we want it to, do things ever really change or will the cycle always repeat?” Her senior thesis included an intensive research paper on Arthur Miller’s play, “After the Fall,” in which she analyzed the play through a Freudian and historical lens. She is a Trinity/La MaMa Performing Arts Program alum, having written and performed an original piece at the acclaimed La MaMa Experimental Theatre Club in New York City. More at https://15minuteintermission.wixsite.com/plays