The 13th Annual United Solo Festival is the world’s largest of its kind. This year’s seven week roster includes a selection of local and international pieces framed in storytelling, puppetry, dance, multimedia, stand-up, magic, music, and drama. Productions hail from Israel, Turkey, France, the United Kingdom and all over the U.S.
“United Solo Theatre has emerged from the pandemic stronger than ever! The urge to create did not go away during lockdown,” says Founder and Artistic Director Omar Sangare. “In fact, it grew stronger with many artists creating solo pieces for themselves. The variety of work that came out of this time is on full display in United Solo’s 2022 season. Some are deeply personal pieces, some are whimsical, and some focus on the need for true and lasting social and political change. All are wonderful, bringing new ideas and perspectives to the conversation about our times.”
In the intimate upstairs Studio Theater (Theatre Row/410 West 42nd Street), single artists, most often the show’s authors, present in hopes of further productions or expand the audience for small theater efforts or award winners. Kathryn Taylor Smith’s A Mile in My Shoes, directed by Zadia Ife, was awarded an NAACP Theatre Award for Best One Person Show, and the Festival Favorite Award at the Atlanta Black Theatre Awards. Raoul Bhaneja’s Hamlet (Solo) has already been performed in 25 cities in the U.S. and Canada and has taken home the Montreal English Critics Circle Award for Best Visiting Production.
There’s a show about a college dropout becoming head of the Belfast Circus (Something Great! My Life in the Belfast Circus), one that remembers caring for a beloved mother with dementia (Hold On Tight), an Orthodox Jew expected to become proctologist to the rich and famous who has his own ideas for the future (Escape From Daddyland), a last interview with Maria Callas (La Divina), An Evening with Carl Sandburg, a musical piece centering on women facing life’s turning points (She Has Wings), a slapstick show of “the pitfalls and pratfalls of modern life” (Confusion), a tragicomedy about mental health that conveys hope (Fantastic Mr. S), an attempt to save Topsy the Elephant before she becomes an Edison experiment (By the Light), and a funny little man swallowed by his video game console (Play), to name a few.
Recovery, human rights, immigration assimilation, wry takes on life experience, love, loss, cautionary tales, searches for identity, success when least expected, laughter…
You might find yourself looking at just a chair and clothes rack, watching integrated video, listening to recorded music or seeing it played…i.e. some shows create worlds with minimal props, others utilize multi-media effects – nothing elaborate. These works display the essence of storytelling. Imagination fills in what the player conjures.
Tickets are highly affordable, theater is bound to be original. Imagine how many of these you could see for the price of a single Broadway show!
Created during the Pandemic, United Solo also has a streaming platform, the only one dedicated completely to solo performance on film https://screen.unitedsolo.org/