Last night I performed some interior monologues as part of the Monday Night Marsh series in SF. Hosted by the Marsh Theater, this is a chance for amateur performers to have an audience for works-in-progress. Local monologuists like Josh Kornbluth and Marga Gomez--who now command sizeable audiences wherever they perform--developed some of their work at Monday Night Marsh. I may not reach those heights, but I wouldn't mind trying. Maybe someday I'll get from the Marsh to The Moth.
Yesterday Pi Wen and I were waiting at Ritual Coffee before the show, and I was alternately studying my script and (mostly) reading the New Yorker. This week's Shouts & Murmurs column is by Jenny Allen. I'll confess that I'd never heard of Allen, but was pleased to learn from her bio that she is a writer and monologuist. This seemed like an auspicious omen on the date when I was beginning to combine my own love of both forms.
The personal essay is in essence an interior monologue on the page, in which you hope that your digressions and insights are compelling enough to keep the reader reading. On the stage the monologue must be paced well enough, and have a variety of pitches and tones, to keep the audience listening.
For this debut Mom and Bob were in the audience, as the finale of their trip from Phoenix. My friend Allison began the show with a strong reading from her memoir, and two other performers (Ady Abbot and Dona Budd) rounded out a solid cast. My own set involved reflections on my hapless adventures in bars, politics Bay Area style, and coming-of-age thoughts about one's occupation compared to one's purpose in life. I flubbed one line in the first piece, but then settled down and even ad-libbed a bit toward the end. The spotlight was truly blinding, but when I do it again in a few weeks I'll be better prepared for that and able to make better eye contact with the audience.
Pi Wen was an excellent producer, listening to my recitations countless times over the past few weeks and always encouraging me to "slow down!" Last night during the pre-show check she asked the lighting guy at the Marsh much tougher questions than I would have. So that was a huge help. If I truly become a world famous monologuist I'll find another producer so Pi Wen can make her own magic...but for this first time around it was great to have her on my side.