Also see Rob's review of Sordid Lives
Lone men madly typing. Bewigged women serving cake. Lost backpackers. Confused park rangers. Lonely survivors of the apocalypse. One-eyed, multi-limbed crawling purple creatures. Such are some of the many characters and worlds audiences have the opportunity to experience at the 3rd Annual SoloFest, the annual festival of original solo works produced by The Filling Station in Albuquerque. This year's festival presents seventeen different shows over two weekends, along with workshops about the craft, trade and process of presenting a solo performance.
Some of SoloFest2011's seventeen shows are theatrical monologues, wherein the performer enacts one character taking the stage. In the hour-long Marie Antoinette in Her Toilette Eating Cake, Julia Harris (bedecked in an enormous pink wig and period costume) wryly elaborates upon both the history and legend of Marie Antoinette as she also offers a searing portrait of the devastating impact of body dysmorphia and eating disorders in contemporary culture. In addition to somewhat longer works, SoloFest2011 also opens the stage to shorter monologues, like Phil Bock's satiric comment on the early days of Rio Rancho in Developer's Report, as well as Jeff Hudson's Speech for Chaco Bella Vista (in which a painfully awkward park ranger offers advice like "don't set the deer on fire") and Penny Sinone's Mrs. Mayfair (in which a veteran bartender reflects on the experience of working for an especially exacting employer).
In addition to such long- and short-form theatrical monologues, SoloFest2011 also features several autobiographical solo performances that excavate the delights and the travails that show up when one pursues the creative spirit. In the hilarious and heartfelt Me & George, Leslie Harrell Dillen deploys her considerable skills as an actress as she shares the handful of life lessons that came into focus during her stint as a "stand in" on a major Hollywood film. In Dirty Fingernails, Frank Melcori offers an account of his own career in entertainment as he reflects upon his childhood passions. In Incantations from the Lady with the Alligator Purse, Christina Bouajila unfurls a collage of stories in an infectiously joyful manifesto of her own exuberance. And in On Being a Writer, Don McIver melds the assertive confidence of slam poetry with the pensive self-consciousness of contemporary memoir in a moving affirmation of his own certain pursuit of the writer's necessarily uncertain path.
But being a solo performer does not mean that you are limited to only one voice. Several SoloFest2011 performers inhabit an array of quirky and memorable characters in the service of their insightful storytelling. Susana Guillaume's The Pinnacle of My French Ambition contemplates how marrying into a colorful European family changed whom she knew herself to be, while Jim Loucks explores the fears instigated by religious fundamentalism in Cemetery Golf, and Christina Squire shows how a life lived and a life remembered converge at Steven's Family Haircare. A reverie of startling physical transformations structures Kristen Loree's silly, strange and undeniably unique a capella solo opera, VIXIN. The piece begins with Loree elaborately costumed as an enormous multi-armed, one-eyed purple creature. Then, Loree becomes, in turn, an exuberantly bearded man, a woman in a gender neutralizing bodysuit, and a hotsy-totsy stage dancer in perilously high heels. Throughout, Loree's mix of vocalization, monologue and audience interaction creates a hilarious and heart-stirring exploration of the many mysterious absurdities that our painfully human bodies compel us to endure.
Experiments in form also abound in SoloFest2011, with many performers drawing upon various techniques of improvisation in combination with more scripted or "set" pieces. In A Moment's Notice, returning SoloFest performer Linda Rodeck brings her signature wit and emotional clarity to the spontaneous creation of a different action poem each time she takes the stage. In Future Primates, musician Chris Douglas Livingston performs a selection of his piano and guitar compositions as he portrays what the future might look like, in both reality and dreams. Veteran storyteller Susi Wolf draws upon her extensive repertoire of folk tales to craft a dynamic reflection on life's constant change in Peeling Life Makes Your Eyes Water. In Before the End: A Post-Apocalyptic Dance Opera, Karen Fox (a classically trained actor/singer now working in physical theatre and burlesque) uses ritualized vocalization and movement to create a haunting, tribal-steampunk vision of humanity's "deep future." And in Prague: A @#$&!-up Travelogue, Marya Errin Jones offers a mordant account of the vicious banality of Eastern European racism through live video mixing, accordion playing, and artful storytelling, as she enacts the entirety of an actual zine she produced upon the occasion of her first trip to Europe.
With performances of all kinds offered by veterans and first-timers arriving from Albuquerque and Santa Fe as well as points well beyond, The Filling Station's SoloFest2011 further establishes this annual festival as an important regional outlet for independent solo performers and for interested audiences totogether"experience the power of one."
The Filling Station's 3rd Annual SoloFest, produced by David Sinkus and Beth Bailey, runs through July 17, 2011, at The Filling Station, 1024 4th Street SW, Albuquerque, NM. Show times: 8pm Friday-Saturday-Sunday; 2pm & 5pm Saturday-Sunday (programs vary). $10 for a single ticket; $35 for a festival pass. For further information, as well as a complete presentation schedule, visit www.fillingstationabq.com or call 917-449-9519.
-- Brian Herrera