Solo Performers Find Strength in Numbers at SaraSolo

Theater

BY PHILIP LEDERER SRQ DAILY WEDNESDAY PHILANTHROPY EDITION WEDNESDAY JAN 23, 2019

Being a solo performer can be scary, isolated onstage under a spotlight and the expectant eyes of the audience. It can be lonesome, stuck in a writer’s room of one for hours and days and weeks. And none of this approaches the difficulty of mounting a production and corralling an audience for anything less than a two-hour performance full of extravagant sets and costume changes. But for the last four years, solo artists of all types, from Sarasota and beyond, have found the power of their combined strength in the annual SaraSolo Festival, presenting 16 solo acts over the course of two weekends, and ranging the gamut from cabaret and jazz performance to dramatic memoirs, improv comedy and dance. The fifth annual SaraSolo Festival kicks off this weekend, and tickets are on sale now.

Divided into two weekends, performances begin January 26–27, with shows at 1pm, 3pm, 5pm and 7pm each day. The remaining eight acts will perform the following weekend, February 2­–3, at the same times. Curated to show the breadth of possibility in solo performance, a wide variety of acts are on deck for audiences, promising a very different experience each weekend. “I’m in love with every one of them,” says Ann Morrison, SaraSolo artistic director and co-founder, of the assembled acts for 2019. “They’re like my children,” she says.

With 16 acts to choose from, festival-goers can opt to attend them all, or pick and choose according to taste and audience. Some shows are appropriate for all ages, such as Hendrik Morsman’s Hendrik’s Magic Flute, which begins this Sunday’s festivities with a 1pm performance. Hailing from the Netherlands, Morsman restages Mozart’s classic as a one-man opera, bringing everything from miming, puppetry and an alto saxophone to bear. And Kumiko Yamamoto’s Oh, Origami! performance, scheduled for the final Sunday of the festival, sees the origami expert crafting dragons, cranes, masks and more as she weaves her stories. “Magnificent” and “spectacular,” says Morrison, it’s a sure-fire crowd-pleaser for kids and adults.

For those seeking heavier topics, several options abound, including Larissa Marten’s I Killed the Cow on January 26 and Maureen Muldoon’s Trans-Parent Love, an autobiographical performance about a Midwestern mother’s journey after finding out her child is pansexual and transgender. Adult-oriented but a bit on the lighter side, Ashley Strand’s Enough of an A**hole to Say It Onstage, sees last year’s SaraSolo Maestro Award-winner return to the stage for another round of stand-up. And for those looking to keep the laughs going, Tyler Crose brings his interactive improv comedy to the festival as well, following a “country western cabaret” performance in drag by Matthew McGee.

And perhaps Morrison’s—and SaraSolo’s—greatest victories come in those performers who return again and again, growing each year. Kaylene McCaw began by taking cabaret and playwriting workshops from Morrison and fellow SaraSolo co-founder Blake Walton. In the following years, she produced her own show, performed it at the festival, won a John Ringling Towers Grant to continue developing the concept and this year returns to the festival with a sequel—Suntelia. “It’s been a real thrill to watch,” says Morrison. “It’s her best work yet.”

The SaraSolo festival runs the weekends of January 26–27 and February 2–3. Schedules, descriptions and tickets can be found at the website below.

Pictured: Kumiko Yamamoto will fold the art of origami into the art of storytelling at SaraSolo Festival 2019. Photo courtesy of SaraSolo Festival.

SaraSolo Festival

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