New faculty member Hatlo will be teaching Solo Performance this fall. In this interview Hatlo talks about who the class is appropriate for, the collaborative nature of solo performance, and why failure is an important part of the creative process.
Q: Can you describe your class, Solo Performance?
A: It’s my first time doing it so it’s definitely a big lab–it’s going to be quite the experiment. My plan is that we’ll spend the first four weeks or so exploring some fundamentals about what it is to be alone on stage, what sorts of skills and techniques are available, and important to practice. We’ll look at different generativity techniques, different ways of coming up with material. There are a lot of different ways in: playing as a character, how to move in space, and dealing with the audience as your partner. Hopefully these are some things that will grow people out of their comfort zones, or their first impulses about what solo performance can be..
After four weeks, I’ll meet with folks and we’ll talk about the pieces that they started–any of the different projects that they’re interested in working on a little bit more or developing further. We’ll do some coaching with those pieces and then we’ll end the class with a sharing. But my vibe of it all is like–I’m very into failure, I’m really into just trying stuff and learning from what doesn’t work, as opposed to “Great! Perfect! I hit it out of the park!”. Hitting it out of the park is less interesting to me, initially. It’s better to try things out of your comfort zone, because that can augment your idea of what’s possible, even if the thing you end up with working on in the end is something you knew you wanted to work on.
Q: Who is your class designed for?
A: I think it’s helpful if someone has some basics under their belt. It’s probably going to be a really challenging class for someone who doesn’t have a lot of comfort being on stage, because we’ll play a lot with–”okay, it’s just you up there, and everybody’s watching.” So somebody who feels comfortable or is curious to explore more of what it is to take up space on stage, someone who feels comfortable experimenting in front of a group of peers in a lab environment, or maybe someone who has ideas about writing or ideas about making their own work–this would be a good place for folks like that. Even if you’re somebody who has made your own work before or written your own work before, I think this would be a good environment for them.
I think it might be a tough environment for folks who come in wanting to workshop something they know they want to do, because it’s going to be a really playful atmosphere. There will be opportunity for, if you have an idea of something you want to do, there will be space for that. It’s really going to be: what does it mean to be by myself on stage, how do I relate to other people? What are powerful tenets of standing on stage and looking out? Do I make a direct address to the audience or not? How do I make an entrance? What are different tech elements that I can think about or incorporate? What are different kinds of storytelling that we can do by ourselves on stage? I think somebody who has some acting experience, and some thoughts on making their own work–that’s sort of the baseline. And from there it’s pretty open.
Q: Can you talk about how solo performance differs from other kinds of performance?
A: One secret that I have is sort of the idea of “no man is an island.” So the idea that solo performance is something that you truly do alone is something I think is inaccurate. Theatre and theatrical work is always enhanced, in my opinion, by collaboration. Maybe there is somebody who is completely siloed–and I don’t want to pass judgment on that. But even if you have one sounding board, it’s important to try things out. At the end of the day, the audience is always your scene partner if you’re a solo performer, and there are different ways you can think about, or be really cognizant of, what you want that relationship to be. It’s an underdeveloped skill, especially for people who are coming from a well-made play, scene-partner kind of background. It’s an exciting new thing to learn and develop. What does it mean to be conscious of the relationship I have with the audience? How is the audience my scene partner? How can I change the expectations the audience has about what I’m doing? How can I interrupt or subvert those expectations? How can I build certain expectations to interrupt? It’s really hard to know what that looks like from the inside. You always need that outside eye to help build that work.
Q: What led you to Freehold?
A: Many moons ago Robin was my Meisner teacher at Cornish. I’m good friends with and a regular collaborator of Paul Budraitis, who used to teach Solo Performance at Freehold. I think I’ve actually known everyone who’s ever taught the solo performance class, so I’ve always been aware of it.
New work is really my bread and butter. Most of my career and background is working on original shows. Much of my resume is working on solo shows, often as a director and dramaturg, but I’ve also performed my own solo pieces since I was in college.
I’m always interested in ways we can play with and expand audience expectations. I’m really interested in pushing up against storytelling as this fundamental human technology, and playing with the long history of people being on stage, and all of these different rules and trends that we can either lean into–or break and interrupt–to continue expanding the art form. I really enjoy existing on a pendulum within that spectrum.
Q: Anything else to add?
A: Fundamentally I am a collaborator. I enjoy teaching, but I really like to partner with people creatively, to push their ideas forward, to dream and imagine, and to find stretch points of emergence and discovery. That’s my work as a collaborative artist. One thing I’m really excited about with this class is getting to practice those skills with a group of people, and really think about this environment as a lab: to let ideas try out breathing and walking on legs, to see what we discover, to find out together what wants more life. I view my role as creative partner and collaborator, while also understanding that I’m holding the space and facilitating the space for everyone.
One thing I’d like to weave into the course is looking at different examples of solo performance, both published works and clips and videos of other solo performers. I think it’s helpful to see a range of what’s out there and what works, in order to help our understanding of what’s available. Because the sky’s really the limit for solo performance.
You can sign up for Hatlo’s Solo Performance class here!