The Art of Solo Performance: Exploring the World of Monologues and One-Person Shows

Are you ready to explore the captivating world of solo drama performances? Join us as we delve into the enchanting realm of monologues and one-person shows. Get ready to discover the art of storytelling in its purest form, where one actor takes center stage and weaves a narrative that leaves you spellbound. From Shakespearean soliloquies to modern-day confessionals, solo performances have a unique power to transport you to another world and leave you with a newfound appreciation for the art of acting. So, buckle up and let’s embark on this journey to discover the magic of solo drama performances.

What is a solo drama performance called?

Types of solo performances

Solo performances come in various forms, each with its unique style and structure. Here are some of the most common types of solo performances:


A monologue is a dramatic performance where a single actor delivers a lengthy speech or dialogue directly to the audience. Monologues can be found in various forms of theatre, including Shakespearean plays, contemporary dramas, and even stand-up comedy. In a monologue, the actor’s goal is to engage the audience and convey their character’s thoughts, emotions, and experiences.

One-person shows

A one-person show is a theatrical performance where a single actor plays multiple characters or tells a story on their own. These shows often involve the use of costume changes, props, and dynamic storytelling techniques to bring the narrative to life. One-person shows can be based on true stories, fictional tales, or even autobiographical accounts. Examples of famous one-person shows include “The Soloist” by Steve Lopez and “The Glass Menagerie” by Tennessee Williams.

Storytelling performances

Storytelling performances involve a single performer sharing a personal story or anecdote with the audience. These performances can be structured as a traditional narrative or take on a more experimental form, incorporating music, movement, and multimedia elements. Storytelling performances often focus on themes of identity, memory, and personal growth.

Stand-up comedy

Stand-up comedy is a type of solo performance that involves a comedian delivering jokes and anecdotes to a live audience. Stand-up comedy has become a popular form of entertainment around the world, with many comedians achieving fame and fortune through their solo performances. In stand-up comedy, the performer’s goal is to make the audience laugh and connect with them on a personal level.

Spoken word poetry

Spoken word poetry is a form of performance art that combines poetry, storytelling, and theatre. In a spoken word poetry performance, a single poet delivers their original work to the audience, often incorporating music, movement, and other artistic elements. Spoken word poetry often addresses social and political issues and aims to inspire change and engagement in the audience.

Each of these types of solo performances offers a unique opportunity for actors and artists to showcase their talents and connect with audiences in a meaningful way.

Benefits of solo performances

One of the most significant benefits of solo performances is the ability to showcase the performer’s versatility and range as an actor. In a solo show, the performer is responsible for creating and portraying multiple characters, often with distinct voices, mannerisms, and physicalities. This requires a high level of skill and dexterity, as well as the ability to sustain the audience’s attention for the duration of the performance.

Another benefit of solo performances is the intimacy they offer both the performer and the audience. Since there are no other actors on stage, the performer is able to connect with the audience in a more personal and direct way. This can create a sense of vulnerability and trust between the performer and the audience, which can be both thrilling and moving for everyone involved.

Additionally, solo performances often allow for a high degree of creative control and artistic expression. Since the performer is responsible for creating and executing the entire show, they have the opportunity to experiment with different styles, themes, and formats. This can lead to a unique and innovative approach to storytelling, as well as a deeper exploration of the performer’s own experiences and perspectives.

Overall, the benefits of solo performances are numerous and varied. Whether you’re an actor looking to showcase your talents, a theatre-lover seeking a more intimate and personal experience, or an artist looking to push the boundaries of creative expression, solo performances offer a wealth of opportunities and rewards.

The History of Solo Performances

Key takeaway: Solo performances, including monologues, one-person shows, storytelling performances, and stand-up comedy, offer a unique opportunity for actors and artists to showcase their talents and connect with audiences in a meaningful way. The benefits of solo performances include the ability to showcase the performer’s versatility and range as an actor, the intimacy they offer both the performer and the audience, and the ability to push the boundaries of creative expression. Preparing for a solo performance involves choosing a script, rehearsing with specificity, and developing character and emotional connection. Famous examples of solo performances include Spalding Gray’s “Swimming to Cambodia,” Anna Deavere Smith’s “Fires in the Mirror,” and Whoopi Goldberg’s “The Lion in Winter.” The future of solo performances looks bright, with exciting developments on the horizon, including collaboration with other artists, virtual and immersive experiences, and reflection on the art of solo performance.

Ancient origins

Solo performances have been a part of human culture for thousands of years, with roots dating back to ancient civilizations such as Greece and Egypt. In these cultures, solo performances often took the form of storytelling, with a single performer reciting tales of mythology and legend to captivated audiences.

One of the earliest examples of solo performance in the Western world is the Greek tradition of rhapsodes, who were itinerant performers who would travel from city to city, reciting epic poems such as Homer’s “The Iliad” and “The Odyssey.” These performances were often accompanied by music and dance, and were an important part of the cultural and social life of ancient Greece.

In ancient Egypt, solo performances were often religious in nature, with performers reciting hymns and prayers to the gods. These performances were often accompanied by music and dance, and were an important part of the religious rituals of ancient Egypt.

Overall, the history of solo performances is rich and varied, with roots dating back to the earliest days of human culture. Whether through storytelling, poetry, or religion, solo performances have always played an important role in bringing people together and sharing ideas and experiences.

Modern evolution

The modern evolution of solo performances can be traced back to the 20th century, where the form began to gain traction in both theatrical and cinematic contexts.

  • Emergence of stand-up comedy: Stand-up comedy, which originated in vaudeville and later in nightclubs, emerged as a prominent form of solo performance during the 20th century. Comics such as Bob Hope, Lenny Bruce, and George Carlin were among the pioneers who refined the art of stand-up comedy and popularized it as a solo performance art form.
  • One-person shows on Broadway: In the 1960s, the one-person show began to gain recognition on Broadway. Performers like Shirley MacLaine, Alan Alda, and Julie Harris starred in one-person shows that were both critically acclaimed and commercially successful. These shows showcased the performer’s acting, writing, and storytelling abilities, and demonstrated the potential of the solo performance format.
  • The rise of autobiographical plays: The 1990s saw a surge in autobiographical plays, such as “The Beauty Queen of Leenane” by Martin McDonagh and “Wit” by Margaret Edson. These plays, which were performed by a single actor, often explored themes of identity, memory, and mortality. The success of these plays contributed to the growing recognition of the solo performance as a legitimate and powerful art form.
  • Solo performances in film and television: In recent years, solo performances have become increasingly prevalent in film and television. Performances such as Julia Sweeney’s “The Godmother” and Sarah Silverman’s “Jesus is Magic” have pushed the boundaries of stand-up comedy and storytelling, while television shows like “Maron” and “Crashing” have featured single-camera setups that allow for more intimate portrayals of characters and their experiences.

The modern evolution of solo performances has not only expanded the possibilities of the form but has also contributed to the growing interest in this unique and engaging art form.

Preparing for a Solo Performance

Choosing a script

Selecting the right script is crucial for a successful solo performance. It should be engaging, well-written, and align with your personal style and voice. Here are some factors to consider when choosing a script:

  • Genre: Consider the genre of the script, such as drama, comedy, or biography. Ensure that it resonates with your strengths and interests.
  • Length: Choose a script that is neither too short nor too long for your performance. A well-balanced script will allow you to showcase your acting range without overwhelming the audience.
  • Complexity: Evaluate the complexity of the script, including the character development, plot, and themes. Determine whether you have the skill and experience to bring the script to life effectively.
  • Authenticity: Assess whether the script accurately represents the subject matter, character, or story it portrays. Strive for authenticity to create a genuine connection with your audience.
  • Personal connection: Choose a script that resonates with you on a personal level. If you have a strong emotional connection to the material, it will translate into a more powerful performance.
  • Audience appeal: Consider the audience’s preferences and expectations when selecting a script. Choose a script that will appeal to your target audience and engage them throughout the performance.
  • Versatility: Opt for a script that allows you to showcase your range as a performer. Select a script with diverse characters or themes to demonstrate your acting capabilities.
  • Rehearsal time: Account for the time required to rehearse and prepare the script. Choose a script that you can realistically rehearse and perform within the given timeframe.
  • Performance opportunities: Research the availability of performance opportunities for the script you’ve chosen. Ensure that it aligns with your goals and objectives for the solo performance.

By carefully considering these factors, you can select a script that will set the stage for a captivating and memorable solo performance.

Rehearsal process

The rehearsal process is a crucial aspect of preparing for a solo performance. It involves practicing and refining the monologue or one-person show to ensure that it is polished and engaging for the audience. Here are some key elements to consider during the rehearsal process:

  1. Script analysis: The first step in the rehearsal process is to thoroughly analyze the script. This involves understanding the character’s motivations, objectives, and emotional journey. The performer should also pay attention to the pacing, tone, and style of the script to ensure that it resonates with the audience.
  2. Blocking: Once the script has been analyzed, the performer should work on blocking the performance. This involves determining where the performer will stand, move, and interact with any props or set pieces. The blocking should be fluid and natural, allowing the performer to move seamlessly from one moment to the next.
  3. Vocal and physical technique: In order to deliver a compelling solo performance, the performer must have strong vocal and physical technique. This involves developing good posture, using proper breathing techniques, and projecting the voice effectively. The performer should also work on physicalizing the character’s emotions and movements, ensuring that the performance is dynamic and engaging.
  4. Rehearsing with specificity: As the performer rehearses the monologue or one-person show, it is important to rehearse with specificity. This means focusing on the details of the performance, such as the placement of props, the timing of entrances and exits, and the pacing of the performance. By rehearsing with specificity, the performer can ensure that the performance is polished and professional.
  5. Getting feedback: Finally, it is important to get feedback from others during the rehearsal process. This can include feedback from a director, a dramaturg, or other performers. Feedback can help the performer identify areas that need improvement and refine the performance to ensure that it is as effective as possible.

Developing character and emotional connection

To truly captivate an audience during a solo performance, it is crucial to develop a strong character and establish an emotional connection with the audience. Here are some tips on how to do so:

  1. Research and create a well-rounded character:
    Begin by researching the character you will be portraying in your monologue or one-person show. It is important to create a character that is well-rounded and has depth. Consider the character’s background, motivations, fears, and desires. This research will help you to understand your character on a deeper level and make your portrayal more authentic.
  2. Choose a character that resonates with you:
    When selecting a character to portray, choose one that resonates with you on a personal level. This will allow you to connect with the character and portray their emotions authentically. If you do not connect with the character, it will be difficult to establish an emotional connection with the audience.
  3. Use physicality and body language:
    In addition to words, your body language and physicality can communicate a great deal about your character. Pay attention to your posture, facial expressions, and movements. These nonverbal cues can help to reinforce the emotions and thoughts of your character, making your performance more compelling.
  4. Vulnerability and authenticity:
    Audiences connect with performers who are vulnerable and authentic. To establish an emotional connection with your audience, be open and honest in your portrayal of your character. Allow yourself to be vulnerable and share your character’s emotions with the audience. This vulnerability will help to create a deeper connection between you and the audience.
  5. Practice and refine:
    Finally, it is important to practice and refine your performance. As you rehearse, pay attention to your character’s emotions and how you can convey them to the audience. Seek feedback from others and use it to refine your performance. By continually refining your performance, you will be able to establish a stronger emotional connection with your audience.

Performing a Solo Drama

Physicality and movement

As a solo performer, it is important to be aware of your body language and physical movements on stage. Here are some tips for incorporating physicality and movement into your solo performance:

  • Use the entire stage: Utilize the entire space of the stage, moving from one side to the other, up and downstage, and even using the apron or area in front of the stage. This will help keep your performance visually interesting and dynamic.
  • Use props and set pieces: Use props and set pieces to your advantage, incorporating them into your movements and physicality. This can help bring your character to life and add depth to your performance.
  • Vary your pace: Vary your pace and tempo throughout your performance, incorporating both slow and fast movements. This will help keep your performance engaging and interesting for the audience.
  • Use gesture and movement to enhance your words: Use gestures and movements to complement your words and actions, bringing your character to life and making your performance more engaging for the audience.
  • Stay present in the moment: Stay present in the moment, focusing on your character and the story you are telling. This will help you avoid distractions and stay connected to your performance.

Overall, physicality and movement are crucial elements of a successful solo performance. By incorporating these elements into your performance, you can create a dynamic and engaging show that captivates your audience.

Vocal technique

As a performer, mastering vocal technique is crucial when delivering a solo drama. The following are some essential aspects of vocal technique that every solo performer should consider:

  • Breath control: Proper breath control is vital in maintaining a consistent and strong vocal delivery throughout the performance. Performers should learn to control their breathing patterns, taking short, shallow breaths to prevent gasping or running out of breath.
  • Pronunciation: Clear and precise pronunciation is essential in conveying the intended meaning of the text. Performers should pay attention to the enunciation of each word, ensuring that the audience can understand the dialogue.
  • Voice projection: A solo performer needs to project their voice effectively to fill the space and engage the audience. Performers should learn to use their diaphragm to support their voice, allowing them to project their voice without straining.
  • Tone and inflection: The tone and inflection of the voice can significantly impact the emotional impact of the performance. Performers should learn to vary their tone and inflection to convey different emotions and moods, creating a more dynamic and engaging performance.
  • Pacing and timing: The pacing and timing of the performance are critical in maintaining the audience’s attention. Performers should learn to control the speed and rhythm of their delivery, adjusting their pace to suit the text and create a sense of tension or release.

By mastering these essential aspects of vocal technique, solo performers can deliver a more confident, engaging, and impactful performance, connecting with the audience and bringing the text to life.

Connection with the audience

One of the most crucial aspects of performing a solo drama is the connection with the audience. A solo performance relies heavily on the performer’s ability to engage and captivate the audience, making them feel invested in the story being told. Here are some key points to consider when building a connection with the audience:

  • Establishing trust: As a solo performer, it is essential to establish trust with the audience. This can be achieved by being honest, genuine, and vulnerable in your performance. The audience needs to feel that they can relate to you and believe in the story you are telling.
  • Eye contact: Eye contact is a powerful tool for connecting with the audience. It helps to create a sense of intimacy and makes the audience feel involved in the performance. Make sure to maintain eye contact with different members of the audience throughout the performance to ensure that everyone feels included.
  • Engaging body language: Your body language can significantly impact your connection with the audience. Use open, confident body language to show that you are comfortable and in control of the performance. Avoid crossing your arms or looking away, as this can come across as closed-off or disinterested.
  • Audience interaction: Incorporating audience interaction can help to build a stronger connection with the audience. This can be as simple as asking for feedback or responses from the audience or involving them in the performance through improvisation or participation.
  • Telling a relatable story: Above all, it is essential to tell a story that is relatable and engaging to the audience. The more the audience can connect with the story, the more invested they will be in the performance.

By focusing on these key points, you can build a strong connection with your audience and create a truly captivating solo performance.

Famous Examples of Solo Performances

One-person shows

  • A one-person show is a theatrical performance in which a single performer portrays multiple characters or narrates a story on stage.
  • These shows often rely on the actor’s ability to create a dynamic and engaging performance through their acting, storytelling, and physicality.
  • One-person shows can take many forms, from dramatic monologues to stand-up comedy routines, and can be adapted from existing works or created specifically for the stage.
  • Some notable examples of one-person shows include “The Solid Life of Sugar Water” by Jack Thorne, which tells the story of a man who is dying of a terminal illness, and “The Pillowman” by Martin McDonagh, which follows a writer who is interrogated by a police force that is investigating a series of gruesome murders.
  • Other famous one-person shows include “The History of the World, Part 1” by Mel Brooks, “The Laramie Project” by Moises Kaufman, and “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” by Edward Albee.
  • One-person shows can be challenging to perform, as the actor must create a fully realized world on stage with only their own body and voice to work with.
  • However, when done well, these shows can be incredibly powerful and moving, as they allow the audience to connect with the performer on a deeply personal level.

Monologues in film and television

  • Film and television have been a significant platform for actors to showcase their talent through monologues.
    • Many films and television shows have used monologues as a tool to convey the character’s thoughts, emotions, and inner conflicts.
      • In the film “Dead Poets Society,” Robin Williams’ character, Mr. Keating, delivers a powerful monologue about the importance of individuality and self-expression.
      • In the television show “Breaking Bad,” Bryan Cranston’s character, Walter White, delivers a chilling monologue about his motivations and intentions in the final season.
    • Monologues in film and television often serve as a way for the character to address the audience directly, allowing for a deeper connection and understanding of their perspective.
      • In the film “Shakespeare in Love,” Gwyneth Paltrow’s character, Viola, delivers a heartfelt monologue about her love for William Shakespeare, directly addressing the audience and drawing them into her story.
      • In the television show “The Office,” Steve Carell’s character, Michael Scott, delivers a humorous monologue about his feelings for his colleague, Jan, in the season finale, breaking the fourth wall and directly addressing the audience.

Future of solo performances

As the art of solo performance continues to evolve, it is clear that the future of this form is bright. Here are some reasons why:

  • Increased Popularity: Solo performances have seen a surge in popularity in recent years, with more and more artists and audiences discovering the unique power of the form. This increased interest is driving innovation and experimentation, as well as creating new opportunities for solo performers to showcase their work.
  • Technological Advancements: The advent of new technologies, such as virtual reality and augmented reality, is opening up exciting new possibilities for solo performers. These technologies can be used to create immersive and interactive experiences that are impossible to achieve with traditional live performances.
  • Greater Diversity: The solo performance world is becoming more diverse, with artists from a wider range of backgrounds and cultures exploring the form. This diversity is leading to a richer and more dynamic artistic landscape, as well as creating new opportunities for collaboration and cross-cultural exchange.
  • New Venues and Platforms: Solo performers are increasingly finding opportunities to showcase their work in non-traditional venues and platforms, such as online platforms and alternative spaces. This is creating new audiences and opportunities for solo performers, as well as expanding the possibilities of the form.

Overall, the future of solo performances looks bright, with exciting developments on the horizon. As the form continues to evolve and expand, it is sure to captivate audiences and inspire artists for years to come.

Collaboration with other artists

Solo performances can also involve collaboration with other artists, such as directors, playwrights, and designers. This collaboration can enhance the overall quality of the performance and bring a fresh perspective to the production. Here are some examples of famous solo performances that have benefited from collaboration with other artists:

Spalding Gray’s “Swimming to Cambodia”

Spalding Gray’s “Swimming to Cambodia” is a one-person show that tells the story of the actor’s experiences traveling to Cambodia to film the movie “The Killing Fields.” The show was directed by Tom Carolyn and features a minimalist set design by James Kronzer. The collaboration between Gray, Carolyn, and Kronzer helped to create a visually striking and emotionally impactful performance that has become a classic of the genre.

Anna Deavere Smith’s “Fires in the Mirror”

Anna Deavere Smith’s “Fires in the Mirror” is a one-person show that explores the 1991 Crown Heights riots in Brooklyn, New York. The show was developed in collaboration with director Leonard Foglia and features a set design by David Dorfman. The collaboration between Smith, Foglia, and Dorfman helped to create a performance that combines documentary-style storytelling with dynamic staging and multimedia elements.

Whoopi Goldberg’s “The Lion in Winter”

Whoopi Goldberg’s “The Lion in Winter” is a one-person show that adapts the classic play by James Goldman. The show was directed by David Leveaux and features a set design by Beowulf Boritt. The collaboration between Goldberg, Leveaux, and Boritt helped to create a visually stunning and emotionally powerful performance that showcases Goldberg’s incredible range as an actress.

In each of these examples, collaboration with other artists helped to elevate the solo performance and create a more complex and compelling work of art.

Virtual and immersive experiences

The realm of virtual and immersive experiences in solo performances has opened up a whole new world of possibilities for artists. These types of performances use technology to create a fully immersive experience for the audience, allowing them to feel as if they are a part of the performance. Here are some examples of famous virtual and immersive solo performances:

  • The Encounter: This immersive theater experience was created by Complicit√© and directed by Simon McBurney. It tells the story of a journalist who travels to the Amazon rainforest to investigate a story, and ends up having a life-changing encounter with a mysterious stranger. The performance uses binaural sound and surround sound to create an immersive audio experience for the audience.
  • All Is Lost: This virtual reality experience was created by Thomas O’Farrell and is performed by Charlie Gillet. It tells the story of a man who is lost at sea and struggling to survive. The performance uses virtual reality technology to immerse the audience in the story, making them feel as if they are right there with the character.
  • The Reactive: This virtual reality experience was created by The Reactive Studio and is performed by Marcus Donnelly. It tells the story of a man who wakes up in a strange room with no memory of how he got there. The performance uses virtual reality technology to create an interactive experience for the audience, allowing them to explore the room and uncover clues about the character’s past.

These virtual and immersive solo performances demonstrate the potential of technology to enhance the theatrical experience and provide new ways for artists to tell stories.

Reflection on the art of solo performance

  • Solo Performance as a Showcase of Individual Talent
    • Monologues and one-person shows offer performers the opportunity to demonstrate their acting skills and versatility by taking on multiple roles and showcasing a range of emotions.
    • This format allows for a more intimate connection between the performer and the audience, as the audience is able to see the performer’s full range of acting abilities and become more invested in the performance.
  • Solo Performance as a Vehicle for Personal Expression
    • Monologues and one-person shows often explore themes and topics that are deeply personal to the performer, allowing them to use the medium as a means of personal expression and exploration.
    • This can lead to a more authentic and powerful performance, as the performer is able to draw on their own experiences and emotions to bring the character and story to life.
  • Solo Performance as a Challenge for the Actor
    • Taking on multiple roles in a solo performance requires a high level of skill and dedication from the performer, as they must create distinct and believable characters while also maintaining a cohesive narrative.
    • This challenge can lead to growth and improvement as an actor, as the performer is pushed to their limits and must constantly adapt and evolve to meet the demands of the role.

Final thoughts

As we reflect on the art of solo performance, it is clear that this form of storytelling has the power to captivate audiences and convey profound messages. Here are some final thoughts on the significance of solo performances:

  • Emotional Connection: Solo performances offer a unique opportunity for artists to establish an emotional connection with their audience. By sharing personal experiences and emotions, performers can create a bond with the audience that is both authentic and powerful.
  • Storytelling: The art of storytelling is at the core of solo performances. Through carefully crafted narratives, performers can transport their audience to different worlds, evoke strong emotions, and inspire new perspectives.
  • Artistic Expression: Solo performances provide a platform for artists to express themselves creatively without the constraints of traditional theatre. This freedom allows for innovative and experimental approaches to storytelling, pushing the boundaries of what is possible in performance art.
  • Social Impact: Solo performances can have a significant social impact by addressing important issues and sparking conversations. By using their art as a tool for social change, performers can raise awareness about important topics and inspire action.
  • Personal Growth: For the performers themselves, solo performances can be a transformative experience. By putting their stories and emotions on display, artists can gain a deeper understanding of themselves and their place in the world.


1. What is a solo drama performance called?

A solo drama performance is often referred to as a monologue or a one-person show. These terms are often used interchangeably, but they do have slightly different meanings. A monologue is a speech given by a single character in a play or performance, while a one-person show is a complete performance that is performed by a single person.

2. What is the difference between a monologue and a one-person show?

While both monologues and one-person shows are performed by a single person, there are some key differences between the two. A monologue is typically a short speech or piece of dialogue that is included within a larger play or performance. A one-person show, on the other hand, is a complete performance that is written specifically for one person to perform. This means that a one-person show will have a beginning, middle, and end, and will be structured like a traditional play or performance.

3. What are some common topics for solo drama performances?

Solo drama performances can cover a wide range of topics, but some common themes include personal experiences, relationships, mental health, and social issues. Many solo performances are also autobiographical in nature, with the performer drawing on their own experiences and emotions to create the performance.

4. How do I create a solo drama performance?

Creating a solo drama performance can be a challenging but rewarding process. The first step is to choose a topic or theme that you are passionate about and that you feel will resonate with your audience. Next, you will need to develop a story or narrative that will guide your performance. This may involve writing a script, creating a storyboard, or simply outlining the key points you want to cover. Once you have a clear idea of what you want to say, you can begin working on the actual performance, including rehearsing and refining your delivery.

5. What are some tips for performing a solo drama performance?

Performing a solo drama performance can be nerve-wracking, but there are a few tips that can help you feel more confident and comfortable on stage. First, make sure you are well-rehearsed and have a strong understanding of your material. This will help you feel more confident and in control during the performance. Second, try to connect with your audience and engage them in the performance. This can help you feel more connected to your audience and more invested in the performance. Finally, remember to be yourself and let your natural charisma and passion shine through in your performance.

A+ 2021 VCE DRAMA SOLO | The Concierge

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