ONE Shot to push GO!

Img 0440An event heralded as ONE might, you would think, be a solitary thing. And yet, the truth is that for the past five years, One Actor One Writer One Week has been the result of the creative efforts of many, many people. Actors are paired with writers, and then, only a week later, they present their creative efforts for all to see... for one night only. Hear from organizer Karen Swanson about this "singular" event.

Karen Swanson done many creative things over her career. She's done stand-up and sketchcomedy, improv, written both music and comedy scripts, and has even applied her skills towards creating costumes for various comedy characters. ("It's one thing to decide what makes a character funny when you write," says Karen. "It's totally another when you think about what makes a character funny when you sew.") Now, she acts as the producing force bringing together creative people that otherwise might never connect.

 

ONE Idea

The project is called One Actor, One Writer, One Week, and this year marks the fifth showcase for the event. Basically, people sign up as actors or writers when the event is announced each year. A week before the showcase, a meet-up is held where these creative souls get to know each other, and then names are drawn at random to create pairings between one actor and one writer. And then the duo has one week to write, rehearse, and produce a 3 to 7 minute monologue to be presented at the showcase. Karen tells us where it all began.

"By the time we got to 2012, several of us had been doing sketch comedy for several years and we kept coming up against the same challenges: this wasn't anyone's full time job; there was limited time to practice; producing shows was expensive and time-consuming; and what could we say we were really getting out of it? There was also some frustration with doing projects like the 48-Hour Film Festival and the 7-11 Theatre Project -- because you could be assigned a genre that wasn't your strength, or be given dialogue that really strapped the writer. Everyone wanted to do 'something,' but few of us were getting all we needed out of our efforts."

"Personally, I was ready to be a part of something that was more than sketch, but not exactly theatre."

"Oddly, it wasn't challenging to develop. I originally posed an idea for a show I wanted to do that was part monologues and part sketch/long-form improv. Some writers weren't interested in the concept; another actor wasn't interested in the time involved. Somehow between those rejections, the frustration with contests, and the personal need to make something more 'relevant,' I suggested pairing writers and actors and giving them a week to collaborate. The response was a resounding 'maybe' from those I asked. And the rest is history."

 

ONE Small Step

So, back in 2012, the Stoner Studio theatre was booked for ONE (where the event is still held today), messages were sent out, and the first group of actors and writers were brought together to see if this strange new concept was viable. And, much more so than anyone (least of all Karen herself) may have expected, people enjoyed it.

"I think it's been surprising that it worked, AT ALL, let alone, worked as successfully as it has. We threw the dice on this, and who knew writers AND actors AND the audience would all like it to the extent they have?"

"Some performances really struck me as extraordinary. A lot of what I'd hoped for happened. Writers -- who don't get to see their work produced often -- got a voice, and the chance to see their work come to life - often with a veteran performer who can showcase subtleties even the writer didn't know existed. Actors -- get the chance to be on stage with just the words and showcase what they're capable of. I love props, lighting, music, and costumes -- and I also love being reminded of all an actor can do with the words alone."

 

ONE of Many

Obviously, the event was successful - so much so that this year will be the 5th for ONE. But success is a relative thing, and it depends on whether you're talking about creative success or financial success, and how much attention each should get. The showcase had sold out the roughly 200 or so seats in the Stoner consistently, but it was really more designed as an enterprise to get actors and writers together who would normally never meet, and to produce and perform for a limited event.

"As to the 'success' we expected: yes and no." Karen says. "Keep in mind, we've got a cast of 24 to 30 (who bring 2 to 10 friends in each); we keep tickets at $5, and we perform on a Monday. We, by design, eliminated a lot of the reasons people gave for not attending other shows. That being said, I'm still completely blown away that we get such a large and gracious crowd. And, I'm completely blown away by what writers and actors accomplish in a week. They all bring their A-game. Every Time."

I asked if there has been any thought to expanding upon ONE, perhaps to a larger venue or for multiple nights. While Karen has heard such suggestions before, she doesn't want to fix what isn't broken.

"I'm loyal to the Stoner as a venue and to the excitement of a one-night-only event. Part of what makes the experiment work is that participants only get the one shot to push 'go.' There's no tweaking. There's no tomorrow night. People get it right now, because Now is a really short-lived commodity."

"I do like where ONE is now and it will likely stay as is because it works. I may consider variations of the idea in order to monetize something we can take to other venues. And that's a Year 6 project...."

In the meantime, there's still Year 5, coming up next week. The One Actor, One Writer, One Week showcase for 2017 will be presented on Monday April 3 at 7pm at the Stoner Studio Theatre at the Civic Center. Actors and writers were paired up on March 27, and are now furiously trying to fill blank pages and empty air with ideas and words.  And, once the night finally arrives and all the preparations are done, it's time to just enjoy the fruits of all the creative labor. Even with all the work Karen puts into it to help others create, there's a time to just reap the rewards.

"I don't shake up much with ONE. The basic recipe is the random pairing and the time limit. I just rent a theatre and let it happen."

One Actor One Writer One Week ONE Stoner Theatre Karen Swanson