Solo Performance

"Solo performance" – the term used by the Center for Peace through Culture to publicize the premiere of NOTES FROM THE MOROCCAN JOURNALS – denotes texts I write, stage and perform, with theatrical lighting and sometimes a set. That's all they have in common, besides running an hour or more.

Each solo performance has a different style – from poetic story-telling on a simple, realistic set in NOTES FROM THE MOROCCAN JOURNALS to a more journalistic and wacky approach with just a bench and a large map of Manhattan in ART NEW YORK, café-théâtre silliness in QUAND ÇA FAIT MAL (When It Hurts), a single chair and a long swath of fabric in BECAUSE I LOVE YOU SO... and the stripped down cabaret of MEIN HERZ TANZ AUF MEINER ZUNGE, MEINE HÄNDE TANZEN MEIN HERZ. In principle, they can – and have been! – performed in all kinds of places.

Notes from the Moroccan Journals

While organizing and hosting a series of evenings of anti-war poetry and music I'd conceived that featured Amiri and Amina Baraka, Father Daniel Berrigan, Simon Shaheen, my dear friend D. H. Melhem and many others, I was told of a grant that was made for me. The Center for Peace through Culture funded my first "solo performance" at Manhattan's Alternative Museum. I developed the text with jazz and improvisational singer, coach, and immense spirit, Jeane Lee. Obsessed with a major life event that everyone else knew better about, Jeane's wisdom was hugely helpful. One day, Jeane responded to my terror about performing: "Don't be afraid. You're just getting up in front of the audience and taking off your clothes!"

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Art New York

The first performance called ART NEW YORK was at Manhattan's Foundation for the Vital Arts with painter Jean-Loup Msika and violinist Billy Bang. Later in Paris I needed to share my experience of New York City and recreated it as a solo piece with critical comments and vignettes of people I knew, including the street musician at Broadway and 72nd.

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I Believe in Love!

In the first iteration of a collection of my spoken poems and vocals and real songs, I preached and testified about the subject, exhorting the audience to respond and ending with "Yes, I do believe in love!" Here's a bit from Life Café in the East Village. (Not only is it old, but it was shot on VHS, converted from NTSC to PAL and copied!)

Later, I toned down the preacher role a bit and performed a variety of pieces on intimate love and friendship – pro-planet and anti-war.



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Quand ça fait mal (When It Hurts)

Eventually I had to try my hand at the French solo performance genre known as café-théâtre. There are many varieties, with mine a kind of "over-the-top" acting – making a spectacle of myself! – as a female writer-performer in my run-down immigrant neighborhood of Paris, Belleville.

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Because I love you so...

was created for the "Arts for Life" theater festival in Milan about a subject that had long preoccupied me: assisted suicide.

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Mein Herz tanz auf meiner Zunge, meine Händen tanzen mein Herz

Using the title poet Wilhelm Deinert suggested after seeing me perform ("My heart dances on my tongue, my hands dance my heart"), I developed a kind of poetic cabaret for primarily German-speaking audiences.

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The Solo Voice

An Interview with Nancy du Plessis

A performer who has specialized in solo performance and cross-cultural experience discusses the special characteristics of her genre with Anjum Katyal for SEAGULL THEATRE QUARTERLY of Calcutta, India.

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