How is a Multi-Media Solo Show like a Trip to Europe?

I just came home from Portland, ME where I was directing a multi-media solo show by Steve Underwood. The show, called Underwater Guy, Packing the Unpackableincluded about 45 minutes’ worth of beautiful underwater video shot by Steve, in his experience as a free diver. The narrative portion of the show was about 45 minutes also, with about half of that overlaid over the video. So we had multiple elements to deal with, and a story line to follow. The closest guideline we could find was that of documentary, which was quite helpful.

How did we apply that documentary technique to a solo show? We started with the narrative, just like usual, and then we found the places where the video would either support the text or carry the story forward. Then we added the video. Then we timed everything and found places to edit – exactly the same procedure that I follow with text-based performance pieces.

Steve is a brilliant video editor, but video editing takes a lot of time and we found that we did not allot enough time for editing, so the acting part of the show ended up taking a back seat for a while. We did finally get to the acting part, and the show turned out beautifully. We got great audience response and good reviews.

Both of us had a learning curve, however, that left me with some advice for those who wish to produce a multi-media show. Plan for it the same way you plan for a trip to Europe – take half as much clothing as you think you need and three times as much money. In solo show terms, that means cut your narrative to the bone, and give yourself three times as much time to edit as you think you need. When you have completed the process, you’ll have a clean, powerful narrative supported by video background, and a beautiful frame for your stand-alone video segments.

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