One-person show

Gerald Dickens in his one-man-show of A Christmas Carol

A one-person show (one-man show or one-woman show) is a solo performance, featuring a comedian or actor who stands on stage and entertains an audience.

While a one-person show may be the musings of a comedian on a theme, the form can accommodate a wider scope. In the preface of the book Extreme Exposure, editor Jo Bonney uses the term "solo performance" to encompass those performers who do not necessarily have a comedic history. She suggests that "at the most basic level, despite their limitless backgrounds and performance styles, all solo performers are storytellers." This assumption is based on her assertion that a number of solo shows have a storyline or a plot. [1]

Bonney also suggests that a distinctive trait of solo performance resides in its frequent lack of a fourth wall separating the performer from the audience, stating that a "solo show expects and demands the active involvement of the people in the audience". [1] While this is often the case, as in the shows of performers coming directly from the stand-up comedy tradition, it is not a requirement: some solo shows, such as Nemesis by Natyaguru Nurul Momen or Krapp's Last Tape by Samuel Beckett, are performed without the performer addressing the audience directly.

When creating a show, a solo performer is not limited to creating and performing the show themselves. They can use directors, writers, designers, and composers. An example of how Eric Bogosian builds a character can be found in the published version of his show Wake Up And Smell the Coffee, by Theatre Communications Group, New York City.

The backgrounds of solo performers over the decades range from vaudeville, stand-up comedy, poetry, music, the visual arts, magic, cabaret, and dance.


We may assume that individuals have told stories in front of other members of their tribe or society for thousands of years. They would have orally passed down many of today's myths and legends in this manner. So it is a style of performance that has been with us for generations developing through theatrical people such as Greek Monologists, the strolling Minstrels of Medieval England and the French Troubadors.

Edgar Allan Poe both lectured and recited poetry as a platform performer between 1843 and 1849; his performances stand as a paradigm of the one-person show hybrid simply called "the lecture-recital". The reading tours of Charles Dickens in Britain and America between 1858 and 1870 created a sensation. His American tour of 1867-68 was unparalleled until the arrival of the Beatles in the early 1960s. [2]

One person shows enjoyed an unprecedented artistic and commercial vogue in the United States during the second half of the nineteenth century (John S. Gentile Calls it the golden age of platform performance). Literary historians often associate the Victorian period with the highest development of the dramatic monologue as a poetic form. There were several discussions about the importance and distinction between the literary monologue and the performance monologue during the nineteenth century, however, this discussions confirms a continuous interchange between literature and performance, which may at times appear competitive but is more often productive. By the time the United States entered the 20th century, the number and variety of professional one-person shows presented throughout the country had grown large. [3] This renaissance of solo performance also created ripples in the larger sense of American theatre; after this "boom" of the one man show had passed, the presentational style seeped into popular theatre productions such as Amadeus, Equus, and Evita among others, modeling a combination of representational theatricality and presentational, direct-address style. [4]

By the 1960s, the term performance art became popular and involved any number of performance acts or happenings, as they were known. Many performers, like Laurie Anderson, developed through these happenings and are still performing today.

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français: One-man-show
Nederlands: Onemanshow
oʻzbekcha/ўзбекча: Bir aktyor teatri
українська: Моновистава