I Am My Own Playwright
The one-person play is now so familiar a genre for theatergoers that many would be surprised to learn it is among the youngest of all theatrical forms—little more than a half-century old. Because such shows are well liked by audiences and cost comparatively little to mount, many regional theater companies contrive to balance their books by putting on a new one every season. One (perhaps solipsistic) indication of the genre’s appeal is that my first play, a one-man show about Louis Armstrong called Satchmo at the Waldorf, will be produced this season by two different New England theater companies. It is unlikely that either troupe would have agreed to collaborate on a production of a more ambitious script by a rookie.
Much of the perennial appeal of one-person shows arises from the way in which they allow gifted actors to display their talents in an intimate setting. The impact of watching such performances in the theater is powerful enough that it even comes across clearly when they are seen on TV, as were such well-remembered shows as John Gielgud’s Ages of Man (telecast in 1966) and Hal Holbrook’s Mark Twain Tonight! (telecast in 1967).
About the Author
Terry Teachout, Commentary’s critic-at-large and the drama critic of the Wall Street Journal, wrote about Lillian Hellman in the last issue.