Sadieh Rifai and Timothy Edward Kane on Tackling Solo Shows

FLYING SOLO: Two actors dish on the thrills and chills of the singular spotlight

Sadieh Rifai and Timothy Edward Kane
Sadieh Rifai (left) and Timothy Edward Kane (right)
 

This fall, Sadieh Rifai and Timothy Edward Kane will each confront the most flattering—and terrifying—event possible for an actor: the solo show. Rifai will tackle seven characters in The Amish Project, a ripped-from-the-headlines play at American Theater Company. Kane performs a one-man Iliad at Court Theatre. Here, the actors share the ups and downs of being your own ensemble.

A director calls and asks you to star in a one-person show: Are you flattered or fearful?
RIFAI: When you get the call that they want you to do a whole show, just you, the first thing you feel is, wow—somebody trusts you that much and thinks that much of your abilities. The second thing you realize? You and you alone have the chance to really, really mess up the playwright’s work.
KANE: It’s flattery, shock, and fear, not necessarily in that order. What I quickly found out was that fear outlasts flattery.
RIFAI: I like to defuse preshow stress by talking with the other people in the cast. Obviously, with this show, there won’t be any long dressing room conversations.
KANE: The drone of my own voice—it can get tiring to me.

What happens if you go up [actor-speak for forgetting one’s lines]? There’s nobody to cover for you.
KANE:
I’ve seen this happen only once. The actor wound up just making this “oh, phooey” gesture and walking off. My plan is to drill and drill and drill and drill until I’ve got things down.
RIFAI: It’s not only the memorization. You want to do the text justice. You don’t want to just recite by rote.
KANE: From the first line, I have to be interacting with someone. There’s nobody onstage but me, so it has to be the audience. And in any audience, some people will warm to you, and some won’t.

Then you get to curtain call, and it’s just you. How does that feel?
RIFAI: I always feel really embarrassed at curtain call—like it’s something the audience is obligated to do whether they think you’re any good or not. Having it all to myself? It’s probably going to be terrifying and embarrassing. Seriously, I’d really rather just duck out and grab a drink.
KANE: I get uncomfortable at curtain call. I might be the only one out there, but there are other people involved. Homer being one of them.

 

Photography: Anna Knott

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