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A Blog for IDEO
Based on The Octopus
But instead of an's a whale


by Nelia Miller

I always laugh a little when I tell people I created a one-woman show.  My laughter is both self-conscious (am I playing into a stereotype? who makes a one-person show these days?) and flabbergasted (who am I to have done such a thing? I dared do that?).

But the things I've accomplished in creating and performing this show are what I'm most proud of, and I would encourage anyone to do the same.

My show is about Moby Dick and Jonah’s whale. It gets pretty weird (from throwing some pretty out-there noises on a looper, to asking audience members to spit into a cup), but at its heart lies my need to question the largest parts of myself: the part that loves, and the part that hates. These are just my questions, though; the first part of a one-person show is knowing what your own questions are.

Content aside, I knew that this project was going to swallow me up if I wasn’t careful. I assembled an amazing team of women: a director to steer the ship, a choreographer to work the sails, and a vocal coach to translate the map. The autonomy and power from creating your own work is exhilarating, but letting go and giving my team the power to continue sculpting my ideas was even more freeing. I was a creator and facilitator, making our work environment a free space for everyone to be heard and for everyone to be able to play.

On the administrative side, juggling four busy women’s schedules was not an easy task. It required flexibility, patience, and gratitude: Since they were the people I wanted on my team, I made the schedule work for them! Producing a show is also tricky:  While I was hosted by several festivals, it was up to me to create my own promotional materials, maintain communication with the festival hosts, and actively market the festival. 

Writing a one-person show is an incredible practice of making something precious and letting other people play with it. Since you made it, you’re responsible for gently communicating the respect you need from anyone touching it, but, like any successful project, you learn to understand that the brave fingerprints, barnacles, and seaweed other people leave on it can make it messy, imperfect, and, most importantly, human. Once the project is born, it’s up to you to put it out there in the world, and to trust that it’s strong enough for the world to take it. You know it is, because you made it.

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