Take my workshop
, for one. Also, see as many one-person shows as possible. The Hollywood Fringe
(running through June 30th) will have many examples of solo shows. You can also check out The Solo Collective
and my next solo show, which won Best Storyteller at the United Solo Festival Off-Broadway.
More importantly, choose a story or a subject that truly matters to you, and ask yourself, is there anyone else besides your friends and family that needs to hear that story?
How do you think a one-person show can help bolster an acting or writing career?
Since 1994, I have taken my solo performances to the major theater festivals around the country. My solo performing career is directly responsible for landing me a major literary agent in New York City that helped me sell four books. Major newspapers in all of those cities have reviewed my shows, and the awards I won have helped me market those shows. Also, producers from HBO, NBC, the WB, and Comedy Central have all requested meetings with me after seeing my shows at these festivals. Lastly, theaters and festivals nationwide fly me in and pay me for many of my performances.
More importantly, I have developed a muscle as a performer and a writer that informs nearly everything I do as a writer and an artist. There is a sense of accomplishment, pride, and confidence that only comes from doing solo shows, regardless of what the reviewers say, or how much money I make from the show.
In addition to being a performer, you also write award-winning books for children. How did you become interested in writing for kids and how did you get your start?
While I was developing my solo-performing career for adults in fringe festivals nationwide, I was also honing my skills as a performer for children. I got my start in performing for children in graduate school. Performing for children was very fulfilling, incredibly fun, and much more lucrative and suitable for me than waiting tables. After performing for children for years, being asked by teachers if my stories were books, and meeting a number of children’s book writers, I set a goal to publish a picture book. I took a number of children’s book writing workshops, bought this book
, and did what it said.
After my first book came out and I landed a literary agent from my work as a solo performer, I was able to sell the next three books.
Where do you draw your material from for you picture books? What about your one-person shows?
The basis for both my children’s material and my solo-performance material for adults comes from my cross-cultural upbringing. My father is from Cuba, and my mother is Irish-American. I was born in Boston, and a friend of mine calls me a “Leprecano.” As a children’s picture book writer, I meet many children who are growing up in two languages and two cultures. I celebrate who they are, and hopefully inspire them to draw strength and comfort from both parts of their lives.
My solo shows are always informed by what other solo-performers are doing, by what is going on in the world, and what is going on in my own family and life. I believe that from the very deeply personal, if honestly explored and fearlessly portrayed, can spring the universal. Also, my directors (Paula Killen, Jenny Magnus, and Paul Stein) have greatly influenced and steered my career to a deeper, funnier, and more powerful expression.
What’s the publishing world like right now for people who want to write children’s books? Do you have any advice for aspiring picture book authors?
The publishing world right now is in a state of great flux. Many incredibly successful authors that I know are calling it brutal and incredibly difficult. The most important thing I try to both teach and model is the need for a good story. What is a good picture book story? I think a good story is one that the author absolutely has to tell. If the author believes in the story and knows at least one parent and one child who can benefit from the story, then the book is already a success.
Thanks Antonio, that was so inspiring! We can’t wait for your picture book and one-person show classes!