Mastering Both The Page and The Stage with Antonio Sacre

by Alana Saltz

Antonio Sacre is one of those rare artists who can captivate audiences in books and live in performance. He’s an internationally touring, award-winning solo performance artist who has created eight solo shows. He won Best In Fringe Festival at the New York International Fringe Theater Festival twice, the 2012 and 2011 United Solo Award for Best Storyteller Off-Broadway. His solo show “The Next Best Thing” was nominated for an LA Weekly Theater Award and chosen as one of their Top 10 L.A. Theater Experiences in 2011.

In addition to his accomplishments on the stage, Antonio is also an award-winning children’s book author. He has published three picture books: “La Noche Buena, A Christmas Story” and “A Mango in the Hand, A Story Told Through Proverbs,The Barking Mouse”. “La Noche Buena” and “Mango” were chosen for inclusion in the prestigious California Readers Book Collections for School Libraries. Antonio’s new short story collection “My Name Is Cool” will be released this summer. He is also an acclaimed storyteller who has performed all over the world including the Library of Congress, the Kennedy Center, and the National Storytelling Festival.

Antonio has two amazing classes coming up at the Pad for writers and performers. His picture book class starts this Sunday, June 2nd. You can also craft an award-winning performance in his one-person show class on Tuesday, June 4th!

He was kind enough to take time out of his busy writing and performing schedule to answer a few questions about how he got his start and share some great advice for aspiring authors and actors!

As a storyteller and actor, you’ve performed at museums, schools, libraries, at festivals around the world and Lincoln Center. How did you get your start as a performer, and what sort of training did you have?

Aside from the large number of plays and performances I did in high school and college, I received formal training while receiving a Masters in Theater Arts from Northwestern University near Chicago, IL. In graduate school, I studied storytelling with Rives Collins, and he introduced me to the world of solo performance. I took countless workshops, and was heavily influenced by Paula Killen and Jenny Magnus, performers both famous in Chicago. My career as a solo performer was developed at the Rhinoceros Theater festival in Chicago and the New York International Fringe theater festival, where I performed in eight different years, twice winning a “Best in Fringe” Festival award.

What are a few things that actors can do to create a captivating and compelling one-person show?

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!