BWW Interview: Bryan Rasmussen Discusses SOLOFEST 2020
An award-winning actor as well as a director, producer, and artistic director of the Whitefire Theatre, Bryan Rasmussen is proud to be celebrating its 37th season this year. In the fifteen years he has owned the Whitefire, he has produced over 500 shows, as well as over 50 world premiere productions. With Solofest about to begin, Rasmussen tells us in detail about the program and how it will benefit the actors involved as well as the theatre itself this season.
Explain to our readers the exact meaning of Solofest.
BR: Solofest is a festival of one person shows or solo theater that is a celebration of the solo journey that brings 80 shows to the stage in 90 days. The biggest difference with this festival as opposed to other solo festivals is that we only do one show per day and not multiple shows in the same day. That's so that the soloists can create a full production and not do their shows on other production's sets or lights which is the case with most. And one of the biggest differences is that the performers are able to pay for their shows out of their box office rather than paying the fees upfront like most festivals. I did my own solo show back in the early 90s about Vincent van Gogh called Sincerely Yours, Vincent and performed it for approximately 10 years in local theaters and at the Edinburgh Festival and the Getty Museum. I learned a lot about producing a solo show and wanted to help other solo artists to get theirs done and not lose an arm and a leg financially like I did and to hopefully provide a safe harbor for solo artists to develop their shows. Mine was a little easier because van Gogh is a name and that helped with marketing but it's still a very difficult thing to do and as an actor I think it's the hardest thing they'll ever have to do in their career. Hamlet doesn't even have an hour and 20 minute monologue!
How long have you been doing it and how long does it run this year and on what nights does it run?
BR: This is the eighth year of Solofest and we do shows every single night of the week Monday through Sunday with two shows on Sunday which includes a matinee for one of the performances.
How many plays are there usually and how do you choose the plays?
BR: It changes every year. We began with about 20 as part of the festival and it has grown to over 80 shows in 90 days and has become the largest solo theater Festival on the West Coast . All of the shows only do one performance except a few that do a little bit of a run during the festival because they've done their shows before and want to do a run. That way everybody's show gets paid for through their audiences. It's when you try and do a run of solo shows is when it gets very difficult because of the numbers. We start accepting proposals for shows September 1, and we go through all of those and figure out which ones will be in the festival. I have a lot of help with that from my associate producer Nancy Santiago who lives in Seattle and she does a lot of the administrative work and organization that goes into handling all of the logistics needed for this kind of festival. We don't have a big team or staff or anything like that, and so we are almost a solo show in itself as a theatre!
Is there a theme covering the shows this year?
BR: It's not a strict theme but we definitely wanted female oriented stories this year which is why we opened the festival with Ladies First about some of the great female historical figures of our country.
What does the program of shows add to or how does it enhance your overall lineup of Theatre?
BR: I think Solo theater has now become the purest form of storytelling in theater. It used to be more of a showcase, vanity situation mostly. But now it has become a platform in which issues that haven't been tackled as much in film or television can be approached through solo theatre. We have done solo shows here at the Whitefire ever since I took over in 2005. We have produced over 1000 solo shows at the Whitefire which have gone to Theatres all over the world.
What else of importance will you be performing in 2020? Anything radically new?
BR: Unfortunately I can't speak about any of that at this moment because we are still negotiating with various producers and companies on possible projects that we will be helping to produce in 2020. One that I can mention will be the third installment of Howard Skora's family trilogy. We produced Howard's first two plays Miserable with an Ocean View and Damaged Furniture. Howard is one of the greatest comedy playwrights in America and we are proud to collaborate with him on his new plays.
As an actor is there anything new on the horizon for you to report?
BR: I'm always working as an actor mostly in film and television now. I don't do much theater anymore because I'm so busy producing and directing now. I have some possible projects on the horizon but nothing set yet.
Is there anything you care to add?
BR: I think the biggest radically new situation we're presenting this year is the ability to live stream live theater on a regular basis. We have been developing this technology for a number of years and finally have come to a point where we are like the Netflix of theater and able to stream multiple shows because we offer multiple shows in the same week. We created a "vertical rep" which basically has shows running once a week vertically rather than a lateral run like a Thursday Friday Saturday Sunday situation which is what is the normal template. It's taken years to get to the point with technology that we can do this and are very excited about the prospect of streaming our content from the front row center seat worldwide!
We are streaming most of the solofest and a lot of our other content.
To do that simply go to www.whitefiretheatre.com/live and enjoy!