Staying Fresh and Alive With Theater for One

Nothing is more important than being alive onstage. To all actors, I say, “Challenge yourself, experiment, and run away from your own comfort zone,” because being alive is what makes an actor unforgettable and mesmerizing. For me, a lot of the craft has to do with seducing.

For my recent theater-for-one show “Hotel Project,” a spectator entered a real hotel room just like a regular check-in, only to find that the room was already occupied by the performers—and the story began to unfold. There was no direct communication.

For the audience member, it was a lot of unknown. It was also a lot of unknown for the actors. We tried to prepare for all the variations of what an audience member might do, knowing that no matter how many variations we prepared, there would still be surprises. But that was good. The surprises become the secret connection between performer and spectator.

“Having just one spectator makes you really aware of his reactions. I felt I was taking my energy to resist and my joy of performing directly out of his interest,” an actor told me at the end of a 24-performance day. Just minutes later an audience member confessed, “I felt like I was inside of a movie that I was creating myself.”

This is just one example of unconventional theater that can help you “train” the relationship with your audience. But there are so many others. And there are no rules. Except perhaps, never let go of an opportunity to experiment and to challenge yourself. It’s what makes you stay alive.

Ana Margineanu is an award-winning theater director. Together with Tamilla Woodard, she recently founded Pop UP, a site-specific theater company.