United Solo Festival Concludes Fifth Anniversary Season with Awards Show

by Jacob Coakley

Billy Crystal received the United Solo Special Award for 700 SundaysThe fifth annual United Solo Festival concluded Sunday, Nov. 23 with an awards show celebrating the 10 weeks of nearly 500 productions. Billy Crystal won a special award for his show 700 Sundays, and gave a video address at the ceremony where he credited solo performance as making him “a better actor, it made my discipline stronger.” Crystal’s video address, the full list of winners and information on how to apply for the 2015 Festival after the jump.

United Solo Fifth Anniversary Concludes
with Awards for Billy Crystal, Estelle Parsons, Richard A. Harris, Among Others
• Productions from six continents came to perform over the span of ten weeks

• The festival celebrates its fifth anniversary by presenting nearly 500 productions

Submissions are open for artists interested in bringing their shows to New York City next year

The world’s largest solo theatre festival concluded its season with an awards ceremony held on Sunday, November 23, 2014 at Theatre Row in New York City. It was the closing night for a ten-week season of solo theatre and the fifth anniversary of the festival, a resident company at Theatre Row.

Billy Crystal received this year’s United Solo Special Award for “700 Sundays,” his autobiographical show presented on Broadway. “It made me a better actor, it made my discipline stronger, it made every night more of a challenge, because it was just me,” Crystal said about the show in his special message to the United Solo Artists. He added, “That’s the thrill of working solo.” Billy Crystal joins previous recipients of this award: Anna Deavere Smith, Patti LuPone, John Leguizamo, and Fiona Shaw.

In its longest season ever, the fifth annual United Solo Festival featured 97 sold-out shows among
130 productions. Performances from six continents were presented every night from September 18 through November 23, 2014 in a variety of categories, including drama, comedy, stand-up, musical, cabaret, mime, and dance, among others. The press and industry frequently attended United Solo performances, including, among others, Danny Aiello, Olympia Dukakis, Michael Emerson, Carrie Preston, Scott Takeda, and Marlo Thomas.

As part of its mission, United Solo supports members of the performing arts community who are in need, by fundraising for The Actors Fund. Joseph Benincasa, CEO of The Actors Fund, said “Thank you to the entire community of artists and audiences at this year’s United Solo Festival. Your donations will help The Actors Fund continue our vital work of helping everyone in our creative community who is facing difficult times.” United Solo raised two thousand five hundred and twenty dollars in donations, and presented a check at the closing ceremony to David Engelman, Director of Communications and Marketing of The Actors Fund.

“I couldn’t be happier to see how United Solo has grown, on many levels,” said Omar Sangare, the festival’s founder and artistic director. “Our festival expanded from a two-week event to a season spanning over
two months. We created an overseas showcase, and we have our own collection of published scripts. But most importantly, we created a community of artists around the festival, with whom we can be in constant conversation about new ways to fulfill our mission.”

During its five-year history, United Solo presented nearly 500 productions in the heart of New York’s theatre district. The festival also promotes the art of solo theatre by curating a collection of scripts in Indie Theater Now, a digital library of plays. This spring, the festival will present its third overseas showcase, United Solo Europe.
The festival continues to seek new ways to popularize and celebrate the solo theatre form.

Artists who would like to participate in the festival next year can already submit their applications. Detailed information is available at www.unitedsolo.org

The following shows and performers were recognized for outstanding achievements in their categories:
Best Production for “THE WONDER” by Susan Ferrara, co-directed by Julie Ann Emery and Kevin Earley
Best Direction for Estelle Parsons for “RHAPSODY IN BLACK”

Best One-Man Show for “FAGGY at 50” by Joe Gulla, directed by Brian Rardin

Best One-Woman Show for “Butoh Medea” by Yokko, with associate director Brian Rhinehart
Best Encore for “Spitting In The Face Of The Devil” by Bob Brader, directed by Suzanne Bachner
United Solo & Backstage Audience Award* “My Insane Shakespeare” by Arthur Elbakyan
Best Actor for Javier Rivera in “Salve Regina: A Coming Of GAY Story”
Best Actress for Ali Harper in “Bombshells”

Best Comedian for Nancy Redman in “The Doctor Is Not In”

Best Storyteller for Leland Gantt in “RHAPSODY IN BLACK”
Best International Show for “The Big Smoke” by Amy Nostbakken, directed by Nir Paldi
Best Drama for “Stealing Sam” by Steven Gallagher

Best Comedy for “BIO-HAZARD: a relative comedy” by Sarah Elizabeth Greer

Best Musical for “Good Enough” by Matthew LaBanca
Best Autobiographical Show for “The Beauty, The Banshee & Me” by Cathy Lind Hayes
Best Avant-Garde Show for “Health Insurance” by Daniel Piper Kublick

Best Variety Show for “THAT’S ALL I GOT” by Addie Walsh

Best Multimedia Show for “Inside the Whale” by Aurora Lagattuta
Best Cabaret for “My Life Is a Woody Allen Film” by Aja Nisenson

Best Satire for “Lost in Lvov” by Sandy Simona

Best Stand-Up for “When I Could Feel” by Vicky Kuperman

Best Spoken-Word Show for “She Think She Grown” by Shannon Matesky
Best Experimental Show for “NOTHING by Nic Balthazar” by Jon Kovach
Best Concert for “The Spirit of Vaudeville” by Richard Stillman
Best Educational Show for “The Magic of Rudyard Kipling: ‘Just So’“ by Jackson Gillman
Best Dramatic Script for “Women On The Verge” by Kimba Henderson, performed by Faith Collins
Best Comedic Script for “TALES FROM GERIASSIC PARK – On the Verge of Extinction” by Verna Gillis
Best Adaptation for “The Tall Boy” by Simon Bent, performed by Tandy Cronyn
Best Non-Fiction Script for “Children are Forever (All Sales Are Final!)” by Julia Jackson
Best Documentary Script for “SILENT WITNESSES” by Stephanie Satie

Best Biographical Script for “Einstein: A Stage Portrait” by Willard Simms, performed by Tom Schuch
Best Storytelling Script for “Random Acts” by Renata Hinrichs

Best Autobiographical Script for “What Will People Think?” by Anthoula Katsimatides
Best Educational Script for “L.A. Unified” by David Newer
Best Premiere for “Some of the Side Effects” by Dave Shaw

Best Emerging Actor for Sentell Harper in “Seek and Ye Shall Find”

Best Emerging Actress for Melissa Ritz in “Journey Of A Bombshell: The Ina Ray Hutton Story”
Best Festival Debut for “In the Storm of Pleasure” by Daniel Benhamu, directed by Zishan Ugurlu
First Sold-Out Show for “BIG DUMMY” by Mary Dimino
Best Musical Direction for Gary Schreiner, “My Life Is a Woody Allen Film” by Aja Nisenson
Best Projection Design for Richard A. Harris, “MANCHESTER GIRL” by Sue Turner-Cray
Best Lighting Design for Derek Van Heel, “Butoh Medea”

Best Costume Design for Deepsikah Chatterjee, “Butoh Medea”
Best Choreography for Yokko and Jordan Rosin, “Butoh Medea”

*The winner of the Audience Award was chosen in an online poll, created in partnership between United Solo and Backstage magazine.