Saturday, January 23, 2016

Q-and-A with Antonio Sacre

Antonio Sacre [photo by Dixie Sheridan]

I first saw Antonio perform at the Phoenix Fringe back in 2010(ish). Super engaging performer. I am thrilled he agreed to answer a few questions for

Q: Please give us a brief bio, where you are from and how you started in theatre/performance?

A: I was born in Boston to a Cuban father and Irish-American mother.  I was raised in Delaware, where I discovered theater in high school.  I was too scared to pursue it in college, so I got an English degree but did plenty of university theater.  I finally got the courage to pursue theater after graduation and went to Northwestern University and got a Masters in Theatre.  During the program, I studied storytelling, acting, and solo performance, and discovered solo performers Spalding Gray, John Leguizamo, and Anna Deavere Smith.  I was fortunate to be mentored in Chicago by incredible storytellers and solo performers.

Q: What event or desire brought you specifically into the world of solo performance?

A: My first exposure was watching Spalding Gray live and the world opened to me.  When I saw John Leguizamo perform in English and Spanish, though, I shifted all of my attention to solo performance.

Q: Could you tell us about some of your particular kind of of solo work?

I’ve created 10 full-length solo shows (between 60-80 minutes each).  Half of them are autobiographical, where I play different characters from my family, very influenced by John Leguizamo.  The other half are characters I have created that explore specific topics in detail.

Q: What is your favorite thing about doing this work?

A:The challenge of holding an audience’s attention for 60 minutes in today’s world is nearly impossible.  It’s very demanding of the audience and the performer, and when it works it’s spectacular.  When it doesn’t work, it’s incredibly painful (or worse) for all involved.  I’ve had a lot of both, slightly more of the former than the latter.  That magical moment at the end of a performance that actually worked can’t be duplicated in any other way that I know of.

Q: What inspires you to keep going and how do you keep yourself motivated?

The most important thing that I do to keep myself motivated is to work with a director.  He or she will give me assignments to write about, tell me about solo shows I should be watching, and generally hold my feet to the fire.  My two most successful collaborations have been with Jenny Magnus of Curious Theatre Branch in Chicago, and I am currently working on my fourth full-length show with Paul Stein in Hollywood CA.

Q: What is your approach to the development process when putting together a new project? 
Do you create a lot on stage, improvising? More on paper? Tape or video record? Hold readings? Go to a mountain top?

A: Nine of my ten shows started entirely on paper.  I then did readings of the first draft to my directors, who then told me what they thought I was trying to say.  This was almost always not what was on the page.  I would then rewrite based on their notes and bring in the second draft.  Six times I heard that I had kept all of the bad stuff and didn’t incorporate anything that they had said, and once Paul Stein told me, “That shit might work with your mom, but it sure won’t play with me.”  Lastly, I do extended runs of early drafts at fringe festivals around the country, mostly in Chicago, Hollywood, New York, and San Francisco, but also including places like Washington DC and Phoenix.

Q: Who are some of your influences or people that inspire you?

Danny Hoch, Will Power, and Sara Jones are huge influences on my work.  The Wooster Group of the 1970s and of today continues to inspire me.  In the storytelling world, Jim May and Bill Harley are mentors and friends.

Q: How do you bridge the gap betwwen the creative and the business side of solo theatre?

Solo performance is a purely creative activity for me, and the business side of it doesn’t factor in at all.  However, I make a living as a storyteller and children’s book author, something that my solo career has helped facilitate.  One example is that I got my literary agent, who helped me sell my children’s books, after she saw one of my solo performances in New York City.

Q: Any advice for some aspiring artist just starting out in solo performance?

Deadlines are crucial, and the best way I know to give myself a deadline is to apply to a fringe festival.  There are now fringe festivals all around the world and they’re wonderful places to do and see theater.  Secondarily, get a director.  Please get a director.

Q: What do you see for the future of solo performance and for you personally as an artist?

A: The cost of doing theater for major theater companies across the country can be prohibitive, and solo performances can be a great way to make ends meet for theater companies (if the product is spectacular).  As I write this, Hal Holbrook is remounting his famous Mark Twain solo performance as a benefit in Hollywood for $500/ticket.  However, it seems that solo performance has also become celebrity-driven.  Danny Hoch got on HBO before he was famous; that doesn’t seem possible now.  I had been performing solo performances in Hollywood for the last 10 years and recently have had producers, agents, and managers interested in trying to turn my solo performances into TV series.

Q: Shout outs or links?

A: Five of my solo plays have been published and are available on  It’s one of my absolute favorite spots for discovering new theater.  My website is  Oh yeah, there's my twitter and Instagram @antoniosacre and Antonio Sacre on FB. Shout out to the amazing Paul Stein, who just held my feet to the fire in rehearsal last week as we start the journey anew.

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