BA Music and Drama / Course details

Year of entry: 2020

Course unit details:
Solo Performance

Unit code DRAM21231
Credit rating 20
Unit level Level 2
Teaching period(s) Semester 1
Offered by School of Arts, Languages and Cultures
Available as a free choice unit? No


Solo performance is an exciting performance form that has been explored by many artists in a wide variety of locations and at different points in time. Artists and critics point to a renaissance of the form in contemporary performance, dating this from the rise of identity politics and the counter-cultural movement of the 1960s. Equally one might think about traditional storytellers, music-hall and variety artists as well as experimental artists working in contemporary live art practices. This course focuses on a range of approaches to solo performance and the way that the form has been used from the late 1970s to the present day. It will explore how solo performers have created work which investigates the possibilities of using the form to tell traditional stories, to explore ideas of identity, to document contemporary issues and argue for rights, to give witness to marginalised voices, to speak out about inequalities and to develop new relationships between performer and audience. This is a practical module and, as well as investigating the work of a range of artists, students will have the opportunity to research and discuss in detail one of the strands presented on the course and to create their own piece of solo performance in response to that work.



  • To introduce students to a range of solo performance practices in contemporary performance.
  • To engage in a detailed consideration of the goals of solo performance and to critically evaluate how those goals are articulated and acted upon by a range of artists.
  • To consider the implications of solo performance for the performer/audience relationship.
  • To explore the solo performance genre by creating their own performance material in relation to the artists examined.


Indicative syllabus:


Introduction and a consideration of the field of solo performance


The documentary impulse and the ways that solo performance has been used to explore current events; looking at the work of Anna Deveare Smith and others.


Narratives of healing and the wounded storyteller; looking at ways in which the solo performance form has been used to address personal trauma and illness through the work of Brian Lobel and others.


Narratives of equality and seeking after rights; looking at the intersection between personal and political narratives through the work of Tim Miller and others.


Workshop with solo performer



Solo performers and confessional voices; investigating the relationship with the audience through the work of Adrian Howells, Spalding Grey and others


Investigating relationships between solo performance, walking and site specific performance using the work of Mike Pearson and others.


An opportunity to experiment and try out ideas.

Teaching and learning methods

Each weekly session will comprise of a 30 - 45 minute input from the tutor, including an introduction to orientate the subject of the session, and to set up a number of questions and challenges that will be explored through a mixture of practical work, feedback and discussion in the rest of the session. Practical tasks (undertaken as group and solo exercises) will be formulated in response to the directed reading, and a range of practical examples from performance texts, critical writing and recorded performance where available.


Knowledge and understanding

  • Articulate a range of impulses for contemporary solo performance and show an understanding of a range of practice in this field through examples of performance work and written reflection on the practitioners who produce it.
  • Demonstrate knowledge of a range of possible solo performance styles, the impulses of the artists who produced them and the critical responses to this work.
  • Demonstrate detailed knowledge and understanding of one artist’s work, of the field in which that artist’s work sits and show an in-depth understanding of a specific sub-genre of solo performance.

Intellectual skills

  • Critically evaluate a range of solo performance practices by articulating the impulses for this mode of performance in specific locations and historical moments.
  • Analyse in detail the work of one solo artist within a specific sub-genre of solo performance.
  • Critically evaluate ideas about the performer/audience relationship and discuss the ethics of different approaches to solo performance.
  • Demonstrate an understanding of the political, aesthetic and ethical implications of solo performance work.

Practical skills

  • Create, perform and evaluate an original piece of solo performance work based on their practical and intellectual explorations.
  • Contribute to the peer review of work by other students.
  • Discuss solo performance clearly and in detail, in the context of a range of examples and consider the implications of the choices made in creating solo performance.

Transferable skills and personal qualities

  • Contribute effectively to discussion and debate with peers and tutors.
  • Undertake research in order to articulate, substantiate, evaluate and analyse their own ideas/argument.
  • Have the confidence to perform alone for a peer group.
  • Learn the skills of giving and receiving feedback on practical performance work

Employability skills

Group/team working
¿ Ability to work independently and as part of a team, often as part of creative and critical projects that present unpredictable and challenging scenarios
¿ Understanding of professional cultures/environments ¿ our students are supported to develop professional approaches to timekeeping, peer support/review, self reflection/evaluation and dealing with sources of concern/complaint.
Project management
¿ Project management ¿ our teaching environment demands that students plan, undertake, manage and evaluate projects independently and as part of teams
Oral communication
¿ Advanced communication skills ¿ verbal, written; prepared/rehearsed and `off the cuff¿/improvised ¿ Ability to present self and ideas effectively, including when dealing with complex and sensitive topics
¿ Awareness of the importance of contributing to public life and demonstrating good citizenship ¿ our curriculum is socially and politically engaged, and encourages students to develop a sense of social responsibility in their professional and social life

Assessment methods

Method Weight
Written assignment (inc essay) 40%
Oral assessment/presentation 60%

Feedback methods

  1.   Written feedback plus one to one verbal feedback on performance
  2. Written feedback on essay

Recommended reading


Bonney, Jo (ed) Extreme Exposure. An Anthology of Solo Performance Texts from the Twentieth Century, Theatre Communications Group, New York, 2000.

Borowski, Mateusz and Malgorzata Sugiera (eds) Worlds in Words. Storytelling in Contemporary Theatre and Playwriting, Cambridge Scholars: Newcastle-upon-Tyne, 2010.

Deveare Smith, Anna, Twilight Los Angeles, Anchor Books: New York, 1994.

Demastes, William W., Spalding Gray’s America, Hal Leonard Corp: Milwaukee, 2008.

Geis, Deborah R., Postmodern Theatric[k]s. Monologue in Contemporary American Drama, University of Michigan Press: Ann Arbour, 1995.

Govan, Emma, Helen Nicholson and Katie Normington, Making a Performance. Devising Histories and Contemporary Practices, Routledge: London and NY, 2007.

Gray, Spalding, Swimming to Cambodia, Theatre Communications Group: New York, 1985.

Heddon, Deirdre, Helen Ibal and Rachel Zerihan, ‘Come Closer: confessions of intimate spectators in one to one performance’, Contemporary Theatre Review, 22;1 (120-133), 2012.

Deirdre Heddon and Adrian Howells, ‘From Talking to Silence: A Confessional Journey’, PAJ, (33: 1), (1-12), 2011.

Hughes, Holly and David Roman (eds), O Homo Solo: the new queer performance, Grove Press: New York, 1998.

Miller, Tim, Body Blows. Six Performances, University of Wisconsin Press, Wisconsin, 2002.

Patterson, Eddie, The Contemporary American Monologue. Performance and Politics, Bloomsbury Methuen, London, 2015.

Peterson, Michael, Straight White Male. Performance Art Monologues, University Press of Mississippi, Jackson, 1997.

Russell, Mark (ed) Out of Character. Rants, Raves and Monologues from today’s top performance artists, Bantam: New York, 1997.

Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Practical classes & workshops 36
Independent study hours
Independent study 164

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Alison Jeffers Unit coordinator

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