Opening its 15th season on September 25 with a record-breaking week of sold-out shows, United Solo’s fall festival featured over sixty solo artists from across the globe in its eight-week run. Every genre was represented, from comedy to dance, and twenty-eight shows sold out. The Festival attracted New York audiences including solo theatre enthusiasts, visitors, the press, and show business stars. The lineup of shows offered theatregoers plenty of variety and included the most popular piece, “Mister Halston,” performed by Ken Barnett.
This season United Solo brought audiences together and fulfilled its mission to promote diversity and awareness. In GUAC, recently featured by the New York Times, Manuel Oliver took the stage and shared his story about losing his son in the Parkland shooting. Susan Sarandon attended Mr. Oliver’s show and was truly moved by the message Oliver shared. Ms. Sarandon acknowledged the show as a “brilliant example of taking pain and loss and making art to bring change.”
Describing the allure of United Solo, Omar Sangare, Founder and Artistic Director, spoke of theatre as “not a destination, but a vehicle taking us to places beyond the theatre. It is when we forget that we are watching the show and instead feel transported beyond the theatre box.” Sangare recognized this fall’s outstanding solo performers at the closing Awards Gala on Sunday, November 19.
The Festival’s two-act Gala celebrated the talent, bravery, and dedication of solo artists. Act one featured Wendy-Lane Bailey, Associate Artistic Director of United Solo, in her performance Remembering My Dreams, a theatrical concert exploring the music of composer Michele Brourman and directed by Omar Sangare. The show was a song cycle featuring a dozen songs composed by Brourman.
In the second act, United Solo recognized the work of fall festival artists. Awards included Best Production, the Audience Choice Award, and the All About Solo Critics’ Award. In addition, United Solo presented its Special Award for an outstanding solo performance that took place outside of the current season. This year’s Special Award nominees were Lewis Black, Dee Dee Bridgewater, Charles Busch, Liz Callaway, Alex Edelman, Judy Gold, James T. Lane, Trevor Noah, Nancy Redman, and Wanda Sykes.
Sangare presented the 2023 Special Award to Charles Busch, playwright, director, cabaret performer, and author of the new book, Leading Lady: A Memoir of a Most Unusual Boy. Charles Busch, Tony Award-nominated writer of Tales of the Allergist’s Wife and the long-running hit Off-Broadway play Vampire Lesbians of Sodom, and a Sundance Festival award winner, has occupied a unique place in the entertainment world over his more than 40-year career.
In his acceptance speech Mr. Busch said, “It ain’t easy being a solo performer… I really would like to thank United Solo for this beautiful award and for making this solo performer, both on stage and off stage, feel a part of something bigger.”
Charles Busch joins illustrious honorees of the United Solo Special Award including Patti LuPone (2011), John Leguizamo (2012), Fiona Shaw (2013), Billy Crystal (2014), James Lecesne (2015), Staceyann Chin in collaboration with Cynthia Nixon (2016), Michael Moore (2017), Renée Taylor (2018), Aasif Mandvi (2019), Ian McKellen (2020), Lee Roy Reams (2021), and Dael Orlandersmith (2022).
As United Solo concludes its Fall 2023 season, it is accepting submissions for its Spring 2024 Season at Theatre Row. Artist and companies can apply at: https://unitedsolo.org/nyc-spring-2024/apply/
The full list of award winners at the 2023 United Solo Festival includes:
United Solo Special Award: Charles Busch “Leading Lady: A Memoir of a Most Unusual Boy”
Best Production: “GUAC” written & performed by Manuel Oliver
Best One-Man Show: “The Book of Shame” performed by Victor Verhaeghe
Best One-Woman Show: “Unseen” performed by Kimberly Prentice
Best International Show: “Macbeth (Solo)” performed by Paul Goodwin
The United Solo Audience Award**: “Mister Halston” performed by Ken Barnett
Best Actress: Almanya Narula in “Noor Inayat Khan: The Forgotten Spy”
Best Actor: Ken Barnett in “Mister Halston”
Best Storyteller: Sean Allison in “If It Bleeds It Leads”
Best Direction: Greg Allen, “Pulling It All Into The Current”
Best Encore: “Tales of a Blerd Ballerina” performed by Valoneecia Tolbert
Best Musical: “My Grandmother’s Mind Is Like An Ocean” performed by Matthew Shifrin
Best Drama: “Pulling It All Into The Current” performed by Letta Neely
Best Comedy: “Does This Show Make Me Look Fat?” performed by Cathy Ladman
Best Storytelling Show: “Things I Learned In Isolation” performed by Mary Miller
Best Physical Theatre: “Medea’s Burqa” performed by Marsela Lena
Best Biographical Show: “My Life is Not My Own” performed by Lucinda Carr
Best Cabaret: “Hot Boys” performed by Kali Tripodis
Best Concert: “Keith Moon: The Real Me” performed by Mick Berry
Best Script: “Mister Halston” by Raffael Pacitti
Best Song: “Sleeping in America” composed & performed by Dana McCoy
Best New York Premiere: “Ms. Rebel” performed by Mehrnaz Mohammadi
Best Emerging Artist: Holly Smith in “Radically Unsure”
All About Solo Critics’ Award*: “Under Your Skin” performed by Jackie Smook
*The winner of the 2023 All About Solo Critics’ Award was chosen by the staff writers of www.allaboutsolo.com.
**The winner of the Audience Award was chosen in an online poll at United Solo.
Winners are selected by an independent panel of over eighty theatre professionals, including The United Solo Academy Members.