United Solo, the world’s largest solo theatre festival, is pleased to announce the nominees for the annual Special Award, presented each year to an outstanding solo performance that takes place outside of United Solo’s current season. This year’s nominees, selected by the United Solo Academy – an international group of theatre professionals from all corners of the performing arts industry – are artists who remind us of the immense power of a singular performer and the wonderous possibilities of solo storytelling.
“These ten nominees show that solo performance is an exceptional medium for addressing important social, political, and personal matters,” says United Solo Founder and Artistic Director Omar Sangare. “In a solo piece, performers at every point in their careers can tell their stories and connect with a live audience in a way they cannot in any other format”
The 2023 United Solo Special Award nominees are: Lewis Black (Tragically, I Need You), Dee Dee Bridgewater (Dee Dee Bridgewater with NYO Jazz), Charles Busch (Leading Lady: A Memoir of a Most Unusual Boy), Liz Callaway (Screen Gems), Alex Edelman (Just for Us), Judy Gold (Yes, I Can Say That!), James T. Lane (Triple Threat), Trevor Noah (I Wish You Would), Nancy Redman (A Séance with Mom), and Wanda Sykes (I'm an Entertainer).
Picking up where his last special left off, Lewis Black brings his inimitable insights to the "post"-pandemic state of world in Tragically, I Need You. Black’s comedic brilliance lies in his ability to make people laugh at the absurdities of life, with topics that include current events, social media, politics, and anything else that exposes the hypocrisy and madness he sees in the world. Black has performed for audiences throughout Europe, New Zealand, Canada, and the United States to critical acclaim as a stand-up, actor, and author.
Over the course of a multifaceted career spanning four decades, Grammy and Tony Award-winning Jazz giant Dee Dee Bridgewater has ascended to the upper echelon of vocalists, putting her unique spin on standards, as well as taking intrepid leaps of faith in re-envisioning jazz classics. Her performance of Dee Dee Bridgewater with NYO Jazz at Carnegie Hall this year proved once again how powerful and transcendent her stage presence and voice are.
The 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, Charles Busch has created a unique place in the entertainment world as a playwright, LGBT icon, drag actor, director, and cabaret performer. His 2023 memoir, Leading Lady: A Memoir of a Most Unusual Boy is a poignant, deliciously anecdotal account of a talented artist’s Oz-like journey in the worlds of Off-Broadway, Broadway, and Hollywood.
Liz Callaway has left an indelible mark on and off Broadway. She has performed in hits like Merrily We Roll Along and Baby, for which she received a Tony nomination. She portrayed Grizabella in Cats and was part of the original cast of Miss Saigon. Callaway has lent her vocal talent to animated films including Anatasia, Aladdin and the King of Thieves, The Return of Jafar, and Lion King 2: Simba's Pride. Emmy winner Liz Callaway combines favorite numbers from theatre and films in her compelling solo show Screen Gems.
In response to anti-Semitic threats pointed at him online, Alex Edelman decided to go straight to the source in Queens, where he covertly attended a meeting of White Nationalists. The event became the backbone of the relevant and hilarious stories that comprise Just for Us. Edelman is known for his award-winning solo shows, including sell-out hits in London’s West End.
Judy Gold knows the value of a good joke and the steep price of silencing comedians. Unnerved and infuriated, Judy shares her reverence for the intimacy of collective laughter and her passion for the vital work comedians do to bring us together, make us think, and speak truth to power. Based on her book, the comedy veteran took the stage in Yes, I Can Say That! to challenge fascism, political correctness, and short-sighted hypocrites. The show is a call for truth, kindness, and most of all, laughter.
In his solo show Triple Threat, James T. Lane offers a tour through his life: from South Philadelphia to NYC. The show looks behind the facade of Broadway. Underlying the moments of Lane's rise to fame, beyond the struggles with addiction, which threaten to bring him down, is an even more painful ache: the racism that has accompanied Lane each step of his career. Lane's virtuoso acting, singing, and dancing draw the audience to experience some of his darkest moments of the soul.
Emmy-winning comedian Trevor Noah filmed his third standup special, I Wish You Would, after announcing that he was ending his tenure on The Daily Show. In the special, Noah performs a series of impressions of U.S. presidents, and tells personal stories of “learning to speak German, modern communication, and his love for curry,” according to the Netflix press release. The show is filled with Noah’s clever sense of humor and delivered brilliantly and effortlessly.
Award winning performer Nancy Redman joined forces with iconic director Austin Pendleton for their fourth collaboration, A Séance with Mom, in 2023. The show consists of nostalgia with sophisticated dark humor. Over the past decade, Nancy's solo shows have brought her numerous awards at the United Solo Theatre Festival. Redman has earned a place in the top echelon of the nation’s comedians. She was also a two-time prize winner on America’s Funniest People (ABC) and was featured on The Oprah Winfrey Show.
As a follow-up to her Emmy-nominated 2019 stand-up special Not Normal, Wanda Sykes filmed her second Netflix special I’m an Entertainer in February 2023. Known for her social commentary, Sykes delivers “her insightful and ferocious wit and candor audiences have come to know and love,” reads the official description. Aside from her recent specials, Sykes’ other recent credits include “The Upshaws,” HBO Max’s “Velma,” and Netflix’s “Q-Force.”
This year’s United Solo Special Award recipient will be announced at the United Solo Gala on November 19, 2023, at 7 p.m. at Theatre Row NYC. This year’s winner will join illustrious past honorees such as Anna Deavere Smith (2010), 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).
“The coming months are a boon for theatregoers who love uncrowded stages… with the fall iteration of the cornucopia known as the United Solo Theatre Festival,” (The New York Times, October 6, 2023). Tickets for the United Solo Gala, as well as for this season’s other solo shows are now on sale and may be purchased by visiting https://unitedsolo.org/shows/ or at the Theatre Row box office https://bfany.org/theatre-row/shows/united-solo-fall-festival-2023/.
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/.
For more info, Facts & Figures, please visit our Press Center at: https://unitedsolo.org/press-center. Press queries should be directed to the festival’s Communications Director, Stephanie Eagan at email@example.com or (201)787-4995.
The 15th United Solo Festival
September 25- November 19, 2023
410 West 42nd (btw 9th and 10th Avenue)