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5 Steps to Creating the Perfect Solo Show, With Broadway's Patti Murin

The stage vet offers a beginner's guide to planning your own cabaret, in anticipation of her debut.

Patti Murin makes her solo-show debut at 54 Below on August 11.
(© David Gordon)

Hello all! As I am making my solo-show debut at 54 Below in just a few days (August 11th at 7pm — be there or be square, unless you're busy, in which case I totally understand, maybe next time, hope you're doing well!), TheaterMania has asked me to share some tips for anyone looking to make their first foray into cabaret-like shows. Here goes!

1. First off, unless you are a tried-and-true cabaret star who people would pay lots and lots of money to see sing songs in a dinner club-like space, stop using the word "cabaret." It makes people think they'll be subjected to an evening of you talking about yourself, your life, your story, your struggles, how hard it is to be you, how blessed you are, etc. And while that is EXACTLY what you will be doing, you gotta trick the people into buying the tickets! Do this by calling it a "solo show." It makes you sound brave and important.

2. Abject fear comes almost immediately after booking the date. You will want to cancel before you even sign the contract. You will wake up in the middle of the night with amazingly brilliant ideas, type them into the Notes section of your iPhone, and then look at them the next day and reject every single one of them. You will instantly feel like you're back in high school and no one is RSVPing to your Sweet Sixteen party that your parents rented out the Knights of Columbus Hall for. Just take solace in the fact that, while this ebbs and flows, it never actually goes away. So get used to it and charge ahead with confidence!

3. Advertising! Advertising is key. Obviously plaster it all over Twitter and Facebook, but don't get too wild. Once you start losing followers, you're just doing more harm than good. Another thing you can do is send out a mass e-mail to friends, family, and anyone in your address book who might possibly drop $50 to hear you sing. Then brace yourself for the flood of emails you get in return from people saying, "I'm so sorry, but I can't make it!" Try not to lose faith. It may seem like no one is coming. Just remember that time you were in South Florida doing non-Equity theater and had to perform Parade for an audience of 19 on Thanksgiving. Wasn't it worth it to have the opportunity to share your art with those 19 people? No? OK, then you better advertise your ass off.

4. Choosing a guest star is the next step. You should choose someone who you feel very comfortable performing with, as they have the ability to make you look better. And if possible, choose someone more famous than you in hopes that they can help to sell a few more tickets. In my case, I had a never-ending list of people to choose from. My guest star is Jason Tam, who is not only one of my favorite people on the planet, but is currently starring in a Broadway show. See? It's an If/Then win/win.

5. It's the day of the show, y'all! (Will we ever stop quoting that movie?) There's all the obvious advice, like relax, have fun, don't be too hard on yourself, etc. But in addition to that, I say plan yourself an awesome "Congratulations!" event afterwards! That way you have something to look forward to. Maybe go out to a bar and have some drinks to toast your brilliance, or book yourself a massage, or just treat yourself to a whole day of doing absolutely nothing but sitting on the couch catching up on Bachelor in Paradise. We deserve it.

Patti Murin and Jason Tam in the Broadway production of Lysistrata Jones at the Walter Kerr Theatre.
(© Joan Marcus)