When I was a senior in college as an Early Childhood Education major, I took my first theater class. This was my first attempt to follow my dream of being a professional storyteller.
It was a stage movement class that focused on character-building and storytelling with commedia dell’arte masks. My teacher sat in the audience with my fellow classmates as I walked up to the table of masks, sweating profusely. I chose the Pantelone mask – the older character. Mask over my eyes, I hunched my shoulders, pulled my lips over my teeth, and slowly walked to the center of the studio.
What happened next was improv. To my best memory, this was the gist:
TEACHER: What’s your name?
I surprised myself as I blurted out this name – it was my grandmother’s name who passed away when I was six.
TEACHER: Tell us a little about yourself, Fani.
ME: Well, obviously I’m Jewish. (Gestures to the large nose on the mask)
TEACHER: Isn’t that a bit of a stereotype?
ME: Yeah. Joking helps me get through life.
TEACHER: I can understand that. Where are you from?
TEACHER: Do you live there now?
ME: No, none of my family lives there anymore. I’m a Holocaust survivor.
As my teacher began asking me questions about Fani’s story, I realized I knew very little about my grandmother’s history. But I knew I had to learn and share more. This class ended with a five-minute solo presentation with an invited audience, during and after which I cried.
Walking home from our final class, I felt a jolt of purpose. This is why I was put on this earth. To tell stories.
I found The Barrow Group in 2016, and started pursuing my dream of being a professional storyteller more fully, including finally mustering the courage to take the Solo Show class with Seth. Since then I’ve developed my solo show, My Shiksa Boyfriend, through developmental performances with TBG artists and other theater companies. In 2022 I performed it one last time at United Solo Festival at Theater Row, and it is now a published play available at The Drama Bookshop.
I attribute the bravery to pursue my creative career to finding solo performance in that mask class. Connecting with audiences through stories is a powerful thing. I love seeing every solo show I can and helping other artists find their voices though this medium, whether that be dramatic, comedic, or any combination!
Discovering solo shows gave me the courage to pursue my dreams and something tangible to start working on as I entered the industry. Have an idea of your own? I encourage you to go for it.
Tell your story.
Upcoming classes with Arielle include Solo Show Workshop I: Writing starting Thursday 1/25 at 6:30pm, Beginner Acting Class I: The Basics starting Sunday 1/28 at 2:30pm and Beginner Acting Class I: The Basics starting Sunday 1/28 at 6:30pm.
Check out TBG’s full schedule of classes.
Arielle Beth Klein not only teaches Beginner Acting, Solo Show, and some Youth Classes at TBG, but also loves working with fellow storytellers to achieve their creative goals. You can listen to her podcast Just Start Storytelling or follow her on Instagram @ariellebethklein to stay in touch.