There is something compelling about experiencing a one-man or one-woman theatrical performance. In order to celebrate the solo performance genre Passage Theater artistic director June Ballinger founded the Solo Flights Festival in 2000. Ballinger says: “The solo performance phenomena — in which an artist is both creator and performer of a show — is partly an outgrowth of performance artists’ desire to have some control over their destinies. They take their careers in their own hands by creating their own vehicles and not waiting on the whim of the theater casting and producing industries.” While these “solo” performances typically feature one performer, they can also be created and performed by a small ensemble.
Passage Theater presents its 11th Annual Solo Flights Festival from Friday, March 2, through Sunday, March 25. Performances will take place at the Mill Hill Playhouse, 205 East Front Street at the corner of Montgomery Street in Trenton.
The first Solo Flights Festival began with only two rotating productions of one-person shows. In a little over a decade, the festival has become one of the most anticipated events in the region and has showcased the works of as many as 10 artists during a Solo Flights Festival.
This year’s festival features five solo artists and two ensemble companies:
Broke Wide Open. Written and performed by Rock WILK, a resident of the foster care system until he was adopted as a baby, this piece is a theatrical journey recounting life-changing decisions and their consequences. NPR calls WILK “the Muhammad Ali of hip hop and spoken word.” Friday, March 2, 8 p.m.; and Sunday, March 18, 3 p.m.
Comes Love: A Tribute to Billie Holiday. Demetria Joyce Bailey and Vince di Mura present a theatrical musicale that pays homage to Billie Holiday. Saturday, March 3 at 8 p.m.; Sunday, March 4, at 3 p.m.
Donna Orbits the Moon. Written by Ian August, performed by Andrea Gallo, and directed by Marc Geller, this piece tells the story of Donna, a loving mother, a devoted wife, and a minor celebrity to all bake sale planners. But something is not quite right with Donna. To break free of the gravitational pull she feels, she must pass through space and time with an unlikely voice to guide her. Friday and Saturday, March 9 and 10, 8 p.m.; and Sunday, March 11, 3 p.m.
Leah Stein Dance Company. Stein’s choreography is inspired by the physics of movement and the forces of nature. Her long-term collaborator, musician Toshi Makihara, will be performing with her in this exclusive two-person creation. Fridays, March 16 and 23, at 8 p.m.
“Punchkapow!” Created by Team Sunshine Performance Corporation, Punchkapow! is described as “a sweaty, hilarious look at powerless people in search of their superpower.” Saturdays, March 17 and 24, at 8 p.m.
Beyond Words. Written and performed by Bill Bowers, and directed by Scott Illingworth, this collection of mime, music, and monologues takes audiences on a poignant journey that continues Bowers’s ongoing investigation of silence in our culture. Thursday, March, 22, 8 p.m.; and Sunday, March 25, at 3 p.m.
“Cuentos Del Arbol (Tree Tales).” This free event, presented by Pushcart Players, is a bilingual musical drawn from Spanish and Latin American folklore about the legacy of Un Arbol, a tree, and her many tales of the people who have passed her way. Saturday, March 24, noon; and Sunday, March 25, 11 a.m.
Ballinger says: “The festival allows us the opportunity to introduce stylistic and artistic diversity to our audience — sort of a ‘Whitman’s Sampler.’ We can challenge our audience with a more experimental piece and get a sense of boundaries, which in turn helps us to determine where we can push further or pull back when we plan future main stage productions. It also allows us to integrate some dance and music into our programming. Only once in the last 12 years did we not present a Solo Flights Festival, and our audience really missed it, so it has become a regular part of our season programming.”
Solo Flights Festival, Friday, March 2, through Sunday, March 25. $20 (“Cuentos del Arbol” is free). 609-392-0766, www.passagetheatre.org; or in person at the Passage Theater office, 219 East Hanover Street, Trenton. Tickets can also be purchased at the door one hour before each performance at the Mill Hill Playhouse, 205 East Front Street, Trenton.