Poets, storytellers, monologist unite for inaugural Solo Performance Festival

Erica Hobbs
Special to The Detroit News

As a boy in Catholic school, comedian Ziggy Klett got a strict life lesson from Sister Bernedetta after misbehaving on the playground: if he didn’t get his act together, he would miss out on one of a limited 47 chairs in heaven. At 65, that lesson has stuck with him, though perhaps not in the way it was intended to, serving as the basis of his latest solo act “47 Chairs.”

The show is the featured event during Saturday’s inaugural Solo Performance Festival with the Matrix Theatre, where Klett will be one of nearly 30 poets, storytellers and monologists to take the stage.

Ziggy Klett

Though a comedy, the act reflects on four poignant moments in Klett’s life, discussing topics like love, dating, his mother and surviving stage four cancer.

“It’s about universal issues,” he said. “It’s all real, some of it’s painful, but it’s definitely a comedy for sure.”

On a more somber note, Sofa Stories Detroit will perform a series of outdoor monologues based on true experiences from area homeless youth, with stories of teens from unstable homes, living out of hotels or running away from abusive parents. One excerpt reads:

“It helps to become invisible, to know when to disappear from the eyes of others. It helps when you find a spot in an emergency shelter for the night. A lot of people you’d meet in there are way scarier than the people you’d meet on the street. You stay quiet, you keep your head down, you don’t make a fuss and you hope no one notices.”

While some performances are still being confirmed, the current schedule includes:

•    12:30 p.m.: Local Theatre Spotlight: Sofa Stories Detroit and The UnTheatre Company

•    2 p.m.: Excerpts from “The Speed of Dark: A [Painfully True] Ghost Story” by Cydney Marie

•    3:30 p.m.: Short Performances by Tyler Calhoun, Gina Kearly, Barbara Anderson, Jeff Chaney and Monica Kozlowski

•    5 p.m.: Staged Reading: “Empty Seats,” written by Andrew Morton and performed by Tina Paraventi

•    7 p.m.: Feature: “47 Chairs,” Ziggy Klett

Marisa Dluge, Matrix Theatre’s director of productions, said the festival is a different way to experience theater and great for those who think they don’t like it. She said the solo performances may be more relatable than classic plays written 100 years ago.

“There’s just going to be such a variety,” she said. “You’ll find out if you come that you are very into theater, you just have to find what type.”

The Solo Performance Festival is partially a product of the pandemic, when theaters closed indefinitely, leaving producers and performers uncertain of their futures.

“We were not quite sure what our theater schedule could look like or how many people we could have in a cast, and capacity issues were a big thing,” Dluge said. “So when we were starting to think about what we could offer people for 2022 that could be malleable for how things changed, that’s kind of where it came from.”

Klett said after being cooped up for so long, the festival is an opportunity for people to go out and reconnect.

“In a post-COVID, social-media-likes-and-clicks-and-shares world,” he said, “(people) should get their a---- out of the house and go experience something that’s real.” 

Solo Performance Festival

11 a.m. – 9 p.m. Saturdayat the Matrix Theatre, 2730 Bagley St., Detroit.

Tickets: $5 per show or $30 for the day. For an up-to-date schedule and more information, visit www.matrixtheatre.org/spf