Actor and artistic director at the Maryland Ensemble Theatre Tad Janes will debut his one-man show, “TruthPaste: A Blotto Biography,” at the theater company in Frederick on Friday. The show is based on Janes’ life and features 10 monologues and more than 30 different characters.
“The characters are all people who were a part of my life,” said Janes. “My junior high gym teacher, a guy from college who wore hot pants and work boots and eyeliner and spiked hair and spoke in a British accent even though he was from Morgantown, W. Va. He was just out there. He’s kind of hard to pass up.”
Janes, who said he’s been “kicking around the idea” of doing a one-man show for a few years, originally got his inspiration after seeing “Too Much Light Makes the Baby go Blind” in Chicago. The hour-long show is 30 short plays written, directed and performed by an ensemble called the New-Futurists. Much of the material is based on the actors’ real-life experiences.
Janes said “Too Much Light” along with watching professional performers such as Whoopi Goldberg, Eric Bogosian and John Leguizamo who’ve all done their own solo shows, encouraged him to start putting his own ideas down on paper.
During the blizzard in February 2010, Janes started writing and developing ideas that would eventually become “TruthPaste.”
“[I] was feeling cabin fever, I guess,” said Janes. “I came up with a dozen [monologues] ... the longest one is about five pages, most are about two pages.”
After some cuts and adjustments, the final product is a poignant comedy: a combination of monologues, original songs and characters reflecting Janes’ life experience.
“I guess I look at it as some people would write it as an autobiography, but I’m a theater performer,” said Janes.
While the show is immensely personal, Janes said doesn’t mean it’s not universal.
“In theater, you’re always hoping the audience can latch on to some character up there so they can feel a connection,” said Janes.
“The stories will resonate with people,” “TruthPaste” director Gené Fouché said. “You don’t need to know Tad to appreciate the stories he’s telling. ... They’re very, very funny. They’re entertaining the first time you hear them. They’re entertaining the 100th time you hear them.”
Fouché would know. In addition to being Janes’ director, she’s also his wife.
“I’ve heard these stories told by him over the years,” Fouché. said “All of these stories, these are from his cannon. ... I either know or know about all of these people.”
Fouché has directed her husband in the past and said the two have developed a shorthand with one another.
“He seems to know what I’m saying before I say it,” she said.
But with directing a one-man show, Fouché said she felt like there wasn’t much to talk about.
“What I find about directing a solo artist is they already have an idea of where it’s going,” Fouché said. “My job is kind of to get out of the way and help them shape their vision. [It’s] more about letting them know what’s working instead of giving them my opinion.”
In this case, it meant helping Janes trim certain stories or characters from the script.
“I have kind of pulled him back from some of the characters he’s playing,” she said.
While Janes said he loves having the opportunity to play more than 30 different characters, the various roles meant learning an extensive script.
“I kind of thought, ‘I know these stories really well. This is going to be easy,’” Janes said. “It was a bit of a challenge to memorize all of the lines.”
Plus, having compete creative control means some added pressure for Janes.
“I have a long history in the theater and putting together shows in working with [MET] Comedy Pigs. ... I have a pretty good idea of what works and what doesn’t work, but you never know,” he said. “You really are kind of putting it all on the line.”