Meg Flather premieres new play HOLD ON TIGHT at United Solo Theater Festival
They say a writer should write what he knows. This hasn’t been advice singer-songwriter Meg Flather has needed to hear for some time now; the songs that award-winning pens always come from a personal place, as evidenced last year with the release of his song “Inside,” which Flather wrote during his 2020 quarantine. Along with his latest creation, HOLD ON TIGHT. Meg Flather has taken her work as a writer and storyteller to a whole new level – a personal level, of course, and one that informs not just a new solo piece but a companion book, both of which appeared last week. .
Hold On Tight had its premiere on October 8 at the United Solo Festival on 42nd Street, inside the Theater Row complex, and a packed house of spectators was treated to what ranks as the finest production this writer has ever had. never before seen at United Solo, billed as the largest solo theater festival in the world. This hour-long musical piece that Flather created details her life as a caregiver – not a role she chose, but one that was forced on her and cherished.
Starting with the “beautiful boys” Meg Flather met growing up in New York, working as a shop assistant and watching all her gay best friends wither and die during the AIDS crisis, moving on to a daughter helping her mother caring for her cancer-stricken father who ends up caring full-time for this mother, Becky, who has developed dementia, Meg’s play recounts, with humour, honesty and a great deal of empathy, what her experience as a caregiver has been like. And this story is beautiful, filled with ups and downs, lessons and learning, lightness found in strange places, fear from real ones, and plenty of moments to remember and share. It’s a story that everyone can take something away from, whether they were a caregiver, they are, or they never find themselves able to do what Meg did. Indeed, regardless of the dominant theme of Meg’s solo show, the common thread is about relationships, and that’s where all good stories begin and end.
Hold On Tight was written entirely by Meg Flather, and it shows in every aspect of her performance, a solid performance delivered by an actor who clearly knows what she’s doing. In a small black box theater (well, actually, it looks more like a gray box theatre) on Saturday night, with her dedicated musical director Tracy Stark right by her side (literally – the piano is in full view in the lower right ), Meg spoke directly to her audience, which is nothing new for Meg, one of the most industrious and respected performers in the cabaret industry. The conversation had a different vibe to it than usual as this is a play being performed in a theater – there are no waiters serving food and drink, no casual air on the debates, and absolutely no chance that a member of the public could respond to the scene, a regular occurrence in a nightclub. Director Lennie Watts (showing that his talents extend beyond his nightclub work) ably guided Meg, helping her find that balance between the performance style more regularly applied to his work and the more theatrical one, where there’s a fourth wall, only it’s more of a canvas – the audience is there, but there to listen, not to participate. Even though there are times when Flather can speak directly to a person, times when they can look straight in the eye, this is a play and the theatricality has to come in a way that both formal and comfortable, in order to keep the audience connected but not so connected that anyone feels compelled to enter the conversation from their seat. It’s a fine line they walk, and Team Flather pulls it off admirably.
And it’s a pleasure to sit down and listen because Meg’s piece is good and her storytelling skills are beyond reproach. She’s connected to every moment, every phrase spoken or sung, and to more than the story she tells – she’s connected to the lessons to be imparted in that story, not a short story, for that matter. Many people saw the handsome boys die. Many people have lost a relative to cancer. Many people have lost a parent to dementia. Some have, like Meg, done all three. But that doesn’t make his story rote or ordinary, it makes it resonant. Meg’s take on the events of her life is what makes the play special…that and her writing. Flather is a blacksmith – she has a gift for forming sentences in an economical way that always gives a visceral expression to the story being told. Remember this is a play in a solo festival – these festivals have time limits. It’s a blessing, by the way. Often, in a cabaret hall, an artist continues, until nausea, until he has kept an audience for an hour and a half with his indulgence. Hold On Tight starts on time, stops on time, tells an appropriate story, and makes a person laugh and cry a little, depending on how personally they accept the piece. But fear not because even if a full hour of music and dialogue about death doesn’t sound like a good time, thanks to Flather’s natural optimism and ever-present sense of humor, it doesn’t. ain’t a good time, it’s a good time. This poet laureate of the cabaret industry has achieved something here that could easily be incorporated into the lineup of any solo performance outfit, any university, library or community center, any small theater company and, yes, even any cabaret hall. Hold On Tight is not a cabaret show, it’s a play, it’s a play, but theater can be performed anywhere there is an open space for a person to stand stand up and tell their story, and an audience with space to watch. This is theater worth watching, in any place.
In her later years, Carrie Fisher often said, “Take your broken heart and turn it into art.” Meg Flather was heartbroken after the death of her mother Becky. Now she has art. And this writer whose mother-in-law died of cancer and whose own beloved mother lives with dementia could not, more sincerely or with more conviction, recommend seeing HOLD ON TIGHT, when and where the opportunity arises. shows up.
Learn more about the UNITED SOLO THEATER FESTIVAL on their website HERE.
HOLD ON TIGHT will perform at the NEW YORK THEATER FESTIVAL on October 27, 29 and 30. For reservations, visit the NYTF website HERE.
THIS is Meg Flather’s website.