Performing Arts: The History of Kisses

Song-writer and actor spoke with us about his latest one-man production, The History of Kisses
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David Cale performing The History of Kisses (photo by Carol Pratt)

English-born David Cale never formally trained in theater. Cale came to the U.S. at the age of 20 to pursue a career, but has since established himself as a prominent member of the theater world. His monologues have been featured on programs such as Public Radio International‘s This American Life and NPR‘s The Next Big Thing. He has written music for bands and productions, and has participated in a number of films and off-Broadway plays. Last Wednesday Cale unveiled his most recent project, The History of Kisses, at the The Studio Theatre. The show is a series of monologues that divulge the romantic relationships, escapades and tragedies of a group of intertwined individuals residing at a beachside motel.

On a remarkably realistic beach set, Cale portrays the self-conscious Julie, who has an affair to remember. Then there’s Bill, the sensitive man looking for love who recounts his unforgettable night with Judy Garland. Though The History of Kisses is filled with good humor, innuendo and sailor songs, between the lines, Cale’s stories elicit powerful thoughts about what it means to love and to live.

Cale took some time to speak with Washington Life about the process of creating The History of Kisses and how this production relates to previous experiences.

Washington Life: Can you tell me a little about your process of creating The History of Kisses?
David Cale: I work very intuitively.  With this script I was following clues.  One thing suggested another … Most of the show was written very quickly – [in] about six months.  The Studio Theatre committed to the show before there was a script, which was incredibly audacious on the artistic director David Muse‘s part, and a great show of artistic faith.  I’m deeply grateful to him, as this was really a dream show of mine.  But when we first spoke and when he made the commitment, it was just an idea.

WL: How much of your life did you draw on in order to create History?
DC: The show isn’t autobiographical, so I was drawing from my imagination rather than my life.  One character in the show Lisa is based on my dear friend Lisa Emery, who’s an extraordinary actress, and human being.  I’m trying to portray her, but in the show I’ve given her a new life story.  I often try and represent in my shows people who have moved me.  Most of the people in my shows are drawn from people I’ve met, who’ve touched me in some way and I feel if they’ve touched me, they may touch the people in the audience, but the life stories I give them are often invented.

WL: It seems as if a one-man show would be physically and mentally taxing, how do you maintain the energy that’s required to keep the show lively and entertaining?
DC: I try and eat well and exercise when I’m doing the shows.  I usually lose a lot of weight, between the worrying about the show and the jogging.

WL: What are some differences between your experiences performing as a cast member of a play and performing alone for a monologue?
DC: From my perspective, there’s less responsibility with a play.  I don’t have to carry the whole script.  Not that acting in plays is in any way easy.  The last play I worked on, Kevin Elyot‘s Mouth to Mouth, a play I loved as much if it was one of my own, was extremely demanding.  But still you have others on stage with you, to help you.  Being alone on stage, sometimes, can be frightening.  ‘The History of Kisses’ feels like doing a tightrope walk without a net, which I’ve never felt with a play.

WL: How would you say a show of this nature challenges and improves you as a performer?
DC: This show is the most demanding solo show that I’ve done so far, I think.  In part because it’s going between songs and monologues.  It’s vocally very challenging, and it’s quite long for a solo.  I think it strengthens your concentration.  I have to stay fully focused for 90 minutes.

The History of Kisses is written, directed and performed by David Cale. The show runs through July 3 at The Studio Theatre, 1501 14th St. NW. For more information, call 202-332-3300 or visit www.studiotheatre.org.

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