Arts & Entertainment

One Woman, One Big Show

Jazz musician Erica von Kleist to perform her new one-woman #MeToo-inspired show “All My Byself” in Whitefish

Award-winning musician Erica von Kleist is usually the lone woman playing the saxophone in a sea of male jazz musicians.

But on Friday, Sept. 13, she will flip society’s norms to sing about #MeToo movement-inspired politics, menstruation and boobs in her one-woman show, “All My Byself” at the O’Shaughnessy Center.

“All My Byself,” named after a phrase she said as a toddler, is a mini-version of her musical “Boobs,” which she is hoping to get off-Broadway in New York City this fall.

“It’s a lot of stripping the band aid off that conversation about women’s issues,” von Kleist said.

Before von Kleist created the one-woman show, she sat down and wrote an endless list of issues facing women. She says the current political climate and the #MeToo movement provided most of the show’s inspiration.

She describes the content as “stark and blunt,” and von Kleist will play all of her instruments, including piano, ukulele, saxophone and flute. She’ll debut a song called “You’re Becoming a Woman, But Let’s Not Talk About It” in Whitefish.

“It’s nothing raunchy,” von Kleist says. “It’s like, ‘Hey, we’re gonna talk about menstruation.’”

Whitefish guitarist and songwriter Nick Spear will open the show with funny and cynical songs. Von Kleist said Spear was a good match to open her show.

Even as a seasoned musician, this is the first time von Kleist has written music with lyrics and produced an entire show by herself. Her show at the 300-seat O’Shaughnessy Center will be her first one-woman performance.

“Everyone always sees me with a band,” von Kleist says. “This is just me. I’m doing all my original stuff, all these songs about women’s issues.”

While relatively few women jazz musicians exist in the male-dominated field, von Kleist has never drawn attention to her gender, until now.

“I’ve always let my talent speak for itself,” she said.

“All My Byself” will debut in Whitefish, but she also has two shows scheduled in New York this fall. She says promoting the one-woman show will expose material for the musical “Boobs,” which will have a full cast.

Von Kleist heads back to New York City this fall to re-immerse herself in the music scene, where she got her professional start, and get “Boobs” off-Broadway.

She calls it a “semi-permanent” move, but says she will return to Whitefish for the holidays. Her permanent residence is uncertain at this point.

After doing a gig with the Alpine Theatre Project in Whitefish in 2012, von Kleist fell in love with Whitefish and decided to move. She’s lived there on-and-off for the last seven years, with several New York hiatuses.

“It was definitely a gutsy move, but I’m so happy that I did,” von Kleist said.

In addition to her one-woman show and musical, she just recorded her fourth album, which comes out next year as a live record of her performing saxophone jazz with tap dancer Dewitt Fleming Jr. in New York.

She also runs other side projects, including the MAC Band, which performs at weddings and other occasions in the Flathead Valley.

“As an artist you have to have a million irons in the fire to make a living and feed your face,” von Kleist said. 

As for “All My Byself,” von Kleist is excited for the Flathead audience to see her act live for the first time.

“I’m especially trying to drum up the women to come,” she said.

She encourages both men and women to attend the performance, but she wants to emphasize female empowerment.

“Just the fact that the subject matter is there, I’m hoping women will feel empowered and make the conversation move forward,” von Kleis said.

“All My Byself” will be at the O’Shaughnessy Center in Whitefish on Friday, Sept. 13 from 8 p.m. to 10 p.m.

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