Let’s face it, who really wants to spend time listening to someone pretend to be someone? That is of course unless you’re a parent watching your young child play. Well, I don’t believe you’re a child and we (the observer) are certainly not your parents! It’s the actor’s responsibility to do the work necessary to make their character believable and of course…interesting.
So, how do you do that?
For almost six weeks now, we’ve been discussing all that goes into a strong monologue performance. What the ingredients are for a successful experience auditioning a piece all on your own. It’s a process of building layer upon layer of character understanding…along with story understanding. If you don’t have what you’re talking about, down, if you don’t own it, we’re going to have a difficult time staying with
you. YOU HAVE TO DO THE WORK!
RANGE – Does your piece travel? Does it take you from one place to another? Does your character go through anything? And, if so, what? How is your character changed because of this experience? Take some time to analyze your performance and see that you can effectively answer these questions.
EMOTIONALITY – We’ve been covering this in depth. There needs to be an emotional journey. The piece needs to be effective — meaning it needs to effect us, your audience. How does it make us feel, think, react??? Know what you want your monologue to do and see that it does it.
CHARACTERISTICS – Where do you come through your character in your chosen piece? Does your monologue allow for your own special qualities to be showcased? See that it does. If not, why are you choosing to go with the piece in question? Make certain that your monologue showcases your own uniqueness.
HEART & SOUL – Unless you’re doing something witty, comedic or something to that effect, you don’t want your monologue to just ride along the top. This isn’t the time to be glib. See that your performance has depth. For it to touch us, it need to come from the inner recesses of your being. Make it mean something. Care deeply. Feel deeply. Leave it all on the stage floor. Or, as I more affectionately like to say…burn some calories while you’re performing your piece.
PRACTICE – All of this isn’t going to happen through osmosis. You have to work it. And, work it. And, work it even more. Think along the lines of arranging a vase filled with different flowers. You have to keep moving everything around until you get just the right arrangement of color, size, height and so on. Continue to play with your performance until you get it right where it needs to be.
GET COACHING – Now, you can only do so much of this on your own. At certain points along the way, it’s crucial to get with a coach, someone who knows what they’re doing. A professional who will place an objective eye on it. Inevitably, they will see things that you aren’t able to. Doing so will build your confidence and help keep you from freaking out. The better you know your monologue performance, the less chance of you being overly nervous. A good coach will let you know where you stand so that you can make adjustments or settle into what’s working.
– Take that character into the world…(See The Actors’ Free-Way below). This will help show you how much pressure your character can hold up to and where you still need to do some more work. You want to be as comfortable with your character (and your chosen piece) as you are with yourself. For some of you, you have to become even more comfortable with your character than you are with yourself. Ultimately, we need to experience the moment you’re creating — not an actor trying to do something. This is not the time to try anything! It’s execution time. Remember, DON’T TRAIN ON HIRING GROUND!
SUMMERY – Plan your work and work your plan. In your monologe work, if you put in more than you’re expecting to get out of it, you inevitably will succeed. If you’re expecting great things to come from your monologue performance and you’re only doing mediocre work, you’re still dreaming. Either that or you’re so incredibly brilliant at your craft that you can do it in your sleep…and if that’s the case, what are you doing reading this article, you should be off polishing your Oscar.
Taking Your Character into Public Situations.
Once you feel you have your character sussed out, travel to a distant location. Go someplace that you don’t usually frequent or most likely won’t frequent anytime in the near future. Once there, if you haven’t already, get into character. Now, very important, set an IN-POINT and OUT-POINT. In and out-points are extremely important in keeping the assignment just that, an assignment. This way there isn’t any confusion as to who you are and what you’re doing. The IN-POINT begins the exercise and the OUT-POINT ends the session. Now that you have that sorted out, when fully in-character, go interact with the public. Purchase groceries, try on some clothes, have a meal, stand in line in a coffee shop, test drive a new car. See how you do in these situations. Notice where you’re able to hold character and where you may begin to break. Doing this several different times in different situations will help you to not only strengthen your character, but also know your character better.
NOTE: It’s extremely important that you do this exercise in a non-familiar location. There will be a certain amount of self consciousness you’ll have to deal with if you do it in your own neighborhood. Going out of your own community will allow for more freedom with the character work. Also, make sure to set your IN and OUT POINTS. Not doing so may cause complications. And in some cases injury and possible bouts with DID*.
*Dissociative Identity Disorder – only occurring in extreme cases where the actor loses track of where they leave off and the character picks up.