Monologues are more difficult
than an interactive two-handed scene as a vehicle for an audition.
The reason for this is that all the usual pitfalls for the auditioning
actor are magnified when performing a monologue.
This is an easy trap to fall into at the best of times. While
in general circumstances the 'character' mostly never knows what
will be said next, the 'actor' always does and being in possession
of this knowledge of the future often means that actors forget
to listen with the same sense of purpose their characters would.
This possibility is increased significantly in a monologue because
the actor knows without doubt that no one else is going to speak
- so listening is often a casualty.
What do you listen for in a
- listen to themselves to assess
whether they are actually achieving their sense of purpose or
have any hope of fulfilling their "need"
- actively assess and/or at
least be aware of any possible response the person/s they are
addressing may make.
to Tell the Story
Because doing a monologue puts a huge emphasis on the individual
performer the actor is often over-diligent in searching for opportunities
to act. This might mean that a pre-occupation develops with movement
or emphasizing certain words or even using 'funny' voices while
often the story is forgotten or overlooked completely.
The other pitfall is that the
story is often thought to be, 'what is being spoken about' (particularly
if the text is a reminiscence) whereas usually the story is about
'what happens to the character while they are speaking the dialogue'.
If the latter process is the focus of the performance then the
emphasis will be taken away from the articulation of the words
and placed upon the reason for which they are being spoken. This
is a much more active and productive choice. It is also the key
to a truthful performance.
As the story is often not strongly evident in a monologue the
actor turns to the emotional content of the text to provide a
vehicle which will display their performance skills. This often
leads to -
- an overacted and self-indulgent
performance because the context, purpose and external circumstances
of the situation are generally ignored while the actor searches
inwardly for a personal emotional trigger to induce the emotion
- the story becoming completely
obscured because the emotional display generally replaces all
the elements which would allow story to unfold. (Without a story
there is no reason for an audience to watch.)
to Build a World for the Character
This is an area that often gets put aside in audition preparation.
Sometimes this is because so little information has been provided
that building a world for a character is either too hard or a
waste of time, but often it is just because the actor neglected
to spend a few moments making some concrete decisions about the
character's world. It is essential to know when preparing a monologue,
- who you are speaking to
- whether you have spoken to
- if so, what was the outcome,
- what are the expectations
of this encounter,
- is this something you do often
and so on.
If the actor has not clearly defined the character's world and/or
the relationship with the person/s to whom they are speaking,
then more than likely they will not have selected a "need"
for the character. Without a "need" in place it is
probable that the character will be one-dimensional and the acting
obvious. It is the character's "need" which creates
complexity and truthfulness when listening. Without a "need"
in place there is no sub-text. The tendency when preparing a
monologue is for the actor to only think of how they themselves
will be acting. In fact it is placing the focus on 'the other'
person/s in the scene which will create a sense of purpose for
the character and a believability in the performance.
Shakespeare's monologues are always a trap because they are well
known and associated with other great performances. This tends
to lead auditioning actors towards the desire to produce a great
performance of their own. Consequently all the effort is focused
on 'being great' and none goes into the essential preparation
that will generate a good performance no matter who the author
is. It is terribly easy to be portentous, contrived and mannered
when delivering Shakespearean monologues.
Good performances emerge from
actors who understand
- the world the character occupies,
- the pre-history of the character,
- what the character needs most
at this moment,
who listen openly but with
and truthfully interact with
the people/world around them
DELIVER THE STORY.
All this can be achieved with
FOOTNOTE: A monologue should
not be a declamation but a truthful interaction. The difficulty
is building an interactive component when no one is there to
participate. A successful path to achieving this is usually found
through making simple choices not complicated ones.
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