Monologues, a thing in every actors arsenal, or at least they should be.
Monologues can go one of two ways at a show case or casting; they can be powerful and really display your abilities as an actor, or they can not.
Monologues can be one of the most difficult performances to get right because it’s just you up on stage and if you don’t bring it there is no one else around to pick up the piece. Over the years I have ran castings and seen monologues performed that really worked and I have seen a lot that haven’t and the ones that don’t work are often not a reflection of the actors abilities but rather they are making simple but common mistakes.
CHOOSING THE RIGHT MONOLOGUE
First and foremost the most important and most common mistake that actors make is choosing the wrong monologue for them. More times than I can count I have watched actors pick monologues they think will shock and demand attention and power from just the writing or subject matter, and whilst yes a gripping text can go a long way it doesn’t mean that it is always the best fit for you.
Do your research on the piece, make sure that you understand and know how the whole text plays out and not just memorise the section you think sounds the best. Even if it is just for a 1 – 3 minute performance you still need to develop the character and if you are taking a piece from a larger play you need to understand that characters journey from beginning to end not just what they are experiencing in that single moment.
DON’T choose something that you cannot find someway to connect to! This for me is the most disappointing kind of monologues to watch. Hearing this great piece and watching it be performed by someone who is talented but not being able to engage with the performance because the performer isn’t connected to the piece, they are just performing it. It can be the smallest reason or connection but taking the time to find that and use it to fuel your performance can make a world of difference.
PERFORMING AT MAXIMUM POTENTIAL
Less is more. This is something that I myself have been guilty off; I have a monologue that I love and is one of my top few that I keep memorised for when needed, when I first started using this monologue I would go so loud and intense and throw all my power in to it. However now that I’ve worked more and learnt more I’ve realised that actually pulling it back and slowing It down, really taking my time with it and being more subtle in my approach makes for a much more engaging and powerful performance. Over performing is something most actors are guilty of at the beginnings of their careers, one of the most vital things an actor can learn is to strip back their performance and use subtle nuances.
Don’t be afraid to try something new! Sometimes you will find a monologue that you love and you learn perfectly and perform effortlessly each time you do it. Then you use it again and again and the performance doesn’t change or it becomes too effortless. It is ok to try new monologues that you might not usually go for, challenge yourself and help build new skills sets through them. Or simply try taking that much loved piece and doing something different with it, even if you end up performing it the same way you always have just experimenting with it in rehearsals will show through your performance.
Finally don’t be afraid to edit. I have worked with casts on countless projects both monologues and full plays or films and more often than not there will be an actor who stays true the script by every word. It is ok to edit lines, cut them out or change them so they feel more like your character. Scripts are not perfection that have to be followed to the letter, and this applies to monologues. If you have a piece that you think would work just as well or even better without certain words or lines do not be afraid to cut and change them.
Remember you are the one performing the piece you need to be able to connect to it and engage an audience.