ACTING 1 on 1 … MONOLOGUES

Posted: July 9, 2020 in Uncategorized

Hi.  I’m gonna post one of these every day because … hell, I’ve got the time.  COVID and life’s circumstances have given me a lot of downtime (no need to go into details here) and I’ve always wanted to work with new and would-be actors and so … what the hell.  If you know me, you may think I have a clue as to what I’m talking about or you may wanna run.  I’m here either way.  I am willing and interested in working with anybody via ZOOM on monologues or scenes or what have you, at no fees.  Because I have the time (until I don’t) and what the hell.  I’m a bit irreverent.  Some would say a joy to work with/some might say difficult.  No one walks away without an opinion.  If you’re interested in working on something 1 on 1, let me know.  You can contact me on Messenger (Michael Perlmutter) or email me @ Theatre1on1@gmail.com.

But for now.

Let’s look at MONOLOGUES. 

We are all acting from the day we start to form a conscience.  The baby cries the parent tends to the baby: voila.  I cry: I get what I need (it might take some time but eventually … ) and from that moment on, successful or not we learn how to “act” in order to get what we want or what we need (or not).  In other words, regardless of the results OUR job is to aim to achieve our goals.  Sometimes this defies logic.  Often, most often it is several layers deep.  A play (as is life) is a chess board and our job as actors is to figure out the game.  Is it chess or is it checkers?  Or is it one of dozens of variant games also designed to be played on the same board?  The one thing that is NOT genuinely played on this board is SOLITAIRE.  Soliloquys or monologues  don’t really exist.    But what? No, but yeah …. I know they exist, I’ve been working on ‘em.  I’ve heard about them for years.  The words exist: yes.  I’m not going to play the game of what is the dictionary definition (you can google that yourself … and while you’re at it, go ahead and look up speech and soliloquy as well).   What I’m trying to say is the bastardized definition of reciting lines to no one there doesn’t exist.  No one of any worth has ever written a speech, a monologue or a soliloquy to fill space.   Even when you, the character, are alone onstage.  These are all forms of dialogues … every last one of ‘em.  The character is engaging SOMEONE.  For a purpose.  They want something from this someone.  It may be a look, it may be a smile or a knife in the gut (A ZOO STORY).   It may be to ask forgiveness (many of Peter Schaeffer’s works) or to make friends with the audience itself (see most of Shakespeare’s epilogues or prologues).  It may even be to hash your own thoughts out loud to yourself to hear what they sound like (careful with this one … these moments are few and far between [consider Samuel Beckett’s KRAPP’S LAST TAPE]).  The issue is to stay in action: why are you saying this, to who, and what do you want to gain from the interchange.  Keeping in mind (and watching for) that at any point you may gain what you’re after and/or the other “someone” may respond—may interrupt their own silence with a remark AT ANY POINT … you know, like in real life.  To quote my own play DIRECTING HAMLET(—and yeah, I will do this from time to time):

“You see, Brian, there are no “speeches” in the theatre.  There are only dialogues.  Sometimes one of the parties doesn’t say anything but the opportunity to interrupt is always there.”

In other words, context is everything.

Let’s look at one of the famous speeches from Shakespeare (I know, I will not always use Shakespeare but where monologues are concerned he is the grand daddy, in’t he?  Please understand, this is ONE interpretation, there are many … the speech is often taken out of context:

“Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow,
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day
To the last syllable of recorded time,
And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle!
Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage
And then is heard no more. It is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing.”

To begin with this is NOT a soliloquy.  MacBETH is NOT alone onstage.  MacBETH is devising plans on how to hold fort in his own castle, knowing armies are on their way to attack.  There is a wailing offstage that is breaking his concentration, he asks (some might say demands) what can be done to shut them up and then he is told that his wife is dead—the wailing he hears is a several centuries old ritual mourning played out by her Gentle women in attendance.  All that he (MacBETH) has done to this point has been for her (Lady MacBETH) and she is now gone … AND, an important point of fact, his war council is in attendance with him … he is NOT alone onstage.  MacBETH ACT 5 sc 5:

Yes, I took it out of its poetic formatting (this is how I read Shakespeare—for another day); The questions are who is he saying what to?  What is MacBeth expecting in response?  In truth he IS interrupted, if you read on further … a messenger enters and MacBETH explodes on him immediately:

From this point on in the play MacBETH is inconsolable and determined: a man out for blood—a man with nothing left to lose.  He even threatens the life of the messenger itself who brought him the news, not of his wife’s death but that the trees and bushes are moving, advancing on the castle.

In contrast: immediately prior to this speech MacBeth is approachable.  Case in point: SEYTON answers Macbeth calling him not just my lord but my “good” lord.  Upon Seyton’s return (one line later) he tells the king that his wife is dead without any moment of reservation as to how the good king may react.  In further examination throughout the play we are reminded that MacBeth is a decent man, a good man, a soldier’s soldier, a good leader.  It is in his attempts to please his wife’s ambitions that things go from bad to worse.  He is tortured with hesitation (Duncan) and guilt (Banquo).  His final murder (MacDUFF’s family) leaves him paranoid but his wife’s approval sustains him.  Once she is gone … he changes: inside this speech.  We watch a man go from focused to annoyed to dumbstruck/numb to attempt to be poignant to furious to enraged in a matter of a few lines.  All the more evident because there are others with him. 

Alrightee then.  Enough for today.  Let’s see what we tackle tomorrow.

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