Thursday, April 7, 2011

Acting as Reacting--How to do a Monologue

  • I was answering a question about how to break a speech up into parts in order to make it more effective. Mechanically breaking the speech up into parts is not how one does effective acting. That is how a monologue becomes artificial and poorly acted. You do not need to do a lot of analysis and pre-planning to deliver a good monologue. You do need to understand what acting is and what dialog is. And a monologue is a piece of the dialog of the play.

  • First, the lines of a play are the vocal manifestation of the character's emotional and physical responses of what is happening in the scene. By physical responses I mean the overt movements the character is doing. An example follows. The line is “Now, don't interrupt me!." Following Shakespeare's "Suit the action to the word, the word to the action," it is obvious that the character is making some sort of 'Stop" gesture at that moment. But do not plan exactly what the physical gesture it because the speeches of a play are also the characters' emotional responses. Therefore, effective actors do not go through the speech and mechanically plan how to do it. Rather, from reading the play, the actors understand what is happening in the scene at the moment of the speech-what stimuli are occurring that effect their emotions and then actors allow themselves to react emotionally to each stimulus as it occurs in rehearsal and performance.

  • In long speeches, there are a series of stimuli that work on the actor's emotions. The actor expresses these emotional reactions as he or she says the lines and does the actions. So there is no need to mechanically decide when the mood changes, rather the actor needs to respond emotionally to what is happening in the scene moment by moment and react accordingly. In order to keep the acting believable and spontaneous and honest, these reactions are not planned by the actor. The actor just allows the reactions to happen as he or she is affected by the stimuli.

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