MONOLOGUE AS A TOOL FOR
courtesy of Jay Sankey
The urge to transcend self-conscious selfhood is a principal appetite of the soul – Aldous Huxley
Monologues are about creating a unique perspective – they are about the art and craft of sharing an experience.
They involve finding one’s own voice in the voice of a character. As such…
Monologues are about revelation… recognising the humanness of humans, understanding that what we share and have in common is so much greater than what might keep us apart.
Storytelling is about sharing one’s truth… the truth of a story, the truth of a character. Remember that your truth is not separate from the truths of others, and in sharing yours you are inviting others to participate in the adventure of a lifetime.
Through artistic encounters (such as one experiences in the presentation and reception of monologues) even as we witness the expression of this or that unique perspective, we are at the same time experiencing profound similarities. A sharedness. It is this, more than anything else, that is the most valuable outcome of the performance of monologue.
Monologue encourages one to explore and showcase one’s abilities as a performer, director, writer, musician, art director, editor, and whatever else your imagination deems relevant to the creation of a character.
Monologues are about transformation and transcendence – a catharsis which results from breaking down the tragically fixed ideas of “I am this” and “they are that”.
In achieving success - or a breakthrough - in the art of monologue (character creation), you will have to:
1. Love what you are doing, i.e.: resonate with the subject of the monologue,
2. Take your inner life seriously – the truth of the character resides there.
3. Honor your feelings as well as your intelligence…
4. Understand that in order to birth a character, and give him/her an opportunity to interact with the world, you must trust the act of sharing… which means trusting yourself – trusting that you can handle being misunderstood, and even more frightening, being UNDERSTOOD!!… and trust that perhaps none of us are strangers after all.
5. Share! Don’t tell! Monologues are NOT speeches. It is not the act of talking at an audience, but of inviting them in to the feeling. Make it intimate (a shared reality)… and don’t be afraid to improvise.
6. Consider: who am I talking to? Why am I saying it? What is it I want to reveal? What, if anything, do I want to conceal?
Writing a monologue is a form of self-analysis. Like all art, it is a means of holding a mirror up to yourself and asking, How do I really feel or think about this or that? Or about me? Or about being human? The answers to such questions are always addressed in any script you really care about.
2 monologues from 12 Angry Men
Make sure that your monologues are monologues and not simply two or more characters talking at each other. Some times, dialogue breaks down into pairs of monologues in which one character talks at the other, and then the other character talks back. Often, it is better to break up these "false monologues" and make them more interactive. For example, if you had a passage in your screenplay that read as follows:
I don't care what you say. I'm not going to lie about my feelings just to make him feel better. I've played the silent part too long and with too much pain to make me feel like I should go on doing the same now. I love him, Joe, but he hurt me. I can't forget that. Does he know? I'm not so sure. I'm not sure he loves anybody but himself.
You don't mean that. She doesn't mean anything to him. All right, so she saved his sister's life. Who cares! It was always you he cared about. That's why he went AWOL. Do you think he ran for any other reason? He loves you, Sandy. He just couldn't think of anyway to tell you without making it sound cheap, He'd rather die than lose you.
These two "false monologues" are largely flat, undramatic, over-written and expository to a fault. But what happens if the writer opts to release the characters, and allow them to interact, dramatically? By reorganising the text into dialogue, and cutting out the unnecessary verbiage, the scene is transformed.
I don't care what you say.
You don't mean that.
I'm not going to lie about my feelings just to make him feel better.
She doesn't mean anything to him. All right, so she saved his sister's life. Who cares!
I love him, Joe.
It was always you.
He hurt me.
He loves you.
I'm not sure he loves anybody.
When looking at your own monologues, make sure that you are clear as to the following:
1. Define the conflict
2. What does your character need from or want to do to the character being spoken to
(objective)? Be specific.
3. Define the specific given circumstances surrounding the monologue. How can you use these
specifics actively in the work?
4. Why are the stakes so high? If they are not, reconsider.
5. Locate the big events, dramatic moments, etc.
6. Divide and label the beats in terms of tactics and transitions.
7. Where and how does the listener react? How do you respond?
8. What physical choices will you make to effectively tell the story? These choices include gesture,
movement, and business.
9. Where will your focus be? Why? At what points will you focus elsewhere? Why?