by Rob Cardazone on December 1st, 2017

I recently had a chance to coach an actor on a monologue for a reading of my new play, One More Time with Malice. Often an actor will want to make the most dramatic choice, especially in an argument. But, if you think about it, when we get into an argument, we often look for the first opportunity to get out of it. Okay – to articulate our opinion and then to get out of it. Perhaps this is the way we should approach arguments in plays, even when it’s a diatribe of a monologue. Sometimes the reason we get into this biz, is because we are drawn to drama. Hopefully, as we develop our craft, we develop an appreciation of nuance, the subtle, the not-so-obvious. In an argument in a play, every line can be thought of as getting-in-the-last-word; as if the subtext was “So there!” And then, suddenly you have to add more. And, more! But, you don’t have to actually yell, or build, or get angrier, or more frustrated to get your point across. Let the words do the work. I may have used this before, but: You don’t need to bring sand to the beach! Meaning: You don’t need to bring an argumentative tone to an argument. See what it’s like to play it, staying on the ground floor. Meaning: don’t escalate, or get louder, or more argumentative. Then, if you absolutely can’t help yourself, if something really snaps inside you, then and only then, let that emotion come out. Or, not! Stuff it! That’s what most people do in real life! If you’re about two thirds or three quarters through the play, maybe that’s the time to lose it, but before that, I would recommend stuffing the feelings. (Not good life advice, but good acting advice!) A problem comes up often in this new play of mine. The characters are siblings that haven’t seen each other in a while. The trap is regressing to childish bickering. That can be grating. Why not say all the crappy things that the script supplies, but say it as calmly and maturely as possible? Doing this will actually create much more complex characters and relationships and tension. Avoid the argument. Try to get out of it. Play the most positive choice you can. Don’t judge your character. Play the character as maturely as possible.

For info on my new play, go to ONE MORE TIME WITH MALICE

Posted on May 15th, 2011

When I coach someone on a monologue or an audition, it helps a lot that I’m a playwright. (Actually, I’ve been away a little while, because I just got accepted to Tina Howe’s MFA program, and that inspired me to start a new play.) So, I know where the words come from. And, I know how hard they were to come by. Remember, that when working in live theatre you’re working in a playwright driven medium. Only in film are you working in a director driven medium, where the words can be fudged, played around with or thought of as just an outline. In the theatre you need to be word perfect. This should be helpful when working on your monologue. It’s like following a road map or learning music. The words will tell you where to go, or how to sing the song. If your running over a certain word or phrase because you’re not sure exactly what it means, take the time to investigate. With the internet, there’s no excuse. Pop the phrase into the search bar and see what comes up. If it sounds like a regionalism, ask around - post it on facebook! Also, there are certain playwrights like Sam Shepherd and David Mamet that are all over their publishers to make sure that their plays are printed exactly how they wrote them. It’s becoming more and more the thing. In the past it was more likely that the published play would have new stage directions and accents that were put in by a stage manager during the rehearsal for the first production. Today, if you see an accented word, it means that playwright wrote that word to be accented. A perfect example is, “Glengarry Glen Ross”. Go ahead and just rattle through a passage in that play and punch up or even shout the words that are accented. You’re going to give yourself a really good start by doing that. You’re going to get a really strong idea of what Mamet intended and how the character talks. The words are your map. Follow that map. And, memorize that monologue painful perfect!

Posted on April 17th, 2011

When starting a monologue, whatever emotion you may be having is absolutely appropriate.

Quickly check in and acknowledge what you’re feeling. Try this a few minutes before starting. It may go something like this: “I’m feeling kind of nervous right now. Okay, I can see why my character may be nervous. He hasn’t seen his friend in twenty years!” You may notice that once you acknowledge you’re emotion it may shift. Check in again. “Letting myself have my emotions is empowering! Wow! Now, I’m feeling excited!” However, nine out of ten actors are riddled with self doubt. (Sorry.) So, check in one more time. “I’m gonna screw up anyway. Damn! Now, I’m nervous again.” If that’s how you’re feeling, then that’s how you’re character is feeling.

Often the main concern that comes up is that if you start your monologue with a different emotion, each time you do it, it will affect the performance, the objective and everything that you had worked on in rehearsal. To dispel this fear I’d like to present the following explanation which was developed with a friend and colleague of mine who is a linguist: (Come up with your own situation and draw a parallel to a monologue you're working on.)

The Givens
1) Who are you?
-I am a temporary office worker.
2) Where are you?
-Every week I’m assigned to a different location, however, each office is so similar they might as well be the same place.

1) Where are you coming from experientially?
-I finally got up the nerve to quit my restaurant job.

1) What do you want?
-I want to make enough money to supplement my income so that I can pursue my career in the theatre.
-I want solvency.

Now ask yourself this: Does it matter what emotion you're having at the start of this work day scenario in order to go after your objective? Or, more to the point, does it matter what emotion you're having at the start of your monologue?

If you're working on changing your emotion to what you think is "right" for the monologue, you're working on the wrong thing. There are plenty of things to work on. Don't even mess with the emotions. Have the emotions, yes! Feel them deeply. But, don't ever that think what your feeling is wrong. Empower yourself by believing that whatever you are feeling is exactly how the character is feeling and is completely appropriate for the monologue. Don't deny what you really feel!

So, now.... I'd love to hear from you. What do you think about this ideology? do you think you might play with it in an audition? Please, write some comments below.

Posted on April 10th, 2011

As a Monologue Coach, I often hear actors say that they weren’t in the right place when they began their monologue. Meaning, that what they were feeling was inappropriate for the emotional reality of the character. This kind of thinking can make it very difficult to get started and often be the one thing the actor thinks about throughout the piece. Don’t deny what you are feeling. Anything you are feeling is completely appropriate to the situation your character is in.

So appropriate are your feelings that I suggest checking in with yourself before you begin. For example, I may be doing a monologue where the character is anticipating seeing a loved one that they haven’t seen in a very long time. Foolishly, I’ve made a decision that the only way the monologue will work is if I can conjure up a feeling of sheer excitement. So, I warm up the best way I know how. I jump around, smile ear to ear and laugh at myself while doing it. I think about seeing an old friend from my own life so that I can relate to the situation personally. All of this preparation worked in rehearsal, but now that I have to perform in front of people I’ve become nervous and my attempts to create a feeling of excitement and anticipation feel forced. In short, I feel like a fraud and that I’ll just look like a bad actor. Really, what I’m feeling now is scared - scared as hell that this is not going to go well at all. However, let me ask you this: Is it not appropriate to feel anxious about seeing someone you haven’t seen in a long while? Whatever emotion you may be having is absolutely appropriate.

Posted on April 4th, 2011

The funny thing about an audition is, once you’ve gotten through it, unless you get the job, you don’t ever hear from them! It may have nothing to with how your audition went. You may not have been the right type. It could be cast already. Or, it may be (dare I say it!) your ability or experience. I know, ouch! Let’s say, hope and pray that it’s not that. It's one of the other many things we have NO control over, like height or some elusive energy! Yes, I know, this may not be news to many of you. But the question is, how are you dealing with it? I used to audition so much and “move on” from so fast, that at one point, I got to an audition and headed right to the bathroom. And, lost my biscuits! I may have been pushing myself, yes; I may have been legitimately sick, but it was a wake up call. I wasn’t processing all the rejection. And, this is when I was in my hay-day and working a lot!
Today, I am always seeking and cultivating a network of good, supportive friends to help me through… well, everything. It’s important to push through, yes, and believe in your own strength, bounce back, and persevere, but you also need to have your feelings. Seems really counterintuitive to cut off our feelings as actors, huh? So, it’s about finding the balance. Sometimes I need to be gentle with myself, and sometimes I need to be tough on myself. Honestly, often times, I’m pretty tough on myself. So, take it from me: letting go of rejection and having my feelings too, is a balancing act. It’s a circus trick! And, I’ve got to put a little time into being conscious of that balance everyday. Work and rest. Find ways to laugh and enjoy life. Nobody has tiger’s blood and Adonis DNA! Don’t burn yourself out. That would be a lot of wasted talent. Find the balance.

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