Posted on March 14th, 2020

Just coached a talented young actor (or actress, depending on how you feel about labels!) This time it was sides from a play, instead of a monologue. In the play, the character just had a strange experience and sits down to tell her friend about it. Once we figured out what had just happened previous to the scene beginning, we became a little fixated on that backstory. But, really what’s going on in a scene is, just that—What’s going on in the scene. Meaning, what is presently happening. Is the scene about this thing that just happened? Is it about how she is left feeling about it? Maybe, a little. But, what it’s really about, is who she’s talking to, and what their relationship is. Where are they? What are they doing in the moment? So, much of the backstory—the experience that got her to this point—is written in the lines. No work needed there! But, what’s going on in the moment, is where some choices need to be made. I like putting this question to my students: Are you running away from the bear, or running to the cabin door? Running from the bear, is about the past and can sometimes have a negative weight to it. Running to the cabin door, is forward thinking, and a positive choice. Think about it. Once you get to that cabin, you’ve got a fireplace and lots of pillows and whatever else comforts you. So in this scene, this student actress was able to talk about this strange thing that just happened, in a relaxed, comfortable way. She was present and connecting with her friend. And as we took a couple more goes, and did some pattern breaking exercises, she became younger and more playful, which were both appropriate for the character, and even more appropriate it really felt like she was sitting on her bed in her dorm-room talking to her roomie!

Posted on January 12th, 2019

I did a coaching recently where the actor had an audition to play a real person. He had not received the sides yet, so we worked on a bit of an interview that this real person did. Conflict is essential to any play or screenplay, so of course it follows that an audition piece should have conflict in it. Not every interview has conflict in it. Many times, the interviewer has respect for their subject and wants to get the best out of them. Occasionally, there is friction. (Get your hands on some interviews with Edward Albee. It’s like he’s two different people depending on who is interviewing him. If he likes the interviewer his answers are professional and clear and easily relatable and even applicable as advice. If he doesn’t like the interviewer his answers are absolutely mystical. He suggests that his characters speak through him and he’s just the messenger, which means he can avoid answering the questions altogether, and I believe Albee got a kick out making the interviewer squirm.) An interview without a conflict, however will not make for a good audition piece. Don’t get too caught up in mimicking the real person. I’m sure at the end of the day the casting directors do want to see what you’ve got there, but an imitation will only get you so far if you can’t show them that you have acting chops too. So, if you’ve got an hour of interview footage, look for where the interviewer is playing devil’s advocate, or bringing up someone’s criticism of the person. There should be something in there that can be used. Then work backward from that point a minute or two. That should give you something to use. In other words, fashion a monologue out of the interview that leads to a conflict, so that we see the character going through something, needing to defend himself, or using any number of tactics to deflect or combat what’s coming his way.

Posted on January 11th, 2019

When working on a scene or monologue for an audition (with or without a coach) look out for those transitions. If each beat is a new way of talking about a subject, or if a beat is a completely new subject, between the beats are transitions.
Let’s say there are two kinds of transitions: Fast and slow.
In most cases transitions should be as quick as possible. I recently worked with an actor on a monologue. We recognized that the character was smart, and eventually agreed that he was very, very smart. We noticed the faster the transitions, the smarter he seemed. And since the character’s objective was to attract the person he was talking to, the smarter he looked the more enticing he became.
If there is a situation where you feel a transition needs to be longer, where the character is contemplative, perhaps deciding what to do or say next, that transition needs to be filled – alive, even if it’s only with thought. As a matter of fact, all it takes is the thinking. Indicating the thought is unnecessary and will cheapen the work. Think the thought; don’t act it.  
All that said, you should always default to the quick transition, just as you should default to taking out all of the pauses. Coincidently (or maybe not) those pauses that your director is always harping on are often in the transitions. Always be working to get the air out of your transitions. Assume your character is at least as smart as you are. Think (don’t indicate the thinking) and think fast.
When looking for a monologue to work on, find one that changes throughout and will show different energies, with a couple of beats and therefore a couple of transitions. I’ve seen a lot of auditions where the energy is all the same. I only see one color – one thing that the actor can do. And then I’m not so sure they can do anything else. Often, a monologue is in a play to make a specific point and that means there may only be one energy. It can be a challenge finding the right one. Dig. Break everything down into beats and see if you can apply different tactics to each beat. Different tactics, equals different energies, equals a good monologue to work with.

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!

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