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I work with actors prepping monologues a lot. I suggest that every actor have at least one dramatic and one comedic monologue in your back pocket ready to go at all times.
I remember a story from one of my new clients. She had gone out to Hollywood with stars in her eyes and not much else—a bad combination. She was lucky enough to have a friend get her in to see a great agent. The first thing the agent said was, “Let me see your monologue.”
She said, “I don’t have one.”
He said, “Come back when you are a real actor.” Oops! Time to get some training.
So let’s talk monologues. I am presuming that you are doing all of your basics (choosing objective, backstory, creating your reality) before you start tweaking with these tricks.
What can you do to stand out from all the others? Well, before you even open your mouth, I can tell if you are a good actor. If I don’t see you get lost in your character’s world before you start, I already know it isn’t going to happen.
Here are seven tips for delivering monologue magic.
1. Pick a monologue that is unique and they haven’t seen a thousand times before.
If you show casting directors something fresh, they’ll like you better already. If you bore them with something they have seen way too many times, you just put one nail in your coffin. And pick a monologue that you love so it turns your light on.
2. Find a “hook” to make you stand out.
It could be the monologue itself, or it might be a backstory choice or that you have lots of crazy movement, or that you have no movement and control with deep inner power. It could be your voice. A hook is anything they don’t expect. Basically, it is a classy gimmick. It is something that surprises them and makes you light up and have fun. Make something magical. A hook makes you cook!
3. Get their attention at the very beginning.
Don’t hit them in the head with it. You never want them to see the technique. For example, when you want to look great for a special occasion, you don’t want them to know that you took two hours to get ready. You want them to think that you just walked out of the shower looking like that.
Wow them at the very beginning. Surprise them. It might be the way you start with your back to them and then flip around. It could be a sound you make or an audible breath you take. Do something different; something they don’t expect, something weird. Obviously, it should go along with the interpretation of the monologue.
4. Create something magnificent.
Pretend that you are creating a tiny little special event that people would want to buy tickets to see. And then, make it look like it just accidentally happened.
5. Shift and change.
Never let the audience catch up to you! Monologues are long. You need to find motivations to shift and go different directions constantly. Imagine what the character to whom you are speaking is doing and let that push your buttons. Let your voice be flexible and more interesting.
6. Let your body say more more than your mouth does.
Don’t stand there and say lines from a dead body. Even if you are barely moving, there should be life energy through your whole body. Think of it as dance. Your body tells the story, too.
7. Always have a great ending.
The ending is the last thing they see of you. It is what they will remember most. Always add one more beat at the end after you finish talking.
And surprise them on the end. I even suggest something that sounds like a cheap trick but it actually pushes some amazing buttons. On the last line, just do the exact opposite of whatever you were just doing. So if you were screaming, whisper. If you were intense, go catatonic.
And the most important advice always: Have fun!
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