Making Friends with Monologues

Making Friends with Monologues

If you wanted to frighten a group of actors with something they’d find ghastly and dreadful, you could turn to vampires, zombies, or ghosts. Or you could just tell them to prepare a monologue audition. For actors, it seems, monologues and zombies have much in common: You hear a lot about them, but they are remarkably hard to find; it’s not exactly clear what to do with them if you do happen to stumble upon one; and they’re awful and scary, so it’s best to avoid them altogether if at all possible. That all sounds about right to me when it comes to the undead, but not so much when it comes to monologues. In fact, if you have any thoughts at all about pursuing an acting career, you might as well decide right now to make friends with them – monologues, not the undead – because I assure you they exist, I promise you they can be managed, and you can bet your bottom dollar that they can’t be avoided. So, to your question, “How and where do I find monologues and what do I do with them once I have them?” I offer the following answers… There are no shortage of books and websites designed to deliver the perfect monologue right into your hands. DO NOT USE THEM! (Actually you can use them, but not as you might expect. We’ll get to that point last.) You know those pills they advertise late at night that promise to help you lose 20 pounds in a day or two without making any changes to your diet? Monologue books are...
Race, Oscar, Race!

Race, Oscar, Race!

There has been quite a stir in entertainment news lately as one influential actor after another tweets, or posts, their outrage at the lily-white list of Best Actor contenders that was revealed during last week’s Oscar nomination announcements. In short order the morning news show hosts and afternoon talk show divas weighed in, adding to the fray and bolstering the online grumbling with a loud and growing number of sound bites, all of which set about fanning ever so swiftly the fires of righteous indignation. That got me to thinking. It got me to thinking about the capricious way that Oscar has been behaving for a number of years now and how his wanton behavior is tarnishing his once good name. And that got me to thinking about this true, perhaps unpopular point: Oscar slights are not a race issue so much as they are an only-the-mighty-can-win issue, and while it might be a good thing to shed some light on the inequity, I don’t think it’s a good thing to do it in the name of racial inequity. Look, anyone who still thinks the Oscars are an accurate measure of the past year’s best work in film is entirely ingenuous. Everyone knows why the big tent-pole pictures – you know, the ones the studios count on to garner Oscar buzz and bring home the gold – are not released until December. And anyone who’s ever picked up a BackStage or Variety after New Year’s Eve knows that a full-on publicity attack in the form of full-page ads lies waiting inside. “For Your Consideration…” Small budget? Small chance. No...
Thoughts for the Aspiring Performer That Are Practical, Kind, and True

Thoughts for the Aspiring Performer That Are Practical, Kind, and True

First published on LinkedIn Pulse A fanciful dreamer can imagine a life as a performer, but it takes a bold inclination to make it happen. I myself was that way bent at a very early age, and as an acting teacher and coach I have traveled alongside countless students as they have embarked on the same path. But while performing hopefuls often trumpet their red-hot passion, as if that is somehow qualification enough for the job, the truth is that all the desire, yearning, and passion in the world are nowhere near sufficient to help anyone successfully negotiate the incessant and varied demands that a life in the arts places on you. If simply reading that disheartens or discourages you, then you must seriously reevaluate your career goals. If, on the other hand, you are already well prepared to stare down the obstacles you will face as you pursue that goal, then what follows will shed some light on what to expect and what you can do to enhance your chances of success. First: Don’t be a sparkler! Dreaming of a life as an actor, dancer, singer, comedian can be intoxicating, and fill your head with unreal expectations and glorified notions of what your life might be. When I opened my first acting studio, I was continually thrilled and invigorated by the ardently passionate students that came through my door. Some of them were fiercely determined and set to work like industrious ants. But many were less substance than show. Like 4th of July sparklers, they burned hot and bright for awhile, crackling loudly about being “all in” for...
Objectives: The Key to Grounding Yourself on Stage – Part 1

Objectives: The Key to Grounding Yourself on Stage – Part 1

This article originally appeared on LinkedIn Pulse Great! You read my previous article Verisimilitude: The Key to Good Acting, you understood that the only way for you, as an actor, to bring truthfulness to the stage is for you, as a character, to pursue wants on stage, and you felt ready to get going. Enthusiastically you grabbed a scene you had in mind, sat down to start figuring out your wants, and then came to a screeching halt as you realized you had no idea what to do. Don’t worry. I’ve got you covered. That’s why today’s article is about how to find and create wants for the characters you play on stage, and the ways in which those wants, or objectives, must differ from the wants in your real life. Let’s start with the differences first. You begin every day by pursuing a want. You may not realize it, but that is because most daily wants take no effort to conceive, coming instead from intuition and routine. Perhaps you start by wanting to get a drink to satisfy your thirst and then move on to the more complicated want of getting your kids to school on time. As long as everyone and everything around you cooperates, you accomplish what you want with minimal hassle and life is good. But imagine watching a scene in which someone gets their delightfully obliging children ready for school…..Zzzzzzzzz! (How many obliging children do you see on reality TV?!?) This sets up the two fundamental differences that exist between wants in real life and objectives on stage: First, objectives will not come to...
Objectives: The Key to Grounding Yourself on Stage – Part 2

Objectives: The Key to Grounding Yourself on Stage – Part 2

This article originally appeared on LinkedIn Pulse So, did you rush right over to the library after reading Part 1 of this article, grab a copy of Death of a Salesman, find a juicy scene, and try to formulate an objective for it? No?!? Oh, that’s okay. (I was optimistic enough to believe you would, but experienced enough to know that you probably wouldn’t. Although if you did give it a whirl, I would love to see what you came up with.) Either way, today’s post is going to give you more of the specific information you need to be able to start coming up with strong, playable objectives on your own, so let’s roll up our sleeves and begin. First, let’s recap: Objectives are actions (verbs) that you, the actor, choose to play in any given scene. I told you they should be measurable, achievable (not too easily), and directed at your partner(s) in the scene. Let’s add 3 more qualities: They must be specific! So… “To convince Crystal that we don’t belong together” rather than… “To communicate openly with Crystal.” The first one is measurable; the second one is not. They must be expressed in positive terms because saying what you do not want to do does not make clear what you do want to do. In other words, you can say your objective is “To avoid making Bob angry,” but you cannot say “To not piss Bob off.” They must always be formulated using words that you like or that get you going. “To avoid making Bob angry,” “To keep Bob from exploding,” and “To prevent Bob...
To BFA or Not To BFA… That Is the Question!

To BFA or Not To BFA… That Is the Question!

Every year as summer greenery gives way to autumn polychrome, high school seniors across the country begin the panicked and puzzling process of applying to college. For those students considering – or intent on – pursuing a performance degree, the process becomes even more daunting; in addition to writing stellar essays and applications, they must select, memorize, and prepare stellar audition material as well. No wonder their stress levels are so high! The process is not a walk in the park for college admissions officers or BFA program auditors either. The quality and quantity of applicants increases every year, and selecting from among the many those few who seem to hold the promise of best fitting in to their program is also a daunting process…and a flawed one too. But since that is how it is done, applicants should be actively mindful and keenly aware that being offered a slot in a program is, indeed, about fit as least as much as it is about talent, which means that even stellar grades and brilliant auditions are not enough to guarantee you a spot. (For more insight on this subject in general, read my article entitled The 5 Audition Tips You Absolutely Want to Know!) Bemoaning this fact neither changes nor helps it, so don’t. Instead, let this insight guide you in plotting a course of action that is well suited to achieving your unique goals. Here are some specific points to keep in mind: There is no such thing as a “safety” BFA program. You could deliver the best audition anyone has ever seen and still not be offered a...