How to keep monologues for drama school fresh and alive? Best tips for bringing your imaginary scene partner to life, so much so that they do something unexpected in your audition?
— Anna Pryce (@AnnaPryce7) October 16, 2019
Ah, the old task of keeping your acting ‘fresh’ and ‘alive’ – one of the most important challenges when acting, unless you’re playing a corpse, of course.
It can be very difficult making your talking, walking and sitting on stage seem spontaneous night after night – particularly when you’ve been doing the same show for five years. This is what happens in long-running West End shows – when the actors start performing in drink-induced comas.
I know many actors who have been in my shows, who, after their sixth month of playing the same role, turn into what is known as an ‘acting zombie’. This is a terrible condition, and one that requires urgent medical attention from the resident director – who takes them backstage, finds a dark corner and slaps them with the script until they wake up again. Bless.
But for your drama school monologues this shouldn’t be so much of a problem – with the excitement and variety of places in which you’ll be auditioning, it certainly won’t feel like you’re just going through the same routine every time.
Actors commonly say it’s imperative that they know the speech so well that they could recite it standing up, on the loo, while swimming in the sea, or while indulging in naughty bedroom activities. This allows you, the actor, to then play with your speech, saying it differently and responding to direction without forgetting your lines. In essence, you should aim to know it so well that you feel free with it.
I chatted to some actors this week about keeping your imaginary partner alive. Most of them said the trick is to play the scene many times with an actual partner – so your reactions are truthful when doing it as a monologue – and you can always remember how your partner behaved. However, don’t get stuck playing the speech in one specific direction – be flexible with where your scene partner is standing –maybe even getting them to ‘move’ in your mind. This avoids performing the speech to just one spot.
Many actors say the best thing is to imagine the audition panel is your scene partner, allowing you to say the speech to the people auditioning you. This can be challenging, particularly if the panel members aren’t very attractive, but it is impressive and puts you in direct contact with them. As a panel member, I always find that particularly engaging, because it directly involves us, and makes us feel part of your performance. Also, don’t be afraid of eye contact. It draws us into your speech.
Of course, saying all that, if you’re not feeling particularly imaginative, you could just get a life-size cardboard cut-out of your scene partner and take that into the audition instead. Just be careful they don’t out-act you, dear.