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Updated for Advanced Acting Class THR321
Very little you can find for Acting for the Camera or How to Direct Actors -- go to acting page to learn what actors must know.
Monologue is the MONO-LOGOS (Logos -- "knowledge"). And you should have it, the klnowledge of your text.
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At auditions they ask you to do a monologue. In Fundamental of Acting the midterm is a monologue. In six weeks we have to cover the distance between the text and two minutes of performance on stage. The first, the biggest problem is the text of your monologue. The better your selection is, the more difficult is to overpower it. Yes, you have to make immmortal lines by Shakespear into a "material" -- you have to be in front, but behind the text.
We start with the Monologue Breakdown. The usual "1-2-3" of dramatic composition: exposition, climax, resolution. Make another copy of your monologue, or even better, type it -- you will be re-writing the text many times. No, not the words. The stage directions. On the left put your movements, on the right -- emotions. You know, like playwrights do -- ("after a pause," "smiling" and etc.) The rule: you have to write no less stage directions for yourself than the spoken words you already got.
Oh, the painting above is Mona Lisa, the Leonardo's masterpiece. Naked. you don't paint the dress, you study the body first, the structure, something which gives forms to the visible. In our case -- the words.
The Taming of the Shrew
PETRUCHIOI will attend her here, And woo her with some spirit when she comes. Say that she rail; why then I'll tell her plain She sings as sweetly as a nightingale: Say that she frown, I'll say she looks as clear As morning roses newly wash'd with dew: Say she be mute and will not speak a word; Then I'll commend her volubility, And say she uttereth piercing eloquence: If she do bid me pack, I'll give her thanks, As though she bid me stay by her a week: If she deny to wed, I'll crave the day When I shall ask the banns and when be married. But here she comes; and now, Petruchio, speak.
Good morrow, Kate; for that's your name, I hear.
What makes it a good piece for a performer that this monologue satisfies the main prerequisite of action -- CONFLICT. What is Petruchio's objective? What is his obstacle? Does he have INNER CONFLICT? (Write your answers in your journal)
Second, the text gives an actor the ground for easy doubling: two-faced Petruchio (what he thinks and what he intends to do) turns into multiple characters. He plays Petruchio #2 and Katarina as well, comes back to his original persona and leaves again.
Establish the three floor positions:
Petruchio --- Petruchio-Actor --- Katarina
or even better, make the line of action into a triangle:
(1) Petruchio / \ / \ / \ (2) Petrucio-Actor ---- (3) Katarina
Now, select the lines of the monologue you believe belong to those three different "characters". Move into position 1, 2 or 3 with the appropriate line, see what kind of movement you got for your monologue.
Did you give all three different vocies? Different gestures? Make it big, very big. It's a comedy!
Pre-acting is a good criteria for measuring how well the Actor's Text is developed. Performance is the text.
For ground (floor) plan techniques, please, go to the directing pages. Your floor plan has to be attached to your your monologue breakdown pages.
STANISLAVSKY: FROM INSIDE TO OUTSIDE
MEYERHOLD: FROM OUTSIDE TO INSIDEActing One is a class where Method Acting is not about to work. Stanyslavsky System requires years of studies. In American university system any acting training program should count on an unterrupted long process. In "Fundamentals of Acting" I can count only on one semester. And we are result-oriented people; the progress must be seen next week. To my surprise I began to introduce Biomechanics in 121 Acting classes, and next I knew I was teaching it before I move to Method. For a student with no theatre training it's easy to understand Gesture, not Inner Gesture. Spacial expression of conflict instead of Inner Conflict. It was easier to take from somewhere imploying "From Outside to Inside" approach vs. "From Inside to Outside" Stanyslavsky's techniques.
Of course, Meyerhold is agreed that "all psychological states are determind by specific physiological processes," but he believed that "from a sequence of physical positions and situations, there araise those points of excitation which are informed with some particular emotion" ("Meyerhold on Theatre").
It natural for us to understand spacial relations before we learn time's complexity. In Monologue or even Improv assignments I began with SPACE BREAKDOWN. Horisontal (floor plan) and Vertical Levels (at least three). Instead of DS and US stage positions I ask them to treat it as a distance (conflict) levels. First with the audience. After they go through a basic text analysis with sript breakdown for pauses, changes, key words we go to it's physical expressions -- how it's done in space. Coming to DS (Closeup equivalent) indicates increase in dramatic tention. Getting up from the floor is a vertical expression of raising conflict. I direct students to treat spacial relations with the public as a prime connection. I have to introduce "The Triangle Rule" right away in my scene studies (Every action is taking place between three parties: Actor1--Spectator-Actor2).
Here's Khlestakov's monologue from "The Inspector General" by Gogol:
K Oh let me tell you! Champaign, caviar! I'm at some party every day of the week. The Canadian Foreign Minister, the French Ambassador, the English Ambassador, The German Ambassador and I play golf till we're exhausted. I'm barely able to drag myself up to my dorm... What nonsense I am talking - I forgot that I live in the mansion. You would be interested to see my reception hall in D.C. before I am even awake in the morning: there are ministers and diplomats jostling each other, bussing like bees - all you hear is bzz, bzz. Sometimes even members of the president's cabinet drop by. At one time I even ran a country. Very curious - the president had vanished, nobody knew where. Well, naturally, there was a lot of talk, "How will we manage?" "Who will replace him?" Many in the congress were eager and took it on - but as soon as they tackled it they saw that the job was too much for them. What seemed easy, but look deeper into it and it is a hell of a tough kind of job! They see there's no way anyone can manage it - so they run to me. And all at once politicians come racing, then more politicians, and more politicians... Think of it - thirty-five thousand politicians! "What's the problem?" I asked, "Sir, come and take charge of the government," they say. I must admit I was a bit taken aback. I came out in my robe, meaning to turn them down. But there, I thought... "Very well, gentlemen, I accept the post, I accept," I said, "so be it.," I said, "only with me, gentlemen, you had better look out! I won't stand for any nonsense. No, sir!" And, as a matter of fact, when I walked through the government offices you would think an earthquake had stuck - they were all trembling and shaking. Oh, I am not one to play games! Even Saadam Hussein, Castro and the United Nations are afraid of me. And well they might be! I am like that! No one gets in my way! I tell them all, "Don't teach me!" I am everywhere! Everywhere! I pop in and out of the White House. Tomorrow they're promoting me to the Chief of Staff!
(Slips and almost falls. All support him respectfully)
If we believe that Theatre is "Empty Space" and actor creats dramatic space through establishing directions, he must do it according to his character. This is Mr. K (Khlestakov)'s space; and this is how we read and relate to the character. Specific movement in space is the CHARACTERIZATION. First line of the monologue establishes K's address and target -- he's about to picture the scene which exits in his mind. And he has to visualize it for the other characters, he has to creat a new space and set. To do it, he has to operate with the audience immagination, and he constracts it in our minds he can move and live within a new "his" space. It's not empty anymore, now he is obliged to exit in this psace without violating his own rules. Of course, acting choices are for actors. But a basic structure pre-design (or at least juggested) by Gogol, and I ask them to discover it. They could follow or play against it, but they must know it. We go through an avalution of their home work. Let say, they come to class with the follow breakdown:
K Oh let me tell you! // Champaign, caviar! / I'm at some party every day of the week. / The Canadian Foreign Minister, the French Ambassador, the English Ambassador, The German Ambassador and I / play golf till we're exhausted. I'm barely able to drag myself up to my dorm... /// What nonsense I am talking / - I forgot that I live in the mansion. // You would be interested to see my reception hall in D.C. before I am even awake in the morning: / there are ministers and diplomats jostling each other, bussing like bees / - all you hear is bzz, bzz. / Sometimes even members of the president's cabinet drop by. / At one time I even ran a country. / Very curious - the president had vanished, nobody knew where. // Well, naturally, there was a lot of talk, "How will we manage?" "Who will replace him?" / Many in the congress were eager and took it on - but as soon as they tackled it they saw that the job was too much for them. / What seemed easy, / but look deeper into it // and it is a hell of a tough kind of job! / They see there's no way anyone can manage it / - so they run to me. / And all at once politicians come racing, / then more politicians, and more politicians... / Think of it - / thirty-five thousand politicians! / "What's the problem?" / I asked, / "Sir, come and take charge of the government," / they say. // I must admit / I was a bit taken aback. / I came out in my robe, / meaning to turn them down. / But there, I thought... // "Very well, gentlemen, I accept the post, I accept," / I said, "so be it.," / I said, / "only with me, gentlemen, / you had better look out! / I won't stand for any nonsense. / No, sir!" / And, as a matter of fact, / when I walked through the government offices / you would think an earthquake had stuck / - they were all trembling and shaking. // Oh, I am not one to play games! / Even Saadam Hussein, Castro and the United Nations are afraid of me. / And well they might be! / I am like that! / No one gets in my way! / I tell them all, / "Don't teach me!" / I am everywhere! / Everywhere! / I pop in and out of the White House. / Tomorrow they're promoting me to the Chief of Staff!I advice students to follow the punction first and indicate the duration of breaks (from / to ///). All the changes must be expressed in voice or space levels. The next assignment is to fill in the script changes. Again, I'm not looking for the "right" choice but a choice. Their choices must be there; we test them in class (first through Cold Readings). Basically, they are writing their own (new) stage directions -- I call it "ACTOR' SCRIPT". This "paper acting" stage. I instroduce FLOOR PLAN very early. The space must be established...
(Slips and almost falls. All support him respectfully)
(From my adaptation, 1992 Production)
act in pauses
FLOOR PLANFor more on floor plan check the Film Site.
How could I?! My brains must gone soft with this new political age! Years of my service, and not a single bureaucrat, inspector or contractor put one over on me. I've cheated the cheats and swindled the swindlers. Thieves and frauds willing to steal from their own mothers fell into my clutches. Three party bosses in a row -- I hoodwinked every one of them!
MAYOR(slapping his own face)
I just can't believe it, darling. He's engaged to our Mary.
Engaged! Engaged! Stuff your engagement! (In a frenzy) Look at me, all look at me, I want the whole world, every nation, to look at me! See what a fool the mayor has been made! (Shakes his fist at himself) Oh you idiot! Taking that jerk, that worm, for a VIP! And now he is in the air, laughing and spreading the story everywhere. He'll turn you into the laughingstock of the whole world! What's worse -- some scribbler will stick you into a comedy! That's hurts. And they'll all grin and clap. (To the audience) What are you laughing at? You, you're laughing at yourself! Ooooh! You sniveling liberals! Devil's seed! I'd tie you all in a knot, pound you all to a jelly and kick you down to hell! (Strikes out with his fist) What was there about that scatterbrain to make us take him for an investor? Nothing! Not that much! And yet everyone was suddenly yapping, "It's the millionaire! The investor! Inspector!" Who started the rumor? Who?
The addresses: (1) all main characters are on stage. (2) Of course, to himself.1 Himself-in-the past vs. Himself-in-the-present. (3) To God. (4) To Mr. K. (5) "Liberals" (human kind). (6) To the audience.2
This list could be extended and explored from within every address. More important for actor to establish some directions. We have couple vertical directions (God, Humanity), off stage addresses (Mr. K3, audience). Several areas on stage (4), such as "the group" ("them", Mayor's crowd). "His wife" (Anna). I ask my student to draw a floor plan for every monologue or scene they do in class, even if it looks like a chart.
OFFICIALS \ I / ? - MAYOR - WIFE / I \ Mr. K AUDIENCE
Where a character or a group would be position is up to you, but it must be there in order for you to create a dynamic space for this monologue. "Wife" could place on the left or right, but without designating a spot for her, you wouldn't have a direction to react. I ask my students not to move imaginary addresses during the monologue, unless it's necessary. Should Mayor's daughter be on his right, or together with her mother? After you had establish your addresses, you have to find ways to indicate them (turning to, looking at, making step toward, etc.) There are plenty of choices to be made but now actor is forced to make those choices.
Besides Mona Liza, on this page the paintings - "Judith" by Klimt (1901) and "L'Olympia" by Manet (1863)