The Best Thing You Can Do To Improve Your Performance Immediately!
Have you ever struggled with figuring out where to start with acting, especially when you start working on a new role, aria, art song, pop song, etc. that will be performed for an audience? You know you can’t just stand there and sing pretty whilst looking like a deer in headlights. But how do you go from notes and words on a page to an engaging performance? It is especially hard when you are learning something in a different language because you don’t have an immediate connection to the character or the music. Let’s figure it out!
What Does Monologuing Mean?
Traditionally a dramatic monologue is defined as “a part of a drama in which a single actor speaks alone; soliloquy.” However, in this section, we are mostly talking about monologuing a song. Whether your music is a solo, duet, or ensemble, we will still refer to the process as monologuing the song. Why? Essentially, we are asking you to create a dramatic monologue out of your character’s inner monologue. We take what is usually inside their head and practice communicating that by bringing it outside our head.
Day 3 of this course is mostly about monologuing a song. Before we dive into things, we will briefly touch on finding a regular dramatic monologue. We can use these for many different kinds of auditions. If you are preparing for professional auditions or training programs, having a solid dramatic monologue on hand is always a smart choice.
How do I find and choose a Dramatic Monologue
There are a lot of great resources out there to help you find a dramatic monologue. Here are some suggestions:
Note: If you are just trying to monologue a song, finding a dramatic monologue will still help you get an idea of the flow of monologues. It might get your imagination some inspiration.
How do I Monologue a Song?
Step 1: You have to have a clear understanding of the context. If you don’t know what this refers to, check out this article before doing any of the other steps.
Step 2: Complete the steps on Day 2. Especially focus on the subtext and inner-monologue portion and translating the text word for word.
Step 3: Write down what you think your character is really saying. This should be very close if not identical to your subtext.
Step 4: Make sure that you follow a logical thought progression. Inner monologue is an integral part of connecting thoughts if there are musical phrases where you don’t sing. The more logical the progression of thoughts, the easier it will be to make it sound and feel natural to better bring the audience along the thought process your character takes.
Step 5: Apply the other topics in this section.
Step 6: Memorize and work on delivering it until it is believable in both your body and voice. Use the people around you as mirrors by asking “is there any moment in this performance where you don’t believe that I mean what I am saying?”
Step 7: Match your monologue to the music. See Topic 6 in Day 3 for this step.
Step 8: At this point, you are ready to start learning your music. Once you have done this and learned your music, you are ready to make the most of a vocal coaching and dramatic coaching.
“But it takes so long! Why would I do this?”
The short answer is that it might take more time at the start of the process (especially the first few times you do it), but in the long run, it will get you a better product in less time and with fewer mistakes. The good news is that the more you do it, the faster and more intuitive it becomes.
Overgeneralization. Make what you say as unique to your character as possible. How would your character and only your character say this?
Speaking for the character and not as the character. Don’t say “my character would say…” but instead say what your character would say. When you deliver the lines of your monologue, you ARE your character. What you are saying, how you are saying it, and what your body language is doing to match what you are saying should be all the explanation we need.
Getting too complicated. Your monologue should have fewer words than the song does. The goal is to make your monologue as simple, direct, and emotionally potent as possible.
Not understanding or having thought about the context. Review the articles on context if you are struggling with this.
Describing rather than being. Don’t describe what your character means or what they would say. Say what you would say if you were this person in this particular situation.
Not making it emotional or worrying about it being correct rather than it feeling genuine to you, the performer. Don’t worry about making anyone else happy. This is for you, the performer. The audience will never hear this version of the song. Subtlety or complexity is not your friend when it comes to monologuing a song. If you have a complex idea then break it down into a bunch of simple ideas.
Not disciplining yourself to actually spend the time to do it. JUST DO IT!
Not writing it down in your score. Don’t make yourself do this more than once. Write it down. Make it so you can change it if need be.
Getting too tied to your context, not being flexible, or not leaving it open to amendment. The best phrase you can learn to develop your art is “let me try it and see what happens.” If someone gives you a suggestion, don’t take it as negative criticism. Often when someone has a suggestion, it is because they saw something in the performance that sparked their imagination and they want to see if what they came up with could make it even better.
“I don’t know.” When it comes to context and monologuing, if you don’t know then who is supposed to know? If you “don’t know” then make a decision, try it on, and if it doesn’t work make another decision. “I don’t know” just become an excuse not to do the work. If what you need is time to think then ask for the time. Don’t give up your artistic control by waiting for someone else to tell you what to do.
Exercise 1: Dramatized “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star”
Instructions: Do the process above with a simple song that you don’t have to think about musically. If you do it in a group have each person do it independently. This is always fascinating to watch.
Exercise 2: Morning Papers
Instructions: This is suggested as something to do first thing in the morning, but it can be done at any point throughout the day. Sit down for between 2-10 minutes and write without stopping. Write whatever comes to your mind. Be as repetitive, mundane, incorrect, silly, or serious as what your flow of thought is actually like. The key is not to stop or pause in writing.
Read more about it here:
Exercise 3: Take the filter off
Instructions: Find a place that you are completely alone, where no one is or could be listening. Then your job is to just start talking. Don’t think, judge, or pause to analyze. Start talking and don’t stop until 10 minutes are up. Talking out loud is important. Just thinking it won’t work near as well.
Exercise 4: Dub the world around you
Instructions: Go somewhere you can people-watch (preferably a busy place with a friend so they won’t hear what you are saying). Your objective is to act as the voice for whoever you focus on. Be the narrator of the story, the boyfriend, the grandma, the kid, or whoever else you see. Be a one-person dubbing show. The world provides the action, and you provide the text.
Other Topics in this Section
Topic 3: Permission to Act on the Impulse
Performance Project 1: Dramatic Monologue Assignment
Performance Project 2: Acting to Music Without Words