Working On Your Monologue: Given Circumstances

This post picks us up from Finding Your Monologue at the start of this monologue lesson series.  Today, we will discuss Given Circumstances.

By now you have read through a bunch of monologues over a period of time and you’ve come upon one that you finally feel you connect with.

There are always many roads you can take with your approach once you are committed to your monologue.  It truly comes down to a deep understanding of the humanity involved with your character and the given circumstances you are developing.

For purposes of this monologue series, let us continue on with Actress Anne and choose a dramatic monologue piece entitled, “Protective Shield“.

Take a moment and give the monologue a read, therefore we are on the same page together as we proceed.

What were your first impressions of the piece?  What struck you?

Acting is about following your impulses and trusting those impulses along your monologue journey.  This pertains to many facets of acting in general, not just your monologue.  The only true way to know which way to move forward is to see what comes to you by way of your intuition.

So, let’s travel through our intuition together now for fun.

Monologue Analysis

In all roles you play as an actor you will find yourself always playing one specific role in all of them…that of the investigator.

An actor investigates by searching for clues in order to bring about a fully working puzzle of life.

Similar to how a writer creates, piecing together elements of a scene by invention of the imagination, so too does the actor invent by testing, imagining and experimenting.

The major difference is where the writer creates from nothing, the actor creates from what can be viewed as a blueprint.  The blueprint is the script or play and in this case, a monologue.

An architect builds a building from a blueprint.  The blueprint is the guide for the construction.

The actor is an architect and uses the blueprint as a guide for his/her interpretation.

There will be a multitude of questions you will ask yourself as you work on your monologue.  Further down this post we provide for 5 points to ask yourself, as a good rule of thumb.

Let’s examine the next steps Actress Anne takes in order to weave together her monologue and observe from her what she does as her monologue process unfolds.

Actress Anne Develops the Given Circumstances

Monologue Breakdown and Analyses for Actors

Having read the monologue and liking it, Anne is instantly struck by the inner conflict of the character Rita.  She realizes that although Rita is talking about how she wishes she was more vulnerable, she also notices that she is in fact being vulnerable by saying she’s not.  Rita is, in point of fact, opening up a private area of her life to a friend.

Hmmm, maybe this isn’t just any friend…maybe it’s a test to see how this friend responds.  Maybe Rita is opening up without realizing that she is because it’s such an important need for her that it leaks out subconsciously.

What brought Rita to this place of saying anything to this friend to begin with?

But what about this whole inner conflict thing?  On one hand Rita has a deep need to want to have closer relationships with people she cares about but yet on the other there is a deliberate pull back for fear of getting emotionally wounded…again.

What happened in Rita’s past that makes her afraid to have meaningful relationships in her life?  How long has this conflict been going on?  What has it done to Rita’s social life?  What was Rita like prior to whatever incident took place prior to how she functions now as a person with people?

Such questions are limitless and will come about from your own curiosities.  Do not be weary of the rabbit hole.  Venture through it and see what discoveries you make.  Some may stick with you and deepen over time, others will fall by the wayside.

When you have such questions instinctually taking place within you, let them play on their own.  You aren’t in this to have the correct answer.  There are no correct answers, only truthful responses.

Don’t overanalyze into thinking things are right or wrong.  Again, these are play questions that will rise in you that will give you pause and contemplation to help you understand your character’s plight.

At this stage your questions will hold more value to you as an actor than the answers.

At this stage work in maybes.  Maybe Rita had a boyfriend that broke her heart.  Maybe Rita lost a Grandfather that she was close to and has never fully gotten over it, maybe, maybe and maybe…let it play on you.

You don’t need to rush and fill in the answers.  Acting is not an exam.  It is better to explore and try ideas out over time and slowly lock in concrete creative choices that you can give yourself over to wholeheartedly.

As you weigh your imaginative questions for yourself, continue to read your monologue over again.  Read it over with such thoughts and let it play on you.

Find the connections in yourself.  Where in your own life have you been less vulnerable and wish you were?  When did you show someone less love then they deserved?

Find the connection between yourself and your character.

If you see that there are not so many similarities between you and your role, which is to be expected, you can find those connections by creating imaginary circumstances for yourself in your own life.

What would cause you to be extremely cautious to be more trusting with people in your life?

Such questions will help you identify with your character, right or wrong, villain or hero and will deepen your monologue in your heart.

The actor slowly bleeds into their character and the character slowly bleeds into the actor, until the two human beings come together in unison and form one entity.

This magic happens over time as you continue to ask questions and work on your monologue.

5 Points for Given Circumstances

To help you further, review some of the Given Circumstance Questions you may ask yourself based on the monologue you’ve selected to work on.

To remember them, you can also simply call it the 5 W’s.  The idea is to help stir your imagination by asking the following questions:

  • WHO is your character?  Name, age, desires, passions, needs, allies and enemies, profession, physical attributes, education, class in society, religious beliefs and more.  Who are you speaking to?  The way in which you speak to your mother will be different than the way you speak to the person working behind the counter at a retail shop.
  • WHAT is the inner conflict of your character in the monologue?  What is their need?  Objective?  Obstacle?
  • WHEN time of day, what time of year does your monologue take place?  If this is a period piece, you will need to learn about that point of history in time, the mannerisms, clothing ect.
  • WHERE are you located?  Does your monologue take place outdoors or indoors?  Be as specific as you possibly can.  A monologue taking place on top of a mountain will create different sensations for you versus taking place inside a sauna.
  • WHY do you feel your character is talking about what they are talking about and to whom?

The given circumstances of a monologue you work on go beyond the six questions mentioned above as you have seen earlier in this article with Actress Anne.

However, the 5 points do provide for you a technique to draw upon to get things in motion as you develop your monologue piece.

To get started you can use these six principles to start tunneling through your work but as you progress you will naturally go much further as you uncover new truths along your path that go beyond the 5 points shared here.

Final Thoughts

This closes Part 2 of Working on Your Monologue: Given Circumstances.

Developing the given circumstances of your monologue is one of the most crucial aspects of deepening and understanding your characters situation more fully.

The more you not only comprehend exactly what is going on within the world of your character, the more specific choices you will make based on objectives, obstacles, need and wants, actions and more things we will cover in our upcoming posts to this series.

Remember, it’s about connecting and understanding the life your character lives in.  It is your responsibility to imagine yourself in their shoes and find their true voice.

Asking an abundance of questions as they occur to you is a strong way to get started.  Using the 5 W’s is a good guide to get you thinking about the truth of your monologue.

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