Monologue Fear exists but it doesn’t have to. If you are an actor that gets anxiety whenever you have to perform a monologue, then this Monologue 101 is for you. I’m going to provide some ways for you to handle your nerves.
It’s important to understand that if your nerves are making themselves known to you, that is actually a good thing. It means you care about the work you’re doing. That’s not to say if you aren’t getting nervous that your acting work means any less. Acknowledging the fact that you care about the work you do, is obviously a positive thing to keep in mind in the first place.
Why are you getting nervous to begin with? You are getting nervous because you are looking at the so called “largeness” of the monologue. When you sit down to eat a steak, you don’t take the entire steak in your mouth and swallow it whole, right? Instead, you cut it into smaller pieces in order to chew it and then swallow the food. The same theory applies here with your monologue. Rather than trying to swallow the entire monologue, break it down by cutting it into smaller pieces.
Are you with me so far?
The way you break your monologue down is strategic but simple. You want to give yourself guideposts. A guidepost is a change or a beat in the monologue.
I can’t keep helping you, Tom. This has been going on now for two years and your Mother and I are dipping into our savings and pretty soon we’re not going to have anything left. [BEAT] I remember when I was twenty-seven and became a father for the first time.
Do you see the beat? That is where the monologue shifts. This shift is a new thought, a new focus for your character, but it’s there…it’s a different wave for you to ride on inside the entirety of the monologue ocean.
So, you look at your monologue and each time you see a different movement, mark it down in your script. Give it a number (1,2,3) or a letter (a,b,c) and when you are done, examine the monologue and draw a line wherever you’ve added a beat. This way each beat is separated from the other.
This provides for you an easier way to navigate through your monologue one piece at a time without overwhelming yourself. You may have a total of 4 Beats. Knowing this will give you some inner calm because you are no longer looking at the entire monologue. You know inside yourself that you have only those few points to hit and all you have to focus on is one point at a time. All the points are connected but each point serves you as a guidepost along your monologue journey.
Which brings me to my next idea for you. Now that you have your monologue beats marked. The next important element to keeping your nerves in check is simply your concentration. When you are concentrated, your nerves become secondary because you are no longer focusing on being nervous but are focused on what your character is doing. Focus on the doing of what your character is involved in. Is he/she making dinner? Than thats what you should be focusing on…making dinner. Is your character putting on their shoes? Than that is what you should be focusing on…putting on your shoes. The circumstances of the scene in which you are putting on your shoes or making dinner will affect the how of what you are doing but that is another topic for discussion. Right now, I only want you to be aware of the focusing on the doing of something in order for you to alleviate any sort of nerves that creep up on you. Again, the concentrating on the doing of something will help remove the concentration on your nerves.
Concentration and relaxation do go hand in hand. Give yourself a few moments of conscientious breathing, sort of like a small dose of meditation. Breathe in deeply and exhale slowly, combined with some minor physical stretching, all done within 5 minutes time and you are good to go. That’s all you need to do. Don’t get caught up in spending hours of burning your energy in order to relax because by the time you get to perform your monologue, you are reaching at straws. Keep it simple and targeted. A few minutes of breathing and loosening up will suffice to give you some calm and focus.
Monologue Breakdown, Concentration and Relaxation. Having just those three elements will help you do what you need to do as an actor, without getting in your own way.
One last thing to keep in mind is that a monologue is a wonderful opportunity for you to perform for someone, whether it be in a play, movie or at an audition.
Go for it and good luck.