Been practicing my monologue this weekend. I have a 3-hour one-on-one session with an agent on Tuesday. I know we’ll be doing on-camera stuff and hopefully some commercial copy, but I just want to be prepared in case she asks me to do a monologue.
I have a few, but my favorite is the one I wrote. It’s called, “I’m Not a Lesbian.” Surprisingly, it’s comedic. Never thought I’d write a comedic monologue. Then again, I definitely never thought I would even perform one. But that’s what I had to do as a member of the Actor’s Project NYC.
I come across the audition on one of my acting sites. It’s a group audition, in front of about 15 or 20 people. All we have to do is perform a comedic monologue. I don’t have anything comedic and it’s short notice, so I stick with a dramatic one – an excerpt from David Mamet’s Oleana. It’s enough to get an invite into the group. I feel pretty good about it, until I see a lot of the people from my audition at the first class. But once I see people get up and start performing, I feel like almost everyone is better than me. Or they at least know what they’re doing.
I’m no theatre actress. All the best actors, in my opinion, start in theater (maybe not all of them). I don’t feel comfortable here. Which is why I auditioned. I want to get out of my comfort zone. I don’t think I’ll be great, but I want to know I can do it. The most difficult thing is projection. I’m used to talking to a camera. Here, my voice needs to reach the back of the room without yelling. It’s harder than it sounds. Everything has to be bigger. Your gestures, your facial expressions, your voice. I’m told the opposite in front of the camera – less is more.
The class is about four or so months long, with meetings at least once a week. In the first class you are given a monologue – usually you can choose from two. You get up and do a cold read in front of the class, and are then given notes. As the weeks go on, your classmates are called on for feedback as well. It’s a safe place, so most people will at least compliment something you did before criticizing you. I like the criticism. At the end of all this is a show. Technically, I believe, it’s considered off-off broadway. Everyone sits on the stage and one-by-one, walk to center stage and perform.
I was with the Actor’s Project for three seasons. The first season is the worst. I hate my monologue. It’s really short, and I can’t get comfortable with it. Oddly enough, it’s about being a lesbian. The gist of it is, I’m breaking up with my boyfriend, and in the last line you find it’s because he’s not a woman.
Bobby is in charge of all this – he’s the director. Bobby is great. Jovial, friendly, funny, direct, honest, helpful. He tells it to you straight without being mean about it. He really helps me with it. “You don’t have to try to make it funny. Just make it real.” I can do that. I try to make it really real. I go complete opposite spectrum and try to be so serious and so upset that I’m breaking up with my boyfriend. This proves to be even more difficult. One class, I was so in my head. I was so nervous. When I got up in front of the class, I tried to just get into it, but as soon as I started, I couldn’t wait for it to be over. The whole time I was thinking about the class looking at me and how shitty I was doing and how bad I felt for myself. It was the most mortifying thing. And my sweet, kind director let me have it. He said it was horrible. He said a lot of things. That, combined with how I felt anyway, led me to break down in front of the entire class. I was a mess. My first show and I hate my monologue. As if I’m not already petrified enough to perform on stage.
But Bobby helps me with it. “Don’t make it so, so serious. Still have fun with it.” I do. Or I try. I still don’t like it, but I make the best of it. I’m sure a lot of actors don’t like everything they do, but they make themselves like it. It’s not about you; it’s about the character.
That first show, I’m a wreck. Mike wants to come – I say no. It’s way easier to act in front of strangers than in front of people you know. But here’s another thing – this first season I started in New York and then moved to Hoboken. My last two weeks in New York were spent living with Aunt Jackie (that’s a story for another blog). She knew about my classes and my practices and of course, she wanted to come. I couldn’t tell her no. So fine. Aunt Jackie, Mike, and my roommates can come (I think just Jess and Courtney). I practice in front of Mike and find that as scary as it is to practice in front of people you know, it makes you way better prepared for the real thing.
It still ends up being very scary, but I get through it OK. And honestly, it’s really nice afterwards to walk out and have friends waiting for me. I even think Jess got me flowers – she’s sweet like that. It may not have been the best experience, but I was looking forward to my second season. A new monologue, a clean slate.
This one is way more fun. I’m a crazy person. Bobby helps a lot with this one – I had a one-on-one session with him and he and helped me with the physicality of it. Just standing still is boring. Plus, the more I move around the less nervous I am. I let more people attend this one – because I’m more proud of it. Christine comes, plus Mike and my roommates again, and Aunt Jackie.
All of the monologues in the shows are original. Many of them are written by Bobby, but some are by the actors themselves. I had an idea for this monologue for a really long time, but I couldn’t get it on paper. Finally, it just comes flowing out of me, and I have one written. I ask Bobby if I can use it – he reads it and then has me read it in front of the class. Gives me the OK, but says it’s way too long – have to cut it down. Ryan Woodle helps me a lot with the editing (this is what I did while working at Liberty Bar). Bobby, again, helps me with the physicality, and one class has the brilliant idea that I perform it drunk. I was nervous I wouldn’t be able to do it, but surprisingly (or unsurprisingly), it comes very easy to me.
Now I’m excited to perform. Now I actually want people to come. I send out an email to my friends at home and tell them about it. It’s that simple – they all plan a day trip to the city to see me perform. Even Mary Kay comes. Everyone from Liberty comes. Sisters, Mike, roommates. Ryan’s there, laughing loudly at every single performer – he’s so nice. It’s the best. I have so much fun.
None of my friends from home had seen me act before – neither had my sisters. It was exhilarating and scary – the two emotions that pretty much always sum up my acting experiences. I realized afterwards, while drinking a beer at the bar next door, that I didn’t need my friends or my family to tell me I did great or any of that. I just had to feel this way and know that I’m doing what I want to do. So I’ll just keep doing it.
*Black Eyed Peas