Sunday, September 24, 2006

Unpacking a Monologue

Here is a neat trick!

Every now and then actors have to go fishing for a monologue to perform, for auditions or acting class or what have you. This can lead to a funny sort of desperation. There's not a whole lot of really good monologues to be found in plays, and the ones that do exist tend to be way over done (if I ever here that stupid "to the moon and back again" speech, I'll just go nuts!) Eventually the actor starts eyeballing dialogue that is almost a monologue. The actor takes all the lines of Character #1, omits the lines of Character #2, fudges a few words to cover any awkward, jarring transitions in the resulting monologue and WHAMMO! Instant monologue.

Well, you can do the exact opposite as a playwright. Start with a good monologue and turn it into dialogue!

When I've done this, it's been for the very good reason that theatre can easily become static: talking heads, arbitrary blocking, and a whole lot of nothing going on on stage. To an audience inundated with television and film, sitting in a cold dark room listening to Joe Actor ramble on about the time he saw his dad shoot the horses (or whatever) can be interminable! Long monologues can be as difficult to perform as they are to watch.

The push and pull of conversation can turn a one-sided dull-fest into dynamic, engaging story-telling. At least, that's my theory. Let me put my own neck on the chopping block, and we'll see if my theory is born out in fact. Here's a rough draft of Melanie's confession from my play Torrid Affaire:

MELANIE: Nathan and I want different things. (pause) That's bullshit. Like saying "creative differences." We spent so much time on the road, playing shitholes. Shitholes for a cut of the door and the occasional free drink. It got to the point where I had to drive the van, because Nathan and the guys were so fucked-up. I had to stay sober because no one else would. Yeah, I know. Wah. Poor Melanie. But believe me ... I was holding that band together all through Peoria, Chicago, Waukeegan, Milwaukee; up to Canada and back. I was the den mother while my boyfriend and my bandmates lived their mockery of a rock and roll lifestyle for nine months.
This goes on for a full page. Yikes!

Now here's the version in the final script, with sequitur interjections by the other characters:
MELANIE: I’m glad never got married.

MOLLY: What happened?

MELANIE: Nathan and I want different things. (pause) That’s bullshit.
Like saying “creative differences.”

MOLLY: You had a band together. You
were real good.

MELANIE: We spent so much time on the road, playing shitholes. For a cut of the door and the occasional free drink. I had to stay sober because no one else would. Yeah I know. Wah. Poor Melanie. But believe me . . . I was holding that band together all through Illinois, Wisconsin, up to Canada and back. I was the den mother while my boyfriend and my bandmates lived their mockery of a rock and roll lifestyle for nine months.

CHARLENE: Unbelievable.
(You may note that I made some other edits in Melanie's speech. There comes a point where I go through a draft of the script and start distilling things down. "Peoria, Chicago, Waukeegan, Milwaukee; up to Canada and back" becomes "Illinois, Wisconsin, up to Canada and back." This is difficult for me to do, but I'm getting better at it.)

The thing to do when unpacking a monologue is to find points where you can insert prompts from the other characters: Questions, acknowledgements, comments, whatever. They just have to be sequitur. In other words, they can't be random or distracting. They must contribute to the story continuing on. These prompts can sometimes be taken from the monologue itself.

In monologue, Sally says "Five years ago I divorced my husband and ran away with a circus midget named arthur."

The dialogue goes like this:
SALLY: Five years ago ...
BARBARA: ... You divorced Dan.
SALLY: Yeah.
BARBARA: And you ran away with ... what was that circus midget's name?
Sally: Arthur.
I know this seems pretty cheesey, but it works!

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Coming Attractions

I have a few entries to wrap up and post here, all relating to my own theories on playwriting. I will deal with plotting, practical concerns, and something I like to call "dialogueing."

I discovered the word "metatheatre" today. It's funny how you can formulate your own ideas and stir them around in the ol' mental cauldron and one day you find out there are others who have been working from the same spellbook -- and these others are much further along in their workings. I Googled the term "metatheatre" after reflecting on some of my pet theories and ideas regarding interactive theatre and how the prefix "meta-" added to the word "theatre" would describe what I was envisioning. Lo and behold, there are many who have gone before.

Expect some pontificating on the subject of metatheatre in the near future.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Building a Mailing List

It's been a little while since I've updated this blog. I've been very self-involved, working on my own actor and dancer stuff.

I knew that emails and Evites weren't sufficient promotion for our events. I knew that industry postcards were a step in the right direction, but we still weren't getting the attendance we wanted. It is to that end that I set out to collect mailing addresses from all the people I did plays with over the past year. I don't recall whether or not I hit up the filmmakers and cast from short films for their addys. I figure I can build my own mailing list and postcard them so they have a physical reminder of our events instead of a notice that hovers around in cyberspace.

Here's what's funny about this project: different people have different lags in their communication. I asked for mailing addresses nearly one month ago. I got a chunk the first week and they tapered off after that. I did get another one three days ago, even though I sent out the notice a month ago. I'm sure I'll receive addresses here and there for a while. If some of these people are so busy that it takes them a month to get back to my email about a mailing addy, how long did it take them to get around to reading my show emails?

I'm not all finger-pointy here. I'm also a guilty dog. I read an email from a Las Vegas friend a little over a week ago. She said she was coming to town for some number of days and wanted to get together with friends in the area. I didn't write anything down from the email so I still haven't contacted her and I have no idea when she's leaving. That information is still in cyberspace.

I've been told by my dance teachers that I'm doing two performances in December. I'm performing belly dance with the rest of my class at a restaurant in Hollywood at the beginning of that month, and I'm pole dancing with my other classmates later in the month in West Hollywood. My plan is to shoot special postcard pics for the pole event (since I'm a better pole dancer than belly dancer) and send out a couple mailings of those before that event. I'll probably tack a blurb on the front or back of the postcard that I'm belly dancing elsewhere at another time. I'll still use the emails and Evites, but we'll see how this affects the attendance. Then I can apply it to Sonny marketing when we get there.