Monday, January 26, 2015

Analyzing Monologues and Tips On Performing

I am going to do a different kind of monologue today. This monologue is going to explain my thought process when I write a scene as well as my thought process when I coach an actor to perform it for an audience. 

Let's take a look at a dramatic monologue:

Oh but you are so perfect! You take every opportunity to tell me when I am wrong! You think I can't make decisions on my own! That I'm going to somehow end up on the street without daddy there to tell me how I fucked up.
Did you ever stop to think that maybe you don't have life nailed down the way you think you do? I mean, you know what they say about glass houses right?
You sit there every day, judging me. I come to you for help and all I get are those eyes, probing me. Have you ever looked at yourself? Asked yourself...
What the hell am I doing here? I mean, if the only purpose of life is to keep on living. To wake up in the morning, eat, sleep, repeat, then why do it!
Look. Will you do me a favor? Go out with me today. Just trust me, we’ll just, go for a walk or something. Down at the park. Just you and me. You don’t have to talk to anyone but me and hell. Maybe you’ll get a tan.

What do you say? Will you come?

My thoughts on an effective monologue and an effective performance are kind of one in the same. In order to understand a monologue you must understand the audience and how they will react to a given written word once performed.

I think a common mistake by actors is they see a given monologue and they believe that it is one note. I see good actors give an otherwise boring yet thoroughly convincing performance simply because they do not understand that they are not performing for the camera, but instead, the audience. They do not understand the emotional arc and how to manipulate their audience both physically and emotionally.

Now I know what you may be saying. "No shit Sherlock." You say that, yet you may be thinking this is simpler than it is. "Just act good." Please, it's not that simple.

A monologue is supposed to have an emotional arc, whether that arc be a build up to a fall, or a frantic roller-coaster of emotion with many dips and many highs and devastating lows.

Let's walk through an example real quick:

Oh but you are so perfect! You take every opportunity to tell me when I am wrong! You think I can't make decisions on my own! That I'm going to somehow end up on the street without daddy there to tell me how I fucked up. 

Anger is a powerful emotion. It has impact on you, the person you are angry with, as well as the people around you who are not even involved in the conversation. Ask yourself what happens when you yell at someone. What do they do? 

Most back away, reel back. Especially if you catch them off guard. So if you are in the audience, or behind a desk at a casting, and someone makes you reel back, surprised, that's powerful. You make them take notice. You shake them out of the mundane, day to day, one millionth: "I'm so sad, daddy why don't you like me." Monologues they hear every day. 

I'm not going to be so bold as to say they don't see anger but when you can command their attention the whole way through by taking them on an emotional journey, then you have done your job. The next stop on the journey is the calming stage. You are coming down off your anger now, because you realize you aren't mad at him. You feel bad for him, but there is still some anger there and you can't just let go of it totally.

Did you ever stop to think that maybe you don't have life nailed down the way you think you do? I mean, you know what they say about glass houses right?
You sit there every day, judging me. I come to you for help and all I get are those eyes, probing me. Have you ever looked at yourself? Asked yourself...

What happens when you whisper? When you speak low. People come forward, they lean in so they can hear what you have to say. You have their attention now only because you started off so explosively. Let's rate our anger on a scale of 1-10. A 1 is slightly irritated. A ten is spitting mad, your face red and crumpled. In the beginning you are at about an 8, a 9 if you are brave but by the time you get to calming, you have slowly brought your anger down to a five. When you get to the end of the calming state, you should be somewhere along the lines of a 3 to a 1.

In transit between these feelings should be a moment of silence. A moment of reflection for your character. Time to think about what you are going to say. 

What this moment really is, is time for you to gather your emotion for the next scene. Whether you use the Meisner technique, or you pull your emotions from an event or person in your past, this is your moment to gather it.

Surprise anger:
What the hell am I doing here? I mean, if the only purpose of life is to keep on living. To wake up in the morning, eat, sleep, repeat, then why do it!

So now that our audience is leaning in to hear what we have to say, we hit them in the face with a 6 maybe a 7 if you can get there on the anger scale again. Once again you have them reeling back emotionally from the onslaught you are hitting them with. Once again, you are slowly bringing all of this anger down to the moment of emotional bareness. Here is the finale. 
So while you are working your way through the anger scale, tears should be being brought forth. In order to do this, your anger must be about something real. Something or someone from your life that you can associate to this. Once the tears start coming , let them flow. Do not try to control it. Sob if you have to. Many people try to control the emotion. Do not. Allow the emotion to control you.
Your goal is emotional bareness.

I get sad watching you. Sitting there, watching the world pass by in fucking… 

Emotion has you chocked up, tripping over your words. Look for elipses. They are either lapses in the characters train of thought, or they are tripping themselves up.

Sound bites, on the news, while the real world is out there happening every day without you. All this time. All this pain. Just avoiding life.

This is the moment of sincerity of emotion. You have about 10 seconds max to transition from anger, to sadness. Preferably with tears. Sadness is equal to anger in a lot of ways. Anger is an expression of hopelessness at times. The hopelessness in this case of watching someone you love waste away. Wasting the potential of life because they feel they are incapable of doing anything worthwhile.

Every point in this scene should be emphasized. Pauses used to gather thoughts and emotions should be inserted to increase the tension. When you pause between thoughts, what does the audience do? They listen, they lean in. They wait, impatient, for the next word. Use that impatience to increase the tension. The question that this peice asks of the viewer is: Will the characters come to understand and accept each other for their flaws... Well, will they? That depends on you. Depends on how you chose to play the next part.

So, for sake of argument, let's say that while you are angry, the sadness should show through. The voice should be calling out in anger, but the face should show the despair you feel over feeling helpless.

What is the audience doing? If we have taken them on this roller-coaster ride, they should be right there with us, wanting to share in our sadness.

At the end of this scene we have a moment to think once again. To wipe our tears, maybe even laugh at ourselves. Look at the mess we've mad of ourselves. We haven't cried like this since we were kids. You take a deep breath and look at the man, wasting away and say:

Look. Will you do me a favor? Go out with me today. Just trust me, we’ll just, go for a walk or something. Down at the park. Just you and me. You don’t have to talk to anyone but me and hell. Maybe you’ll get a tan.

What do you say? Will you come?

You have just taken your audience on a journey. Led them through a story that has an end. A complete three act within just a snippet of time. They still have questions. What did the father say? Did they go for their walk? Did they come to understand each other?

These questions are good, it shows they were paying attention.

So what is essential to a good performance? A knowledge of how the audience will react when confronted by a particular sound, volume, or emotional cue. How do you sharpen this knowledge?

That will be a topic for next time.

I hope you enjoyed this entry and that this helped open your mind a little.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Knock Out! Part One - Novella

K N O C K   O U T !
P A R T   O N E
BY Paul William Fassett

Damn this mental block. It's come from working on the same thing over and over and then compounding the problem with never leaving the house. I spent the last year, maybe more just sitting around, waiting for inspiration to strike me but that's just not how it works. Inspiration isn't like a living thing. It's something you force into existence by getting out there. Talking to people. I love to be around people, not just one though. I need many people. When I am around just one, things get awkward. We run out of things to talk about after about fifteen minutes and then I spend the rest of the time trying to come up with small talk to keep the whole thing going.

I guess I should describe myself, give you a mental picture of who I am. I've got average length hair. A couple inches on the top, short on the sides. It's curly and dark brown. I used to try and straighten it when it was long but whenever it would rain it would just get curly again and frizzy. Frizzy was the worst. Made me look like I had an afro. I tried everything from hairspray to putting corn oil in it. Yes, cooking oil. I expended a lot of energy trying to pretend I was something that I wasn't, that now that I am older I don't know who I am. I guess I am average with a few exceptions. I have a uni-brow. I pluck it of course but on days that I forget it's very obvious and sometimes I go weeks without plucking it and don't realize until someone makes a comment.

I work at a restaurant for people who want to seem fancy but don't want to spend a whole lot of money to prove it. It's called The Hunter's Lodge and there are tons of pictures of hunting dogs and guys in those Sherlock Holmes hats looking off into the distance with a rifle in hand. I went from being a busboy to a fry-cook in a year. Not exactly a move up but it was slightly more money, so I guess there's that.

I was walking back home from work that night, because my car was permanently fucked, costing me about four hundred dollars a month to maintain. It was currently sitting in a permanent parking spot in my apartment complex and I had to get the tags updated just to keep the landlord from towing it.

So yeah, my life was pretty much in the shitter. The only thing I had to look forward to was boxing. I paid thirty-five dollars a month for a locker and the privilege to take all of my aggression out on a heavy bag. I never trained with anyone there because the private lessons were stupid expensive. That's about half a weeks pay. Not that I would have wanted to train seriously. The idea of being punched in the head for a living is the last thing I would call a good time.

I guess that brings me to the event. My apartment is nothing to write home about. It's about four-fifty a month and less than that in square footage. I had some noisy neighbors too. Real rioters. The guys below me blast their music at a decible just shy of a jet engine and all hours of the night too. The girl living next door doesn't make a whole lot of noise though she is coming and going at all hours of the night. Anytime someone closes their doors around here it vibrates our paper mache walls like a gun shot going off.

That brings me to the trouble. The whole ordeal that's got me tied to a chair in some guys fucking basement.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

For Roger

F O R   R O G E R

I have to break with tradition and post something that is not a monologue today. Just recently something happened that shook me up. Made me question life.

I have been reading recently about MRA and MGTOW and the philosophy behind Men Going Their Own Way and one of the topics was how men feel trapped in life. My research goes back to late last year but all of that research didn't really set in until my partner came home from her acting class last Monday saying: “You won't believe what happened.”

I was confused at first. I thought maybe she meant someone else. Maybe even got the name wrong. When she repeated herself, said the exact same words and the same name, I searched her face for signs that this was some kind of joke. So she said it again.

“Roger killed himself.”

The man in me didn't know how to react. It wanted to cry but I hesitated and questioned why. I only met him once, at a Christmas party. He was the kind of guy that was always smiling. Infectiously positive and upbeat. I talked to him the entire night, I mean almost exclusively. He was just the kind of person I liked to be around and now, that's it. I won't get another chance. I won't get to know more about him. He's gone.

We would all have to start referring to him in the past tense now. Remember how Roger used to smile all the time and how he used to make us smile?

Just hours before it happened he was on facebook posting about his favorite 80's movies and in a couple hours he was loading a gun. It just didn't make sense, so it shook me. Shook me hard. I couldn't sleep, I started feeling anxious. I mean, I only met the guy once. What was my deal?

I guess it was the question that bothered me the most. What could posses a man to kill himself? Against all the inbred survival instincts a man has that fight to keep him alive, someone could still do it. The thought that at any moment, for any man, life can suddenly close in around you and become too much to bare. So you elect to end it... Men are the majority of suicides in this country and in fact the world. What is happening to men when they feel like they have no one they can turn to? Are we so cold to each other as men, so distant to our feelings, so dismissive of baring our pain to others that we feel like the only alternative is to cease to exist?

It scares me. Makes me feel my own mortality. Forces me to confront the pain of the people who knew him even better than I, who must now either deal with the loss, or pretend it doesn't hurt them. His death is making me ask myself: “What is the point of all this? Why do we exist?”

It's not a question to take lightly but yet so many people do. To their detriment.

It's strange... You can always Monday morning quarterback this kind of thing. I stay up nights now, wondering if I could have done something to prevent it. When I look back on the day I met him, I can swear I could sense a strangeness about him. Conjuring up some kind of sadness that I just ignored. Maybe there was. Maybe it's just hindsight but I still wonder to myself; What if?

The fact of the matter is we were having fun and he was a fun guy to be around. Easy going and easy to talk to. If that's the last memory I have of him, so be it.

It's a good memory at least.

For resources and help:

Monday, January 12, 2015

The Erosion Of A Man - Drama Monologue

T H E   E R O S I O N   O F   A   M A N
BY Paul William Fassett

You call me weak. Maybe you're right. You all think there's something wrong with me. You always have. Maybe you're right. Even as a kid. Let me finish. Even when I was little. 

I said let me finish!

You fucking people... You women wear men down. Chip away at us like a river through a fucking canyon and it's not enough that I'm worn away to dust, you keep taking and taking and you make it look like it's my duty to give. 

It started with mom. She did a number on me. That evil bitch of a teacher I had when I was in fourth grade. You remember her? Mom swallowed every stupid thing that woman said about me. She said that she thought I was disabled. She meant retarded. Mom came home and told you three and that was my new nickname. Retard.

Laugh. Go ahead and laugh. It's funny. I grew up thinking there was something wrong with me. I always second guessed myself. Looked to you and Mom for approval and here I am, still begging for it.

I'm glad she died and don't give me that: "She's your mother." bullshit. An asshole is an asshole, regardless of title.

Remember my Kung Fu teacher? The one with the toupee? Mom made me take a martial art because she was tired of me getting picked on. You remember how you used to fuck with me Sherry? You remember how you would pretend to be sparring with me when I would get home, slap box me and shit. Knock me fucking silly. Embarrass me.

Well we were at the dojo and everyone had left so me and Sifu worked together on my forms because I had a belt test coming. Mom called and asked: "You ready to go?" I thought for a minute. Do I want to go home? Because Sherry is going to start beating on me, Mom is going to lecture me about reading more and the rest of you are just going to gouge away, so I said fuck it. I'll stay.

We worked on my forms, and he stepped down on my thigh so I would get deeper into a horse stance and when I couldn't get any lower he would grab the muscle and say: "Flex." but he didn't need to tell me to flex because I was already tense. Everytime he'd grab me my body would seize up. Soon I relaxed and he relaxed and when he asked me to pull my pants down so he could look at my legs, I didn't think anything of it. When he asked me to take off my underwear, I knew something was wrong but he was strong and I was weak so I didn't disobey. I kept thinking: "Stop thinking so much. This is some kind of test, just go with it."

Before I knew it I was lying on my stomach, trying not to cry, clinching my teeth, imagining I was somewhere warm, that the stabs of pain were an ocean wave washing over my back, that my tears were just spray from the ocean bubbles popping on my face. I learned that night that if you concentrate hard enough you can create pressure in your ears and the world sounds like the ocean, so I concentrated and his grunts went into a tunnel and it was like I was being tossed around inside a wave, unable to breath, suffocating, every tiny breath of air making me more aware of the pain.

I passed out at some point and I just remember being in the car, a gentle reminder and a hand on my knee telling me that no one could know what happened. I bled. I bled for days and you made fun of me for being in the bathroom so long. Said I was jerking off. You had no idea because you never looked! You never asked. You didn't care...

All the guys in my class used to joke about Sifu. They knew what he used to do to other kids. They thought it was funny. Something to joke about in the locker room. I read in the newspaper they arrested him recently and I cried. I cried for an hour, sitting on the floor, clutching the paper, all the while feeling guilty for feeling like that. Because who was I to cry? I let him do it! 

Some kid spoke out, against all of his better instincts, against all his fears of ridicule and now the bastard is in jail.

I keep thinking to myself, why didn't I tell you, tell mom? If I told someone, they would have stopped him. Put him away. I let him get away with it, so all those kids he raped, I helped him get away with it by being silent. I was complicit.

You helped him too, by eroding me to an emotional nub, you are just as guilty as I am.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

The Camping Trip - Villain Monologue

T H E   C A M P I N G   T R I P
BY: Paul William Fassett 

Yeah, my wife gets around. She gotten around to just about every house on the block. That's why I don't sleep with her anymore. It would be like raw dogging it with a prostitute. Don't know what kinds of exotic STDs you could get from that thing. As if it weren't bad enough my kids tore that thing up coming out of her, now I got every guy with half a hard on wearing her out like hobo with a dumpster coat. Don't look so surprised Brad. Everyone knows my wife has been sleeping around. The neighborhood knows it. I know it. You know it...

I can tell by the look on your face you're angry. I would be angry to if someone was bad mouthing my girlfriend.

Now you look confused. Well, allow me to clear things up for you, Brad. You have been fucking my wife.

You think that I didn't know? You thought this camping trip was your idea? You thought we would come out here, act like best pals, and you would break the news to me gently? You might have even prepared yourself for a little fist fight. We would wrestle around, hit each other a couple times and at the end we would hug it out. Best friends forever, bros before hoes!

Sit the fuck down!

I'm the one with the axe, Brad. So listen.

Did you think I was just going to let you run away with my wife, live in my house, raise my kids! And I wouldn't do anything about it! I thought you knew me Brad. Hah! I thought we were close.

Don't run away Brad. You're just making this hard on yourself!

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Penicunt - Comedy Monologue

By: Paul William Fassett

Penis... Let the word swirl around in your head like mouth wash, then spit it out.

What a sterile sounding word, right? I prefer cock! 

Wait, that came out wrong. I mean it's a word with a little punch is all. You can almost imagine your dick with a feather mohawk and a beak clawing the eyes out of some other cock. It's a masculine word. That's the problem with society today. People are becoming walking pussies by words that are supposed to describe their fun bits. Even words like cunt. You think cock has punch, try calling someone a cunt. That's like a hard right hook to the jaw. Words create visuals, especially the ones people are afraid of. When I hear cunt, I think of a huge pot hole in the street filled with oily water, surrounded by dead birds.

Pussy though... Now that's a word I can get behind. Like a fluffy cloud floating in a big blue sky, all alone, made yellow and orange by a low hanging sun.

When I think of vagina, though, I don't imagine a warm wet playground like I would like... No. I think of some obscure village in Romania that raises sheep whose number one export are wool pelvic wigs. It's sterile, too clinical a word to be sexy.

Don't believe me? Then let me prove it. Close your eyes for just a moment and imagine this. Your girlfriend is laying on her back, naked, ready to... Receive you... She pulls you closer and whispers into your ear: “I want you to insert your penis into my vagina.”

I think it's safe to assume you would be a half mast sailboat floudering in the water hoping for a wind to take you far far away. So the point is, political correctness is great and all, but leave my genitals alone, unless you plan on knocking them around a bit.

Just don't call it a fucking penis.

Monday, January 5, 2015

Null Object Pattern - Dark Villain Monologue

This is a snippet from a story I am working on called Null Object Pattern. Works as a sort of weird monologue and should hold a casting directors attention.

N U L L   O B J E C T   P A T T E R N
BY: Paul William Fassett

You don't matter. I wouldn't shed a tear for you no more than I would shed a tear for the millions that died in the Holocaust. Now I don't deny it was a tragedy, I'm not a complete monster. There's just no emotional attachment there. I didn't know anyone that died there so how could I weep? 

After all, people cry more for dead pets than they do the deaths of people they never met.

Just yesterday I was coming home from work and through my windshield I could see a bunny, or a rabbit, (hard to tell the difference). It was white, with pools of blood gathering at its matted fur. It must have gotten hit by a car maybe, I don't know. It was limping, bloodied, up to the curb dragging an injured leg behind it. 

The curb was too high for it to climb but it tried nonetheless. Over and over again. Failing each time. Smacking up against the curb flatly, then falling back until it finally just laid there, breathing heavily, ready to accept death. 

But death never seemed to come... 

It just kept on breathing, and breathing, and blinking, and breathing, and breathing. Blink, expand, contract, expand, contract, blink... 

I watched unable to move, unable to think of what I could do, aside from watch and feel sadness for the pitiful little thing. His blinking became slower, his breathing shallow, until its body shuddered with a coughing fit. Slowly its chest rose, and deflated. Mouth dropped open, eyes stared ceaselessly at me, as if pleading. Pleading for help, or comfort, as if I should run from my car, cradle its head and shout up to the dark sky: 

“No! Not this one! You can't have him!”

I didn't posses the power to do anything, and it didn't matter... It was a dead thing, and didn't matter...

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Hope - Drama Monologue

As per a request from yesterday's blog entry.

BY: Paul William Fassett

We were standing at the train station, waiting, hoping we could get out of the city. Honduras was a war zone. Gangs fighting for their own stretch of land that was never theirs to begin with. We were like chattel to them to be bought and sold and slaughtered. We had been there for weeks waiting for a chance to board but we never got on a train. There were much more desperate people willing to fight harder for what they wanted. We knew that if we did not get out that night, the gangs would be back to collect their daily tribute and we would be coming up short. Our daughter was only twelve at the time.

To the Mara, however, she was old enough.

We waited at the boarding platform and were the first to enter when the doors opened but a line had formed that snaked around the building and off into the thicket of palm trees and fronds behind us. We were quickly overtaken by a flood of people and soon we found ourselves washed out, our little girl, Lupe in tow behind us. So many people, all of them pushing against one another, jockeying for position at the front of what had become a wall of flesh.

There was no hope. We were so far behind and the people in front of us were young and full of strength and anger and determination and our bodies were old and worked and tired. Resigned as we were to our fate we still decided to wait out the turbulence as people pushed passed us and shook the crowd like a mighty wave but suddenly the sea of bodies parted and a hush fell over the crowd. A middle aged couple, fair haired and pale skinned were escorted by armed guards as a path opened to the train.

The two of them were massive compared to the crowd. Round bellies, apprehensive faces drawn long from the despairing faces of the thicket of dark skinned stick figures. We were a group of skeletons watching the living pass by. Something dropped from his pockets in front of Lupe and before I could grab her, she was off running for the couple. Armed guards spun on her pointing their rifles at the child. My wife was not far behind her, holding her, putting out her hand begging.

The man spoke with a heavy accent and helped lower the men's rifles with a gentle hand. “Vat is it little girl?”

Lupe extended her hand and in her palm was a gold watch attached to a silver chain. He took it gently from her hand as I came to stand behind her. I apologized profusely, looking down at my feet all the while. The German's were probably diplomats on vacation, I thought. Why they would chose a place like this, however, was beyond me.

He knelt down and said: “Sank you. Ziss vas my father's and my father's before him. It is dear to me.” He was silent for a moment and his mind seemed to be elsewhere. “Vat is your name?”

Lupe, she replied. He stood and turned to his wife and exchanged hushed words. She nodded.

“How vould you like to ride in a train Lupe?”

The words hit me like a brick and buckled my knees. My wife cried and our daughter's excitement was so child-like and innocent. She had no idea the implications of his action. The price of a ticket may not have seemed like much to him but as we drew closer to the train cab and we looked up to the roof to see families riding on the top with only blankets to shield them from the cold and the rain, we knew. Knew that his simple act of kindness gave hope to a family that was hopeless.

Friday, January 2, 2015

I Can't Forget Her - Drama Monologue

I   C A N ' T   F O R G E T   H E R
BY: Paul William Fassett

That's the problem! You never get over something like this. It sticks with you forever and the harder I fight to push the memory out, the more vivid the pictures become. It's like a scab that keeps peeling off. You don't just forget people. They hang around in your head like ghosts, appearing out of nowhere. They don't care what you are doing, or how inconvenient it might be to cry at that moment. They want attention.

How do you forget a child? No matter the age. It came from me! It came from you! How do you expect me to forget that and how the fuck can you!

This isn't a matter of: “She's gone, we have to move on.” I can't get her face out of my head! She's... She's in here... Smiling at me one day. Showing the gaps where her baby teeth hadn't grown in, and the next she's in a coffin with her eyes closed. Looking so peaceful but so fucking dead!

How am I supposed to forget that? How am I supposed to move on when the only purpose I had for living the last five years is gone? What? Do I take up a hobby? Take my mind off her the way you'd take your mind off a dead pet? How do you do it? Pour alcohol on the problem? Maybe I'll take up needle point? Yeah. That will keep me from waking up in the middle of the night to an imaginary crying in my head.

You know what the worst part is? I still get panic attacks. I wake up in the middle of the night and on instinct I walk in to her room to find her crib empty and for a split second my breath gets caught in my chest. My heart starts beating out of control. I think: “Where is she?” And when I look around and see the emptiness of the room, how you gutted it. I remember, she's gone.

She's gone and I can't let go....