Sometimes, there are some great dramatic or comedic moments in a scene that you would like to capture in an audition monologue, but the lines just aren’t long enough to stand on their own. Have you considered cutting the script and piecing together a monologue? The benefits of such a project are compelling:
- you can grab only the most important lines from a scene
- you may be able to craft a monologue for a favorite character
- you will be reminded that your monologue is one side of a dialogue
- it is very unlikely that someone else has performed it
Granted, there are some potential pitfalls to avoid as well:
- a choppy and disconnected storyline
- a feeling of “missing” the other character in the scene
Now, this technique may not work for every scene. Look for a scene in which one character is driving the conversation. That will make the monologue flow more naturally. Let’s practice with a scene from The Shadow Box by Michael Cristofer.
Before we sharpen our scene-cutting scissors, let’s ask ourselves some important questions:
What does the character want in this scene?
In this scene, Beverly wants to smooth things over with her former husband, Brian, who is in his last months of life. She first has to avoid offending and getting thrown out by Brian’s current partner, Mark.
What qualities of the character must you preserve?
Beverly is tactless, awkward, and nervous. She uses humor to cover up discomfort.
What is the basic structure of the scene?
Beverly is an unexpected visitor in the uncomfortable position of making small talk with her former husband’s current partner. Despite her repeated attempts at connection and humor, the threat of her being thrown out increases with each passing minute.
With those answers in mind, we can keep the lines and interactions that paint the most vivid picture of Beverly (Note: My commentary is italicized in parentheses; lines that will be cut from the scene are struck through).
Beverly / The Shadow Box by Michael Cristofer
(Since I’m such a fan of starting an audition monologue with some silent stage business, let’s have the actress start by primping herself, checking the number of the cottage outside the door, making sure the door is unlocked, and bursting through the door.)
Beverly: Surprise! Oh, who are you? I’m sorry. I’m looking for Brian…uh…Two. They said cottage two. I must have…
Mark: No, you didn’t… Beverly: I didn’t?
Mark: No, This is two. This is cottage two. (We want to verify that Beverly has the right cottage. This line is Mark’s, but we can give it to Beverly. How can we justify Beverly saying this line? Let’s have the actress lean back out the door and double-check the cottage number)
Beverly: Oh. Mark: Yes. Beverly: Thank God. Is.. uh.. Mark: No. Not at the moment. But he should be back any minute.
Beverly: Good. I wanted to surprise him and he’s not here. Well… surprise!
Hmn. Very nice. Very nice. (A basic plot point stating her intentions, and a nod to her tendency to use humor when she feels nervous or awkward) Mark: Glad you like it. Beverly: All the comforts of home. Amazing what you can do with a coffin if you put your mind to it. Mark: What?!?
Beverly: Oh, sorry. Sorry. Introductions first. That way you’ll know who you’re throwing out. I’m Beverly.
No doubt you’ve… (You can see by now that we’re basically crafting this scene to make Beverly over-talkative in her discomfort, as if Mark can’t get a word in edge-wise. That fits the character, and since she drives the conversation in the first place, the script will accommodate that.) Mark: Yes. Beverly: That’s what I figured.
Mark: Brian’s wife.
Yes. Former. Former wife. He prefers former doesn’t he? (We can give Beverly the previous three lines as she searches for the most accurate title, trying to catch herself with each miscue) Mark: Yes. I figured it was you. Beverly: You did? Mark: Yes… it wasn’t hard.
No, I guess not. And you’re… uh…. (I’d recommend the actress leave a small pause, as if Beverly is listening to Mark’s upcoming response and repeating it as she finally pieces everything together with the lines that follow.) Mark: Yes. Beverly: Yes. I figured.
Well– Mark: Well.
Beverly: Well, now that we know who we are… how about a drink?
Mark: A what? Beverly: A drink. A drink. Mark: Oh, no. Beverly: No? Mark: No. We don’t keep any liquor here. I could get you some coffee or some penicillin, if you’d like. Beverly: No. No. I was inviting you. I had an accident with the Scotch on the way out here. There’s quite a dent in it. Anyway, we both look like we could use a little. Hmm?… So… how is he?
(With a desperate attempt to cover the awkwardness with some humor and alcohol, we see that Beverly’s discomfort has reached an all-time high. Closing the monologue here leaves the audience with a clear understanding of how Beverly operates, and with an interest to see how the conversation turns out. Mission accomplished.
So, our final monologue turns out looking like this:
Beverly: *primps herself and checks the door before entering* Surprise! Oh, who are you? I’m sorry. I’m looking for Brian… uh… Two. They said cottage two. I must have… *double-checks cottage number outside door* No, this is two. This is cottage two. Good. I wanted to surprise him and he’s not here. Well… surprise! Oh, sorry. Sorry. Introductions first. That way you’ll know who you’re throwing out. I’m Beverly. *holds out hand* Brian’s wife. Ex-wife. Former! Former wife. He prefers former, doesn’t he? And you’re…uh… Mark… *retracts hand; it was not received* Great… Well! Now that we know who we are… how about a drink. I had an accident with the Scotch on the way out here. There’s quite a dent in it. Anyway, we both look like we could use a little. Hmm? *takes a hasty swig* So... how is he?
Pretty cool, huh? Like I said, this won’t work for every scene, but it does open up possibilities for new and unique monologues with characters you’ve always enjoyed but have never talked long enough for a stand-alone monologue. If you’d like another set of eyes as you brainstorming how to cut a monologue, I’d love to offer my assistance! Just contact me and we can keep the conversation going!