Before we start – there is no outlet for this monologue, as it was written for this blog post, and I know the writer well – he DOES have a specific voice, but for the purposes of this exercise, he’ll kindly allow me to say whatever I want. He’s cool like that.
So! I’ve got complete freedom here! THE WORLD IS MIIIINNNNNE (imagine a gif of Louise from Bob’s Burgers laughing maniacally).
1) Read through the entire scene, and get a sense of your character.
Alright Taylor. Since I’m a woman, this will be a female Taylor. She sounds young, tipsy, or outgoing to the degree that she says whatever is on her mind. She sounds very present, and lets her emotions take her on a roller coaster – but something has her either pissed off or sad here. I’m going to go with pissed off and only slightly tipsy, just comfortable enough to think out loud like this. Those are choices that work well for me – they’re a little out of my comfort zone but I know them well. Continuing on – she’s a person who stops and smells the flowers, she appreciates the little, fun, beautiful things in life and she wants the happiness she sees others experience. She thinks she has that happiness, but she’s not sure. She’s struggling between living the way other people expect her to, and how she wants to live. Singing brings her joy (that’ll be uncomfortable for me, but I might be able to work that in here.) I’m gonna take this a step further and say she probably grew up quiet, caring a lot what other people thought, and then recently discovered her happiness depends on herself, not others. But that need, to care what other people think – it’s ingrained in her and very hard to let go. She struggles with it daily.
*Also – this is embarrassing, but it took me a second to realize what the dancing balloon guy was. I can’t remember the last time I saw one outside a place of business, but I’ve seen a lot of videos on Facebook. Got it.
2) What’s the tone?
A little heightened, but ultimately grounded. It sounds more as though someone is thinking out loud, rather than putting on a show – but thinking out loud in a way that is completely comfortable and free, and not self-conscious in the least. It’s a little dark – the world is a cruel and beautiful place, and the only happiness we can find is the happiness we choose to find.
3) How does your character fit into the story?
Trying to figure out the scene before – she was obviously in a room that made her feel ashamed for expressing her happiness. To me – the timeline is her literally leaving that room, and getting in the car afterwards. That’s where this rush of energy and emotion is coming from – fresh out of this other place. I’m going to make a choice here – I think, she was out with friends for drinks, and she joined this group as a friend of a friend. So she didn’t know everyone, but she knew some of the people – and she got a little tipsy and started singing along with the song at the bar, and everyone looked at her weird and stopped including her in the conversations. She’d hoped to go out, get out of her shell and make new friends – and that just failed. Miserably.
From a bigger picture – I choose to think she’s not the main character of this story. I think whoever is driving the car, or listening to this rant – they’re the main character. Taylor’s freedom in expressing her emotions is what will drive the main character to examine what truly makes them happy in this world, and how they should go about finding that happiness. Taylor says she gets why “you’re not happy,” which alludes to a bigger problem that the main character has. And her genuine appreciation for the world around her – I think it’s supposed to be an example to live by, that our main character will learn.
4) Where are the relationships in the scene?
I think here – we’ve got the relationship between Taylor and whoever’s driving the car – obviously this relationship has so much history that Taylor feels completely comfortable going stream of consciousness here. There’s also the relationship between Taylor and herself. Who she is, and who she wants to be. I think my biggest points that I can’t look at the page – “I get why you’re not happy. But I’m happy. I’m so happy. SO HAPPY! So happy I would..” and also “I could go hang out with the sign guy and—hey! The dancing balloon guy!” Those two spots are the most important to me, because the first spot, shows that she cares about the person driving her in the car, but makes a choice to choose her own happiness. I want to show that choice, and I can’t be looking at the page during that choice, it’ll interrupt the decision I’m making. The second spot – it truly shows the essence of her freedom right here, how easily she lets herself find joy in the world. I can’t be looking at the page, because it won’t show that I’m paying attention to the world around me. Alright – and places I can look down. I’ll choose a few. Right after “Singing is a sign of happiness.” After “Look outside.” Between “So happy I would sing,” and “but you’ll probably…” After “…kick me out.” Between “Except for the balloon man,” and “because he’s a balloon.” Please note – I gave myself several, and I also put some in the middle of sentences, so that I’m anticipating the next sentence, instead of looking down after I finish the sentence I know.
5) What is your character’s goal in this scene, and where do they learn they will either achieve their goal or not?
Her goal is to stop caring what other people think. I think while she’s saying “So happy I would sing,” she realizes that she’s not going to achieve her goal tonight. But dammit, she’ll enjoy the rest of her night and feel bad about it tomorrow. Piss off, to anyone who would bring her down.
6) Go through the scene, line by line.
“All I was doing was singing!” It’s not a big deal!
“Why am I being punished for that?” Why were they picking on me?
“Everyone sings.” This whole thing was blown completely out of proportion.
“Singing is a sign of happiness.” In the right context, it’s a great thing!
“Don’t you want to be happy?” Shouldn’t we all?
“Or are you like everyone else in that stupid room, all sarcastic and frowny about somebody else being happy.” I hate that they made me question myself.
“Look outside.” The world is more important than us.
“That guy is spinning a sign on a street corner and he looks happier than you and me combined.” We each define our own happiness.
“I mean, I get why you’re not happy.” I know I’m being ridiculous. You have actual problems.
“But I’m happy.” Dammit – I get to focus on me for once.
“I’m so happy.” Those pretentious asses can’t define my happiness.
“SO HAPPY!” If I say it loud enough, it’ll drown everyone else out!
“So happy I would sing, but you’ll probably stop the car and kick me out.” I’d follow my heart, but I recognize social structures frown upon that. I wish they didn’t.
“But then again, if you did that, I could go hang out with the sign guy and–hey! The dancing balloon guy!” Fuck social structures! Bring it on, world, I’ll still make any situation great – hey! Something fun is happening and needs to be appreciated!
“Those two are the happiest people I’ve ever seen.” I wish I could be as happy as them, and not care what other people think.
“Bet they sing all the time!” I’d fit in with them!
“Except for the balloon man, because he’s a balloon.” Okay obviously I’m not crazy.
“But I bet he’s not judgy about people who do sing.” But I’d choose being labeled crazy over being sad.
7) Go through the scene again, line by line – and say every line differently than you did before.
“All I was doing was singing!” Why does the world frown on anything out of the ordinary?
“Why am I being punished for that?” And why do they attack anything or anyone different?
“Everyone sings.” We shouldn’t reject purity just because it’s not complex.
“Singing is a sign of happiness.” I wasn’t even acting ‘different’ – if people just paid attention to what is real, instead of what they think is real.
“Don’t you want to be happy?” Don’t you want to reject their stupid ideas too?
“Or are you like everyone else in that stupid room, all sarcastic and frowny about somebody else being happy.” Do you hate me too?
“Look outside.” Please – you have to see that there are things more important than us, than this night.
“That guy is spinning a sign on a street corner and he looks happier than you and me combined.” See? Your carefully structured idea of success can be torn down easily.
“I mean, I get why you’re not happy.” I’m sorry for what I said.
“But I’m happy.” But it doesn’t mean I’m wrong.
“I’m so happy.” In fact – you’re just one more person trying to bring me down.
“SO HAPPY!” I can do this myself!
“So happy I would sing, but you’ll probably stop the car and kick me out.” I really want to do this myself, but I don’t want to lose you.
“But then again, if you did that, I could go hang out with the sign guy and–hey! The dancing balloon guy!” You know what? If you threw me out, I’d be just fine. I don’t care.
“Those two are the happiest people I’ve ever seen.” See? Without you, and your rules – I’d be better off, in fact.
“Bet they sing all the time!” They get what life is really all about!
“Except for the balloon man, because he’s a balloon.” Get the joke? He’s not a real person, yet he’s happier than us right now.
“But I bet he’s not judgy about people who do sing.” And isn’t it sad, that an inanimate object is doing better than us right now.
Alright – the first time through felt more free, which feels in line with the character – but the second time through felt angrier, and more connected with the driver. I’ll end up using a blend of these two.
8) Speed through the whole thing without any pauses.
Alright doing that, I realize my landing points are “Look outside.” And “Those two are the happiest people I’ve ever seen.” Those are the points I want to make – the world is bigger than us. We can achieve happiness.
9) Run through it again with no pauses – but focus on the relationships.
Alright two new landing points – “I get why you’re not happy.” I need to show that connection. And “…stop the car and kick me out.” I want that sadness to come through. And last but not least – the last line. I want it to feel petty, I want it to feel lost, I want it to yearn, I want it to be pissed, I want it to be independent, I want it to be broken. I want it to quietly lash out at the driver. I want a lot from that last line, and it also needs to be a complete throwaway. I’ll have to work on that.
10) Now put back the spaces, the pauses, the reactions, the connections, and think about the specific character choices you want to make.
Putting it back together – I want to keep the flow, I like it when the sentences run together. My pauses are now in between major thought shifts, like watching the sign guy, and then focusing on my relationship with the other person in the car. Or enjoying the balloon man, and then remembering that the world sucks. I can pause in those spaces, and reflect – but when I do speak, I want to keep a faster pace, because it feels like the words are falling out of my mouth as I think them, instead of purposely telling someone what I think.
My stumble points – after “Singing is a sign of happiness.” After “…all sarcastic and frowny…” After “…stop the car and kick me out.” “After “Bet they sing all the time.” I also keep stumbling on the last line. The rest of them – I can take my pauses, and be thinking, but that last line – as you already know, I’ve decided that’s important for me. I’m going to run just that line through five times right now.
Done. And now five more times, including the line before it so I can get into it.
Dammit – stumbled on the first time through. Adding the line before makes me lose my train of thought. I’m going to run both lines through until I know it.
Took me about twenty seconds, but now I know it, the two lines are connected in my brain. Going to go through the whole monologue again.
I still keep stumbling after “…all sarcastic and frowny.” I can’t get the words right after that, so I’m going to give myself a trigger – I’m going to make “Don’t you want to be happy?” internal, and a little petty, so that I can look down at the page.
That wasn’t enough lead time, I still stumbled because I couldn’t find my place on the page. I’ll have to change the trigger, and instead look down at “Singing is a sign of happiness.” I’m going to make that with the subtext “if people would listen to me, they’d see I’m right. But no one listens.”
Okay – that works for me. I’ve got the lines – or at least, the idea of the lines, and even where I’m not word perfect, the words I’m saying are in line with what the character is thinking. For example “—hey! The dancing balloon guy!” has become “Oh my god, the dancing balloon guy!” Nothing too different, but enough that it feels natural.
Something else I’ve noticed – I’ve given myself two eyelines, one for the person I’m talking to, and one for whatever’s outside the car window. I like these two eyelines, they give me focus – but this last run-through, I let my eyes wander a little between focusing on my two points, and that helped me make this a little more stream of consciousness. It also helped me stay angry, because I was thinking about things in between the lines. Instead of focusing on just my two eyelines, I instead was thinking about how unfair the world is, how complicated, and how I wish everything could just be simple. It keeps me from breaking character, and it also makes me feel okay about looking down at the page if I need it – because my eyes are wandering overall, if they just so happen to wander in the general direction of the page, I’ll be okay.
To round up – my two focuses, in performing this for someone, will be:
1) Showing Taylor’s hurt and struggle to determine what makes her happy – feeling accepted vs. choosing her own joy.
2) The relationship between her and the driver has so much history and depth, that it gives her the comfort and freedom to focus on herself for once. It’s not even something I need to show – it’s just something I need to know, for the foundation of my character.
Full disclosure – I started this process at 1:07pm, it’s now 2:06pm. That’s an hour. It’s an hour for half a page of dialogue, but I was also writing down every step of my process and explaining it, instead of just thinking it through. How long did it take you to read this?
All these decisions are snap, gut decisions, to keep this process quick and to keep your read authentic. But if you know you literally only have five minutes – focus on steps 1, 4, 6, 9 and 10, because the relationships and continuity of character matter more than the words. Ideally you’re able to get through all of them before walking in the door of your audition – and if not – just breathe deep, and fly by the seat of your pants. Sometimes that works!
And ultimately – these are my choices for this particular scene. Yours should be yours. If you don’t agree with the choices I made – GREAT! Make your own! You’ll probably do the scene better than I did!
* It was also just pointed out to me that I said I’d work in some singing – and I didn’t. Dammit. I was thinking I’d sing the line “SO PROUD!” but I didn’t. Someone else might think to do that, and that little hilarity might get them the job. Double damn. Oh well – I liked the way I did it, and if I get another chance, maybe I’ll work it in!
Scene courtesy of Tim Ogletree