Yesterday, I tried a new step towards interactivity and openness, I asked for advice on reading my first monologue for Acting 101, taught by Actor Christine Decker at the Oldcastle Theater in Bennington, Vt.
The advice was instant and impressive and unanimous: I needed to do a lot more work to make this monologue work.
The piece is too long for me to memorize, I think, but the consensus of the feedback was that I was reading the work rather than feeling the work.
As is my wont, I went into the detached style of the journalist and observer, I was losing the feeling of it. I’m comfortable talking about my books, but this is very different.
The advice was honest and good: I was paying too much attention to the rhyming, reading too quickly, and was too flat.
I needed to remember that I was speaking to someone about powerful ideas of coverage, boldness, aging and a meaningful life. Important stuff to me. I always cry when I read this monologue, I’ve been reading it for years, yet it is very difficult for me to convey the emotion in the piece and in me.
From Ed: My main reaction is that you are reading the words, but you are not IN the words. Perhaps having someone in mind you are actually speaking to would infuse the words with more of your self. In other words, is there any way to make them YOUR words, reading them as if YOU wrote them, rather than you reading words that someone else wrote. (I took an acting class once and was told to take a slow, full breath after every single line when I was practicing, just to get myself to be IN EACH LINE, rather than reading the piece through to the end. It really helped!) I’m glad you’re exploring and taking risks and looking for input. Wonderful!!
The challenge is for me to do learn how to do that. Christine is opening me up to the idea.
I tried the reading again this morning, this time sitting down, and this time talking directly to Maria and in my mind, to Holden, a young student in the acting class. In a way, this piece is a message to the young and an inspiration to the old. I’ve got to speak to a person or people, I’m not reading a newscast or at a book store podium.
From Nova: A piece like this can be read slowly…pauses are absolutely permissible…it gives the listener a chance to savor the words and the images evoked…a slower delivery allows you to taste each word…the exercise becomes like a reverie rather than a performance….just my thoughts. Love that you are doing the acting class!
I can’t say how impressed I was by the quality and range of the feedback – teachers, actors, producers, artists and writers and the thoughtful regular readers of the blog. It was an impressive display of the potential of the Internet to do good as well as rant and rage.
The piece is beautifully written and it can and should be read slowly, each word tasted in Christine’s words.
From Bob: you are not experiencing the content… you need to own the content as if you wrote it and express your feelings in your voice and delivery… make it sound authentic & real (be an actor) and not with a newscaster style of reading/delivery… FYI… Marie is too much into you to offer constructive criticism… is too sensitive about feelings… I have no conflict of interest…
So thanks, advice is precious when sought and needed, and I appreciate it. Please let me know if you see any improvement at all, and if you have any other thoughts on how I can do justice to this piece. Your comments very much echoed the critique of Christine Decker, my teacher, and altogether, this has helped me to see a way to bring more feeling and openness into my life and work.
Perhaps in class I’ll read it to one person rather than the whole class.
This is the point of the class for me, I’ll never be an actor, but I can always be a better human.
You can post your comments and feedback right here at the bottom of the blog post, or e-mail me: firstname.lastname@example.org or on my Facebook Page: Jon Katz I got about 75 comments in all. No one loved my delivery, but there was not a nasty one in the bunch.
There is hope for us all.