Whether you work in a school or as a freelance drama practitioner, rehearsing monologues with young people is, quite often, a huge part of your role. Monologues became even more integral to examination performances throughout the pandemic and continue to be used extensively for Speech and Drama qualifications and drama school auditions. This Blog focuses on three key approaches for rehearsing monologues, which are are few of the 'go to' exercises used by professional director and former teacher, Will Maynard. We were lucky enough to be joined by Will, who led an hour webinar, Think Like a Director- Monologue Masterclass this month. Will was joined by one of his students in Year 11, with whom he modeled the exercises. There is a new resource to accompany these exercises, which has been added to our FREE Resource Library.
Will began his presentation with some opening thoughts about monologues. He started by talking about how daunting monologues can be for students, making them feel 'vulnerable'. However, when students are encouraged and supported, and allowed to explore the text both vocally and physically in different ways, it can foster independence and autonomy. He advised using questioning as much as possible to elicit responses, as opposed to imposing your own ideas as a teacher or director. This was modeled brilliantly by Will himself when he worked with his Year 11 student in the session. He rarely asserted his own choices but guided the student through careful, targeted questions but balanced this with allowing the student to explore the text practically. He also left plenty of time for the student to think about their responses, having spoken about 'embracing the silence' at the start of session. All of these exercises are versatile enough to be used when working with students from Key Stage 3 and above, right up to professional actors.
Will's webinar explored the following scenario which we often face as teachers:
Exercise 1: Four Key Questions
Will started by suggesting four key questions which are an excellent starting point for exploring monologues with students. We have created a handy worksheet for you to use for this exercise, which can be downloaded from the resource library or register here.
The four key questions are:
1. Who is the monologue for?
Another person- Portia's speech in The Merchant of Venice, "The quality of mercy is not strained".
The audience- Iago in Othello, "I hate the Moor".
Yourself- Hamlet, "To be or not to be."
The world/ society- Richard III, "Now is the winter of our discontent".
God/ the Universe- Juliet, "Gallop apace you fiery footed steeds".
Imagined other- Macbeth, "Is this a dagger I see before me?"
2. Is there an objective? If so, what is it?
What does the character want in the speech? Students need to look beyond the speech, read and research the whole play in order to answer this.
3. What are the relevant Given Circumstances?
Setting- Ask them to think about this on a large and small scale so that they consider their immediate surroundings and the wider world which the character inhabits.
What happens immediately before the scene starts- You could also explore the previous twenty four hours, leading up to the start of the scene.
4. What is in this world?
Students should consider what objects, props or furniture in the space, along with people and concepts. Explore this through guided questioning.
Exercise 2: Block/ Probe / Reject
This is a versatile exercise which is more active and physical, but less cerebral so is incredibly 'freeing' for young actors. Introduce the following three 'instincts', away from the text first, by encouraging the student to perform the following actions and saying the words 'block', 'probe' or reject'. Then, work through the monologue, allowing students to choose which 'instinct' is appropriate for each line, and embody the following actions:
Block: Pressing forward or interrogating.
Probe: Pushing something away.
Reject: Anchor yourself and commit to your thoughts.
Exercise 3: Three Circles of Attention
Will's third exercise in the webinar was the three circles of attention. This allows students time to explore where they focus each line and the intention behind them.
3rd Circle: Deliver a line but the thoughts land in a 'scattergun' way. Indirect, generalised, out to the 'world'.
2nd Circle: A line which lands, and connects with, another person.
1st Circle: Speaking to yourself.
I would like to thank Will Maynard for sharing his 'go to' exercises when rehearsing monologues with young actors. You can connect with Will on Twitter via @WillHMaynard. There will be more from Will in the Autumn Term as he will be delivering more inspirational webinars for us!