Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Mono Logs


Blackouts are often used to pepper a sketch revue and give it some unexpected bursts of energy. Another short form is the comic monologue. It tends to create intimate moments with the audience that help build a special rapport with them. It also gives individual members of an ensemble a moment to shine.

If you don't already have a comic character rolling around in your noggin, it's easy and fun to create one. My favorite method is to just springboard off the suggestion of a word. The word can come from anywhere. At Robowriters, a few of us had "to go" coffee cups from an evil national chain restaurant who doesn't need me to give them a plug. These cups are loaded with pithy slogans as well as the usual "by law" coffee cup messages. The writers were told to look the cup over and pick a word. Simple as that.

Once you have the word, the wheels in your head will start turning. You can use the word literally. If the word is "caution," the character can be a crossing guard. You can also use the word to influence the character, like, they have an extremely cautious outlook on life.

Now that you have the word, write from the character's perspective as if they simply walked out on stage and introduced themselves to the crowd. Explore who they are; what their name is, what they do for a living, who their friends and relatives are, what they love, what they hate, etc. And, yes, pack as much of that as you can into ten minutes. You don't need much more than that.

Once you stop, read it over. Read it out loud, if you can. Listen for what and who is really important to your character. Our cautious crossing guard has an overbearing mother and deeply wants to move to Portland, Oregon to sell art on the sidewalk.

Now, write another monologue, again, only giving yourself about ten minutes, where the character is pouring their heart out to another character that is silent. So, it's as if our crossing guard has sat her mother down and said "I have to tell you something." The person they are talking to should be someone they have an emotional charge with. It'[s not very dramatically interesting for them to talk to their buddy about their boss when the boss is the bigger risk to confront.

Now you have something you can shape and rewrite into a performable piece.

In developing the final version,there are three forms to keep in mind.

The monologue can still be just the character talking to the audience. These can be a bit confessional, but it is like they are taking the audience into their confidence. The character still needs to want something and can use the audience to help them process their thinking or demonstrate the depths of their want. The character should also be engaged in an activity. In this case, our crossing guard could be suiting up and getting ready. Or at work, talking to us as she holds out her stop sign to cars. The activity should give us some insight into their lives.

The character can be speaking to another actor who is silent, but present. One of the Robowriters wrote a scene about a character trying to make a friend on the bus. In that case, I think it's important that we see the intended friend trying to read their paper and squirming a bit as this person drops big hints about stuff they could do together.

The third way is the classic monologue style of the character addressing another character as if they were out floating over the audience. The imagined character is the fourth wall, in this case, and we see the real character in all their vulnerability trying to get what they want that only that person can provide.

It's important to make the wants clear and deeply felt. Get to the basic human wants of to be seen, heard, touched and loved to find out what your character wants from someone else.


Last Friday, I asked...

"The Barclay Prime restaurant in Philadelphia serves a $100 entre made up of what?"

22% said "Mac and Cheese"
- Mac and Cheese for a hundred bucks. It would have to served on Madonna's backside and spoon fed to me by Paris Hilton.

11% said "SpaghettiO's"
- The can costs more than the little O's of goodness.

No one thought it was "Cat Food"

67% got it right with "Cheesesteak"

According to CBS 3 in Philadelphia, Chef James Locascio, of Rittenhouse Square's Barclay Prime, has created Philadelphia's "haute" cheesesteak, an upscale version of the sandwich that includes butter poached lobster and shaved truffles.

To get top of the line ingredients, Locascio says it costs $17 per pound for cheese, $21 per pound for Kobe beef and $900 per pound for summer truffles.

So who buys the costly sandwich?

On average, five or six customers order it per night and many share it as an appetizer.

Locascio says, "It all adds up, a quarter of a million dollars a year in cheesesteaks is pretty good."

Okay, and this is from the vegetarian, if you add lobster and truffles to it, IT AIN'T A CHEESESTEAK!