5 top tips to help your child actor ace their monologue.
Does the thought of helping your child actor prepare a monologue fill you with dread?
Perhaps they have been on the journey into showbiz sometime and just aren’t getting a break and you don’t know how to help them?
Maybe they have a monologue to prepare for college or an audition?
Do you listen to them practicing their monologue and it doesn’t sound ‘real’ or like they are reading it?
Don’t fear – I am here with over 30 years’ experience as a professional actor, over 25 years’ experience as an acting coach, agent and most importantly mum to Leo Ashton. My 14-year-old son who already has a string of impressive credits and top agents in both the UK and states
I’ll keep it as quick as I can – time is precious. I’m guessing as showbiz parents you’ve already spent endless hours supporting and nurturing your youngster’s talent. So before you send them off with their piece to start learning it so take a look at my 5 top tips as they will change your life as a stage mum/dad!
1 – PENCIL AND PAPER!
Please don’t let them work off a tablet or a phone. I suggest printing a few copies as they will probably lose the first copy! While you are rushing round trying to find ink for the printer I also suggest doing a scan of all the dialogue and then copying and pasting into a separate word document – ensuring you leave plenty of spacing between the lines for your young actor to do their ‘prep’. They will need enough space to write in-between each line (or for you to write if they are still little). Most phones now allow you to ‘scan’ the text and add to a document. Amazing!
2 – GIVEN CIRCUMSTANCES
Working out GIVEN CIRCUMSTANCES is a bit like being a detective. You are searching for clues in the script. Another simpler way of saying it is the ‘5 W’s’.
Who, Where, What, Why and When.
See I’m helping with their English Comprehension at the same time! All the answers to these questions can be jotted on and around their script or on a separate paper/notebook.
WHO – This should include WHO they are and WHO they are talking to (and no – talking to an audience will never be the right answer. Even talking to an audience needs to be more specific. Who’s in the audience? Why are they there?).
WHERE are they? Start big i.e. the world and bring it down to a specific area/place. What does it look and feel like.
WHAT they are doing – and this includes what the character has just done before the scene as well as what they do when they aren’t in this scene.
WHY are they saying all this? Monologues are always a response to something. WHY are they responding like they are? What’s happened?
WHEN? This isn’t just the ‘era’ – it’s the time of day or night too!
If your child’s script is lacking given circumstances it’s their (your) responsibility to make the given circumstances up. That’s what being an actor is!
3 – OBJECTIVE
This is what the character wants. Make it specific. If they are too vague the piece will be vague and lack authenticity. It should be a very direct statement for example in the Billy Elliot monologue that takes place at his audition it might be “I WANT TO DANCE” and not “well he kinda feels a bit like sad and also nervous cos he feels like kinda nobody understands him and he wants to dance”.
4 – BREAK IT DOWN
Next you need to break the piece down into sections. Remember all this is BEFORE they even start to learn the piece! For each change of thought I add a slash symbol ( / )and a form of ‘actioning’. Technically this is assigning an active (or transitive) verb to each of your lines to illustrate its underlying meaning or subtext but the Meladrama way does a bit like this as I also add an emotion:
BILLY ELLIOT MONOLOGUE
“Don’t know. Sorta feels good, sorta stiff and that”
Break it down with a slash symbol and add actioning
Don’t know./ Sorta feels good, / sorta stiff and that
Avoiding quietly / Thinking happily / Remembering painfully
You can read more about ACTIONING here:
Please note that for me personally actioning works best with monologues – I’m not it’s biggest fan with scripts as I do like young actors to be intuitive.
Younger children and even some tweens will need help with that but it’s great if you can do it with them as you get to discuss the EMOTIONAL JOURNEY the character is on plus it’s always good to talk about feelings etc with your child or teen! Exploring the characters emotional journey and what they are REALLY feeling and not just what they are saying is something actors do as part of their job. It’s really the cornerstone of acting. This is called the SUBTEXT and you can read more about that here: https://www.backstage.com/magazine/article/why-subtext-is-important-how-to-find-it-69877/
5 – MEMORY
They can now start to learn it. Ensure they are using the marked-up script (and probably photocopy this as well – quickly before they lose it!). They will learn the piece in record time and easily because they know WHY every single word is being said! Remind them to learn the THOUGHT before they say the line though. Their face should show us the subtext of their line a second before they start saying the line ideally! The thought or reaction always comes first! And we need to see it! Also – don’t panic. It won’t go in straight away! For a monologue that is 2-3 minutes long I would suggest 10 minutes a day for a week (learning equal amounts each day). It will just suddenly click but only if they put a consistent amount of time in with no other distractions every day.
So there you have it – my 5 top tips on helping your drama queen ace their monologue. I have lots of other tricks up my sleeve – and tried and tested methods of working with children as a teacher, parent and acting coach.
Mel is a professional actor having first appeared on TV when she was a child. Her Spotlight CV is here: https://www.spotlight.com/2373-8977-5741 Mel is also an acting coach and owns and runs Meladrama Acting School & Chaos Actors Management –open almost 20 years with several schools across the north-west, all of which Mel teaches. Meladrama are responsible for launching the careers of many young actors. Finally, Mel is mum to Leo Ashton – who can be seen playing Aemond in House Of The Dragon and currently in Red Rose (Netflix). He’s also been working solidly since he was about 9 having got his first big break in Peterloo – Mike Leigh’s movie. Mel is available for one-to-one acting coaching, audition and casting prep, reading in and filming for castings.
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