Bed of Roses Monologues

I hope everyone is preparing for an awesome Christmas and New Year! It’s been a while but on one of my recent rom-com binges I found two monologues from a cute little movie called Bed of Roses. One is for a female and the other is for a male.

Lisa is a business executive who had a traumatic childhood and finds it difficult to let her guard down and let people in. She develops a relationship with Lewis, who owns a flower shop, but doesn’t tell him about her difficult childhood. Their relationship quickly gets serious and Lewis invites Lisa to spend the Christmas holidays with his family. Just before this monologue Lisa has told Lewis that she can’t meet his family at Christmas. In this monologue she attempts to explain why:

Lisa: I don’t know when my birthday is. When I was three months old I was found at the Pittsburgh airport. Great, huh? They put me in a shelter home and I was placed with this couple. The woman died right after they got me. But the man petitioned the state to keep me and they said “okay” so *indicating photograph of adoptive father* that’s um…he sold auto parts and mufflers and spark plugs. And he drank and he um…*she can’t go on* His name was Stanley. He died just a couple of months ago. Whoo – that’s it, big deal. It’s pretty disappointing, huh? I don’t even think I can get on Oprah with that one these days. Anyway, I’m sorry. I’m sorry but I can’t go with you to see your family.

The key to this monologue is to create a detailed inner life and past for Lisa. Stanley and everything he did to you must be present as you tell your story. You must know exactly how you feel about your experiences and how your childhood has affected you. Even though Lisa does not go into detail about what growing up with Stanley was like, it must be in you so that the audience can see and understand without needing words.

In the next monologue, Lisa has come into Lewis’ flower shop to politely ask him to stop sending her flowers and pursuing her. She says he is “wasting it on the wrong girl”. In this monologue Lewis explains to Lisa why he decided to open a flower shop and why he tries to enjoy life and live with no regrets (including taking a chance and pursuing Lisa in such an unconventional way):

Lewis: My wife painted this. She used to work for museums restoring paintings. I was still on the trading floor when she did that one. See we… we met in high school, started dating and I got this job as a runner at Goldman Sachs working 14 or 16 hour days, paid my dues, got my own desk. Six months later we got married. She stayed home and she painted. I kept climbing the ladder. And she uh…she got pregnant. One night I was working pretty late and I got this call and they told me that she’d gone into labor and that there were complications. I lost everything in one second. So I just cashed out. And one day I saw this guy and he was delivering flowers and I thought “maybe that’s what I should do, I should just deliver flowers. It has to be the best job in the world, you know? Everybody is always happy to see you.” Sorry. I’m sorry.

A note for the actor: at the end of this monologue he totally gets the girl! So you have to be honest and truthful and move the actor you are playing opposite.

As always, have fun!

Monologue from Freedom Writers

On my stressful search for scenes for my actor’s promo reel, I found this amazing monologue from the film Freedom Writers. Erin (Hilary Swank) is an idealistic young school teacher who wants to make a difference in the lives of her students at a racially integrated American high school. She finds this more challenging than she expected. In this scene Erin has just discovered that her students are passing around and laughing at a racist drawing during class. She responds to her students with the following monologue:

What is this? You think this is funny? Tito! Would this be funny if it were a picture of you? Close the workbooks. Maybe we should talk about art. Tito’s got real talent, don’t you think? You know something? I saw a picture just like this once. In a museum. Only it wasn’t a black man. It was a Jewish man. And instead of the big lips he had a really big nose. Like a rat’s nose. But he wasn’t just one particular Jewish man, this was a drawing of all jews. And these drawings were put in the newspapers by the most famous gang in history. You think you know all about gangs? You’re amateurs. This gang would put you all to shame. And they started out poor and angry and everyone looked down on them until one man decided to give them some pride, an identity and somebody to blame. You take over neighbourhoods? That’s nothing compared to them. They took over countries. And you wanna know how? They just wiped out everybody else. Yeah, they wiped out everybody they didn’t like, and everybody they blamed for their lives being hard. And one of the ways they did it was by doing this. See, they’d print pictures like this in the newspapers. Jewish people with big, long noses. Blacks with big, fat lips. They’d also publish scientific evidence that proved that Jews and blacks were the lowest form of human species. Jews and blacks were more like animals. And because they were like animals it didn’t really matter whether they lived or died. In fact, life would be a whole lot better if they were all dead. That’s how a holocaust happens. And that’s what you all think of each other.

Enjoy!

Never Stop

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After Fred Astaire‘s first screen test, the memo from the testing director of MGM, dated 1933, read, “Can’t act. Can’t sing. Slightly bald. Can dance a little.” I wonder how many times per day that testing director ended up kicking himself?

How to Write Part 2: The Fallacy of Talent

“Successful athletes practice every day. Successful musicians practice every day. So why do we think that we can naturally be great actors without practicing?” – Howard Fine

The above quote changed the way I viewed acting and talent. Before I started working with Howard Fine I believed that the ability to act was something you had to be born with. You had to come out of the womb with a natural talent for it. I constantly put myself down for not being good enough, for not having enough talent. “Maybe I shouldn’t even bother?” I used to say to myself. “Maybe I just wasn’t born with enough talent to be a successful actress?” This is our Protector at work again, giving us reasons not to take chances and pursue our passions because pursuing our passions can be scary.

Then I began working with Howard Fine and heard him say this. I realised how true it was. I’m a huge Roger Federer fan. Huge. He didn’t just come out of the womb with “Greatest Tennis Player of all Time” written on his forehead. He played and practiced every day from the time he was about five years old. He still practices every day. Yes, he has a natural talent. But I’ve now come to believe that anyone who is drawn towards something, be it writing, singing, dancing, acting, playing an instrument, playing a sport, and so on, is following an instinct inside of them that says “this is what I’m meant to do in my life”. And I believe that when you have passion for something or are instinctively drawn towards something then you must have a natural talent for it.

I also believe that talent is about your ability to learn how to do something well and then use that skill well. Roger Federer didn’t come out of the womb hitting amazing forehand shots. But he trained and practiced and learned how to do forehand shots amazingly well and then put them into practice amazingly well. How could he have learned how to perform all the shots he performs today without taking lessons? How can we learn how to be great actors, how to successfully take words from a page and perform them, how to build a character and how to use all the skills that we know how to use such as previous circumstances, given circumstances, relationship history and objectives without going to acting classes? I didn’t even know what an objective was until I took my first acting class!

When people refer to ‘natural talent’ I believe that they refer to a person’s ability to pick up a skill quickly and easily and use that skill well. But you always need to learn the skill first. And with acting it’s particularly challenging because every role requires something different. Every role requires you to tap into a different part of yourself and use parts of yourself that work for that specific character. Every role makes different demands of you. And these demands are not necessarily logical or physical (“you need to play this piece in this meter rather than that meter”, “you need to have a stronger first serve to beat this player”) but are often emotional and psychological. Emotional and psychological demands require levels of self-knowledge, self-understanding and openness and vulnerability that we discover through our lives with time, age and self-exploration.

There is a reason why the most amazing actors out there still train and hire coaches to help them with roles. I’ve trained with Leonardo DiCaprio and Will Smith’s acting coaches so I know for a fact that both actors work their asses off and still train with teachers despite being very successful actors. As actors we never stop learning and growing. As an actor I don’t even recognise myself from the person I was a year ago and two years ago. I’ve grown so much through learning and training and I still continue to grow every day. Meryl Streep and Al Pacino are still training and learning. With age and experience comes a self-awareness and self-understanding that is so important in acting. Do you think Leonardo DiCaprio gets up every morning and thinks to himself “I wasn’t born talented at acting”? No. He continues to train and learn because he believes that acting is a skill that you can continue to develop until the day you die.

You’re probably asking yourself what my point is. Perhaps this is a good time to admit that I went over the word limit with EVERY SCHOOL ESSAY I EVER WROTE. And failed to cut any of them down. Anyway, my point is that the concept of talent has stopped many an actor and writer in their tracks. Often actors and writers are afraid of doing their craft and sharing their work with others because they believe that acting/writing talent is something that a person is naturally born with and that they missed that particular boat (Thanks mum/dad!!!). I used to believe this. And I still struggle with this. Sometimes in the darkest hour of the night (not really, I’m just being over-dramatic) I still think to myself “maybe I’m never going to be good or talented enough”. Know that these thoughts are your Protector going into overdrive again and trying to keep you making safe choices because doing what you’re really passionate about is scary. Especially if it’s something as personal and creative as acting/writing.

Know that the fact that you even WANT to write or act or dance or sing or be a soccer player in the first place means that your soul, intuition and instinct are telling you what you’re meant to do in your life. What you’re passionate about always tells you what you’re meant to do in your life. Trust that.

Know that talent is awesome but that you still have to develop the skills to be great in your chosen field. What is talent without the knowledge and skill to use it?

And know that successful creative people rarely get to where they are without rejection, failure, lots of time spent developing their skills and talent and lots and lots of hard work and commitment. Who do you really admire? Who inspires you? Do some research into their history. Buy a good biography. Chances are they suffered rejection and failure before becoming successful. And chances are they worked their asses off for years to develop their skills. Forget about talent. Learn. Write. Act.

 

 

 

Advice from Meryl Streep

If you haven’t noticed, I love Meryl! I didn’t mean to post so many quotes from her on my blog but she always seems to have such useful advice and I love sharing things with people.

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“For young men, and women, too, what makes you different or weird, that’s your strength. Everyone tries to look a cookie-cutter kind of way.” – Meryl Streep

How to Write Part 1: The Protector

A few weeks ago I received a comment asking me how I centre myself and clear my head before writing. This person was struggling to clear their head and get their ideas out there. It gave me a moment of pause. How exactly do I write? I’m writing right now. I’m just doing it. The words are coming into my head and I’m typing them into this little blank square. Now I’m pausing. Staring at the white screen. What should I write next? How can I help this person?

The truth is that although writing this blog has been relatively easy for me I’ve struggled with writer’s block just like every other writer in the history of writers. There can be many reasons for writer’s block. I don’t know why this person has writer’s block. I can only speak from my experience. And I know this blog is for actors but I find that advice about any field of creative endeavour is useful for all artists. And besides, actors experience blockages too! Major ones that cause tantrums, tears and vase throwing (all in the privacy of one’s room, of course).

So after thinking about it for a few weeks and experiencing a lot of fear (I’m not qualified to tell people what to do, I’m not a teacher, I don’t know what I’m talking about, etc) I’m going to do a few blog posts with my advice about how to write based on my experiences.

Part One: Starting and The Protector

START. Simple, right? Wrong! Starting is, in my experience, one of the most difficult things about writing or, you know, ANYTHING. And here’s why: it’s not STARTING that is the problem. It’s those pesky thoughts of self-doubt that cause all the trouble. Sometimes when we want to do something and think about doing something (especially something creative) we start to experience self-doubt. Negative thoughts enter our heard. We’re not good enough. We can’t possibly do this. We have no talent. People will laugh at us. It will get us nowhere. Our family will judge us. We’re not smart enough. Who could possibly want to listen to what we have to say or write or act?

These thoughts are sabotaging us. And since I’m such a fan of parts of self I’m going to introduce you to a part of self that every person has. A part that rears its ugly head and stifles us. But a part that is also instrumental in our ultimate survival. It’s called THE PROTECTOR. The Protector is the part of ourselves that says “actually, you should probably wait for that huge truck to pass before crossing the road” and “you have to leave now for work if you want to be on time and not lose your job”. Unfortunately it’s also the part of ourselves that says “don’t write that for if you do they’re all going to laugh at you like they did at Carrie and then you’re going to go crazy and accidentally kill that guy you have a huge crush on and burn your house down with your mind”, “people will think you’re stupid when they read that”, “you’re too boring for people to want to read anything you have to write” and so on and so forth.

Everyone has a Protector. The Protector is our friend. He/she stops us from dying and actually helps us achieve things and become a fully functioning member of society. But sometimes our Protector inserts itself into situations where it is not needed. In my experience the Protector is the number one thing stopping creative people from expressing their creativity. All of my writer and actor friends have a strong Protector. I have a strong Protector. Our Protector is there to protect us from pain and humiliation. And somewhere along the line (often it’s some sort of childhood experience) we have learnt to fear that expressing our creativity will lead to pain, humiliation and rejection.

The key is to recognise that any negative, self-defeating thoughts that come into your heard before you start to write are coming from your Protector. Understand this. Acknowledge it. Thank your Protector for looking out for you. Realise that your Protector cannot predict the future. It cannot tell whether your creative project will be successful or an absolute failure. It is like that overbearing mother or father figure who exaggerates and even makes up lies to stop you from doing something because they love you and just want to keep you safe. Realise that you are afraid of humiliation and rejection. Realise that although showing the world your creative work will expose you to the potential for humiliation and rejection, humiliation and rejection are not guaranteed. And understand that you only learn through failure, and you only become a great creative artist through learning. Tell your Protector that he/she can have a rest for a while. And then start writing.

Just in case it hasn’t gotten through to you yet: EVERYONE HAS A PROTECTOR. J.K Rowling has a Protector. Shakespeare had a Protector. Meryl Streep has a Protector. I have a Protector. You are not special. Your Protector does not mean you suck and should not ever write. It’s just a little voice in your head trying to stop you from taking chances and being vulnerable because taking chances and being vulnerable is scary and can (in some cases) lead to death. And here’s another little nugget of awesome information: your Protector will never go away. Not. Ever. Your goal in life is not to get rid of your Protector. It is to do things in spite of your Protector. It is to figure out when your Protector is giving you useful advice (“don’t put that fork in the toaster”) and when your Protector needs to be quiet for a while (“you look fat in that dress so you better not go out tonight on that date with the man of your dreams because he will HURT you”, “you better not audition for that amazing role that you want really badly because you’re just not good/talented/pretty/thin enough and you’ll be rejected”, “you better not write that novel you’ve been thinking about writing for years because your idea sucks and it’s boring and no one will read it and you will DIE”).

The truth – I’ve only been introduced to my Protector in the last few months. Up until I met her I just assumed that all these negative thoughts coming into my head were right. Or some weird premonition of my future failure as an actress because I’m totally psychic. And I’m still at the early stages of learning to live with my Protector and give it its rightful place. We are all on this journey. All creative people. So start giving your Protector its rightful place and write in spite of the fear.

I’m going to end this post by saying a quick hello to Meryl Streep’s Protector:

“I thought I was too ugly to be an actress.” – Meryl Streep