Creating an Inner Monologue
As a 14-year-old actress with great ambitions of future stardom, I was mortified to learn that I had a horrible stage habit. I would unconsciously mouth the words of every other actor onstage as they spoke their lines. My closest girlhood friend told me that my mouthing the other actors' dialogue was distracting, so I anxiously sought out the advice of my acting coach.
After reassuring me that an "actor problem" didn't mean I could never act again, my coach, Mr. Penell, strongly suggested that I stop concentrating on knowing my lines and focus instead on understanding my character's inner monologue. Great! One problem ...
What on earth is an inner monologue?
Mr. Penell described it to me: "The inner monologue is what your character is thinking about when she's not talking." Okay, so instead of me, the actor, thinking about my next line, I could think the thoughts my character might have.
I learned there are two ways to develop your character's inner monologue. The first can be done before rehearsal, and the second can be used during rehearsal and even during performance.
1. Try to figure out the thought process that leads the character's thoughts under your lines.
You can also do inner monologue homework by writing a short biography of the character. In most sketches, there is not a lot of background information given during the scene, so you can make it up! If you decide that Jen in the script “Convicted” is a real estate agent who is trying to get her law degree, you have created a richer inner life for the character. Doing your inner monologue homework will help you with memorizing because you know more than just the lines; you know the person you are portraying.
2. During rehearsal and performance, put aside the homework you have done and concentrate on listening.
Listen to the other actors say their lines and think about what they are saying. Watch them perform an action and imagine how your character is responding to their words and deeds. This creates a natural inner monologue because your thoughts are following the action of the scene as it unfolds. This approach also helps your line memorization. As you stop waiting for cues and instead listen attentively, your line will be your natural response.
The technical part of acting is learning the lines and following direction. The creative part of acting is pretending that you are a different person. To pretend you are a character, you need to know him or her very well. By developing an inner monologue, you are making every moment in a scene full of activity, even when you are not speaking.
Mr. Penell would be proud.