A couple evenings ago I auditioned for an acting class. I have very little (no) acting experience. Except in college. I was in a couple of plays, and had a few lines
For the audition, I had to do a monologue. I chose Act One, Scene Three of the play Doubt: A Parable. The first part of the monologue involves Father Flynn explaining to his students that when they are shooting from the foul line (playing basketball), they need to learn to relax … breathe. Two things I wasn’t doing during the audition. The irony was not lost on the woman who I was auditioning for, and it made her laugh. It was funny.
When I was practicing my lines, I hadn’t had any problems breathing, and not too many relaxing, but when actually auditioning — I was more nervous than I expected. The good news is she gave me some direction, and I improved. How much? I don’t know. I’ll find out next week if I’ve been accepted to the class. Cross you fingers for me. It would be a great experience. Auditioning was a great experience.
So what’s all this have to do with writing? When you read a play with one character in mind, it gives you a different perspective, you examine what’s on the page differently. With Doubt, reading it with Father Flynn in mind, I came away knowing that there was no reason to believe he’d done anything wrong. And this analysis has nothing to do with my personal preference, it’s all based on the words on the page. Check it out. Read exactly what’s said and done. When I saw the movie, I think my impression was it could go either way. An excellent book for this type of script analysis is by Larry Moss: Intent to Live. He talks about “given circumstances.” And if you read Doubt looking at given circumstances, you’ll see what I’m talking about.
The second thing I’ll mention, when you read a monologue that closely, memorize it, and think about how to play it — you see things. You can see that John Patrick Shanley is planting a lot of seeds in this early scene in the play — seeds about what the play is about — and they come to fruition beautifully.
Photograph: Dune Path