So this is how I work on a monologue.
With a new monologue, I get it down on paper.
I used to write out monologues by hand, but I typed this one because I had to do some serious editing with it.
This one's from George Bernard Shaw's Candida. It's not commonly known from my understanding, but it was part of a Shaw collection I'd bought a long time ago. I happen to like it quite a bit. The character of Marchbanks here is professing his love to the wife of a preacher and political leader, telling him that he is unfit of his wife's love.
HOWEVER! Most of this monologue is actually from quite a bit of dialogue between Marchbanks and the preacher. Most of the line breaks represent dialogue that was cut. Thanks to Shaw's writing, Marchbanks' point still makes sense with the cuts.
There are a lot more words crossed out. That's mostly for the sake of timing - this should run at about 2 minutes. I cut anything that didn't support that main point of the monologue.
And then, y'know, I underlined some lines. This is mostly placebo-esque voodoo nonsense, but I pick the words in a sentence that are most important. It might seem really obvious, but going through the monologue underlining words that strike you as you speak them aloud, I think, is just another way to bring you and the text closer together. And really, that's what this is all about.
/'s help me indicate beats shifts, where my objective changes.
The big shift in this monologue is right in the middle: "Stop! Morell: if you strike me, I'll kill myself: I won't bear it."
This is a direct reaction to something that the person being spoken to does physically to the speaker - something that doesn't actually happen. It's a tough sell, but the beauty of this monologue is what changes in Marchbanks before and after this altercation - how self-assured he starts, and how incensed he becomes. I've never done anything like this before in a monologue, but I think it works.
I'm also told this, being written by Shaw, is what we would call a modern monologue, as opposed to a classical or contemporary monologue. From the way I understand it,
Classical: Like Shakespeare and those guys.
Contemporary: You could talk to the child of this writer, or the person if they are still alive.
Modern: Whatever isn't the first two (The writer has been dead for a while, but not like SUPER long).
Once it's all written, I just go through it, taking each phrase off the page. That is, whenever I say the words aloud, I never look at the words on the page - I always looks elsewhere. Otherwise, the words will just stay on the page. If you take them OFF the page, they'll float into the air and then into your brain. Seriously, try it.
Once I've got it memorized (and this is the hard part), I go through the monologue and as I speak each word I perform a gesture to go along with it. Like, everyone word, even "the". You don't have to think TOO hard about each gesture, you just have to make sure that each one is different from the last. For a two minute monologue, it might take 10 minutes or so. But it's worth it. I'm told this is one of those Meisner techniques? Whoever THAT guy is! Anyway, it helps me figure out how I REALLY feel about the text.
After that, I go through again, instead I perform it with my arms at my side, looking straight ahead, super-minimalist. Kinda like a "cool-down" from the previous exercise. It also helps me figure out which times I'm driven to move my body, when I'm real excited and I just wanna DO something.
After that, I do whatever. Might go through at half volume as I walk about town. I might do it again in a public place, like a hill in Boston Common, where people will think it's funny.
And hey, dudes: do your monologue for at least one other human being before your audition. You may not be crazy into the idea, but it almost always gives you useful insight. Well, as long as you know insightful people. Anyway, you won't truly know how a monologue works in front of people until you do it in front of people.
Something I just realized is that all of this editing of an existing work, you might think, "Well, why not just write your own monologue?"
The thing about writing your own monologue is don't write your own monologue. Editing is one thing, because you can still say of this monologue, "It is from George Bernard Shaw's Candida."
However, if you were to introduce your monologue in an audition by saying, "This is a monologue I wrote," you're conveying that you could not find an existing monologue that you could make work, so you wrote one for yourself.
Acting is interpretation. In an audition, a director is asking of you, "How well can you interpret text, and how well will you be able to interpret my direction?" By doing a monologue you have written, you're saying, "Nope, I can't do any of that shit! I'll just audition with this thing I already know all of the subtext for because I wrote it."
So, yeah. I don't think that's actually a thing too often, but don't do it.