If you can’t tell, I like using song titles to title my blog posts, and this week, I feel like Elton John is appropriate because we’re going to talk about love. Over the course of my seemingly never-ending search for the perfect monologue, I have found that most have something to do with the ever-so-confusing concept that is love. Love: it brings a character great joy and great grief, laughter and frustration, hope and loss, the list goes on. That is exactly why it is suited for monologues. There are many different directions an author can take. I’ve been rather selective in my search process, but this passage from Brian Friel’s “Molly Sweeney” has stayed with me from the start. It portrays Frank Sweeney, the husband of Molly. In this passage, Frank recounts his experience asking Molly out on their first date, which becomes especially interesting when you account for the fact that Molly is blind. It goes as follows:
“I spent a week in the library — the week after I first met her — one full week immersing myself in books and encyclopedias and magazines and articles — anything, everything I could find about eyes and vision and eye diseases and blindness. Fascinating. I can’t tell you — fascinating. I look out of my bedroom window and at a single glance I see the front garden and the road beyond and cars and buses and the tennis courts on the far side and people playing on them and the hills beyond that. Everything — all those details and dozens more — all seen in one immediate, comprehensive perception. But Molly’s world isn’t perceived instantly, comprehensively. She composes a world from a sequence of impressions; one after the other, in time. For example, she knows that this is a carving knife because first she can feel the handle; then she can feel this long blade; then this sharp edge. In sequence. In time. What is this object? These are ears. This is a furry body. Those are paws. That is a long tail. Ah, a cat! In sequence. Sequentially. Right? Right. Now a personal question. You are going to ask this blind lady out for an evening. What would be the ideal entertainment for somebody like her? A meal? A concert? A walk? Maybe a swim? Billy Hughes says she’s a wonderful swimmer. (He shakes his head slowly.) The week in the library pays off. know the answer instantly. Dancing. Take her dancing. With her disability the perfect, the absolutely perfect relaxation. Forget about space, distance, who’s close, who’s far, who’s approaching. Forget about time. This is not a sequence of events. This is one continuous, delightful event. Nothing leads to nothing else. There is only now. There is nothing subsequent. I am your eyes, your ears, your location, your sense of space. Trust me. Dancing. Obvious. Straight into a phone-box and asked her would she come with me to the Hikers Club dance the following Saturday. It’ll be small, I said; more like a party. What do you say? Silence. We’ll ask Billy and Rita and we’ll make it a foursome and we’ll have our own table and our own fun. Not a word. Please, Molly. In my heart of hearts I really didn’t think she’d say yes. For God’s sake why should she? Middle-aged. No skill. No job. No prospect of a job. Two rooms above Kelly’s cake shop. And not exactly Rudolf Valentino. And when she did speak, when she said very politely, “Thank you, Frank. I’d love to go,” do you know what I said? “All right then.” Bloody brilliant! But I vowed to myself in that phone-box, I made a vow there and then that at the dance on Saturday night I wouldn’t open the big mouth — big? — enormous for Christ’s sake! — I wouldn’t open it once all night, all week. Talking of Valentino, in point of fact Valentino was no Adonis himself. Average height; average looks; mediocre talent. And if he hadn’t died so young — in 1926 — he was only thirty-one — and in those mysterious circumstances that were never fully explained — he would never have become the cult figure the studios worked so hard to . . . Anyhow . . .” (Gale, Outstanding Stage Monologs and Scenes from the ’90s, 59-61).
I really enjoy the nervous excitement in Frank’s voice. I feel like it plays to my strengths in the sense that Frank is a romantic, and I like to think that I am too. This monologue won’t be easy, though. There is some humor to it, but it is lost if I am not completely serious about what I’m saying. For example, the following passage is the point at which I believe I could make my audience laugh: “You are going to ask this blind lady out for an evening. What would be the ideal entertainment for somebody like her? A meal? A concert? A walk? Maybe a swim? Billy Hughes says she’s a wonderful swimmer. (He shakes his head slowly.)” However, if I weren’t able to accurately convey the seriousness with which he speaks, I would lose my audience, so this week, I am working to both memorize this monologue and film it to figure out what movements will complement it best. I am reminded of The Monologue Audition Video by Karen Kohlhaas, which is a great resource that I watched while in Seattle. A side goal for this week is to obtain a copy of my own…
One last thing before I close, my commercial reel was finished! Here is the final version:
To hear the original version before it was edited by a sound engineer, check out my last post!
Thanks for reading! I look forward to sharing more next week!
Tray Hammond ’18
In light of the hurricanes that have devastated the Caribbean, I will leave this post by Katherine Brooks that could hopefully lighten your mood. I know it did for me. I really admired her ability to make a dark topic seem not-so-bad in the context of Ernest Hemingway’s cats.