Thursday, January 01, 2009

From a conversation about Butz at Playgoer, he comments:

Basically I was struck by Mike's criticism of going onstage off-book when he himself famously always has written notes on stage for his monologue-shows. I ribbed him about that, and he replied that his kind of monologue show just isn't compatible to playing a role in a narrative play.

Perhaps. This also recalled for me a question I always had about Spalding Gray--a trailblazer in Daisey's format. As is evident from all his filmed monologues, a notebook was always one of Gray's standard props on stage, and he duly turned the pages throughout. But when I saw him live once, it became clear to me he NEVER actually read from the notebook. So what do we call that? Interesting strategy to make audience THINK you're on-book when you're actually not. (Perhaps he needed the security of it there. Or was it just a clever onstage signifier of "storytelling"?)

I'm just going to say my piece in bullet points, as it's easier.

* I'm not Spalding, so I can't really speak for what he's doing onstage. I have been told by a number of people close to him that Spalding's goal was to "lock" his pieces, so that they did become scripted over time, and if that is true then we aren't really practicing the same format, especially as far as this question goes.

* With my work, there is no script of any kind, ever. The narrative is created as it is performed, discovered at that moment, and it shifts and bends from performance to performance. We can discuss how much it changes, which varies immensely depending on where in a monologue's life cycle we are, but it looks and feels nothing like memorizing fixed lines whatsoever.

* For me, the outline serves as signal and symbol of our compact. I use the outline intermittently in performance--but in the creating of the outline, and in its amending, a huge amount of structural work is done. It is serving as a kind of focusing tool and process for that, and so a large part of its importance is invisible, as it occurs in the generation and amendation of the show.

* In either event, you'd never see me "reading" from the outline, as it is an outline--there's nothing to read in a literal sense. Read out loud there would be a stream of nonsensical sentences, line drawings, resonant phrases that never appear in work, and incomprehensible (to others) schematics. It would make no sense, and doesn't look like a script in the least.

* Through all of this, I'm commenting as an actor with regards to memorization--I've been in well over a hundred shows in my lifetime that are not monologues, and in those I work as a traditional actor, so I'm very well-versed in memorization and its pitfalls. I am, in fact, much better at monologuing than I am at memorization--I don't have any native skill at it, but use visualization to create ladders that make it work. Years of working as a monologuist haven't helped, as it's completely different.

9:59 AM