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I have to mark beats in my monologue for my acting class. How do I do this? What is a beat in a monologue?
Comment by hot brdwy diva on June 10, 2009 at 1:41 am
A beat is kinda like a pause or a subject change. When you're "in character" what you're saying is coming out as you say it. So you technically have to "think" about what you're going to say. When we talk in normal life we have breaks – beats – in our speech while we think of the next thing to say or something new pops into our heads and we're thinking of how to word it.
Today we went to the meat market and got some chicken. I'm not really a fan of chicken but Lilly is. (beat) Lilly is a strange person, not that Idon't like her. I mean, her strange personality is what makes our friendship strong.
Comment by wild_summer_roses on June 10, 2009 at 1:41 am
Read over your piece. You should notice a natural timing. Mark where you would pause or breath.
Comment by Joey Michaels on June 10, 2009 at 1:41 am
This varies from teacher to teacher. I usually say that a beat is where one action ends and another begins. In the case of a monologue, it might be where the character changes subjects or changes approaches to the subject at hand.
Basically, as far as I was taught, a beat is a unit of action.
Anyhow, good luck!
Comment by shkspr on June 10, 2009 at 1:41 am
I'm confused. If you're in an acting class where you've been given an assignment to mark the beats in a monologue…doesn't that mean that the instructor has defined and discussed the concept of "beats" in class? If not, it's a worthless assignment. The idea of acting "beats" — and how to go about finding and playing them — is not something that people just sort of figure out for themselves.
I recommend that you schedule a meeting with your teacher, and get this clarified.
Essentially, though, a "beat" is a unit of text that is consistent in terms of subject matter/theme/tone/intention. When the subject/tone/etc. CHANGE, that the indicator that you've entered a new "beat." This is not merely an academic distinction. It is ultimately the actor's responsibility to "signal" the beats; the movement from beat to beat is the demonstration of the living thought of the monologue.
There's no rule of thumb on this one, but, in an average 2-minute type of monologue, you should be looking for 4-5 distinct beats; too many changes in tone make for clutter, and good playwrights generally don't construct things that way.
Comment by johnocreagh on June 10, 2009 at 1:41 am
A beat might be considered a thought. Try to break the monologue down into its units of thought.
Find what the character wants, and look at the monologue in that light. Every change of thought is a change in the approach to achieving what the character wants.
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