Afterthoughts: The Singapore Monologue Slam

A reflection submitted by one of the contestants of the first ever Singapore Monologue Slam. The Singapore Monologue Slam is a competition where 60 participants perform short monologues for the chance to win the Grand Thespis cup and a couple of other prizes.

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A year of yearning for the stage, the arrival of the Singapore Monologue Slam bestowed upon me the opportunity to experience acting in front of an audience again. In my hiatus of acting, I remembered that performing a monologue wasn’t easy. A monologue is meant to reveal a character’s story, their personal dilemmas & inner thoughts. To portray a character placed in a particular situation and conveying that believably to the audience can be tough. Performing that in a mere minute is even more difficult.

But my goal was never to win. Instead, my goal was to unearth within me the ability to act with truth again. At the beginning, I had a fairly basic understanding of how to perform a monologue and saw it simply as me (the character) telling my story to an audience. However, a masterclass offered to every contestant helped me see performing monologues and acting in general, in a new light. I learnt to question who I was talking to, what motivated me to begin my monologue, why I was saying the things I was saying. This allowed me to have a deeper understanding of the character I was playing. And in turn, I could connect with the character on a deeper level. No longer did I see monologues as lines and cues but instead, as thoughts and feelings.

Competition day: the preparation room was bustling with actors. It was the most interesting part of the whole experience. In one corner, I saw a man meditating. In another, a girl was putting make-up on to create a burn scar on her face. In front of me, someone was threatening an imaginary person. All around me, people were transforming themselves into different people and then back to normal. Previously, something I thought about constantly was how I could make my character interesting & memorable. But something I realised along the way was that it wasn’t how dramatic the monologue was or how strong my character needed to be. Simply connecting with the character is enough to create enough truth for the audience to draw themselves in.

As I stood backstage ready to go on, the chattering and buzzing voices of the audience permeating throughout the theatre space; I slowly began to lose focus. My nervousness was creeping in and my focus shifted to all the commotion that was around me. I could feel my heart beating in my chest. The audience suddenly became quiet, ready to watch me. This was my cue. I breathed in and closed my eyes, shutting out the world around me. I recalled all that I prepared for, remembering the character to be played and the situation she was placed in.

And there was a certain kind of peace that I felt in that moment. My own thoughts dissipated, replaced by the thoughts of my character. But I was still completely aware and present. I noticed the glare of the stage lights, the dim silhouette of the audience, the flashing light that signalled the 45-second mark of my performance. But I was in perfect harmony with myself, the actor and me, the character. Acting on stage was the most natural that I ever felt. All my lines that I memorised were already translated into thoughts, which was then organically voiced out of my mouth. And the emotions I experienced were never forced. They simply conferred themselves in my performance. During a Q&A session after the competition, somebody mentioned that performing on stage was the most freeing thing ever. Looking back now, I must say, I agree.

The Singapore Monologue Slam did not only give me the opportunity to perform in front of people again, but it allowed me to grow as an actor (and grow along with other actors as well). To learn about the kind of monologues that suited me, to be able to gain feedback on my monologue from professional actors, to observe others develop their own performances: this was something I couldn’t really get anywhere else.