Vicki Bennett teaches a Monologue/Scripts class as part of SAG-AFTRA’s Conservatory and attending her class is a real eye opener. Take one look at her and it’s clear that back in her day she must have been the darling of the silver screen. She is soft-spoken, a real delight, and such a sweetheart.
Despite her petite physique when her class begins, Vicki is clearly in charge. With catlike eyes, I recently watched Vicki in action. She observed each actor perform their monologue with the demeanor of a kitten but her comments made me think of a cat that has seen and done it all.
After the first person finished their monologue the stream of questions Vicki asked made it clear that you as an actor need to know where you are, why you are there, and what your background or setting is. Whenever you act you need to know the answer to all these questions and more.
She quickly asked those questions because she wanted to know that you knew the answers. Over and again she emphasized the importance that as an actor you need to know the character and have the ability to get into another person’s persona in a real way.
She emphasized the importance of knowing to whom you are talking. She underscored the fact that the moment before is what gets you into the actual scene you are portraying. So, in your mind and in your being know what happened the moment before you start your monologue or script.
As Vicki continued with her sea of questions it was clear the message that she was sending was: “Be who you are portraying. You have to find out who you are first and that will help you know the ‘situation’ you are in. You also need to find the obstacle because it makes you fight harder for what you want,” she emphasized.
Each situation determines what that obstacle is; in other words, what is getting in the way of what you are after.
Some examples of ‘situations’ could be two people who are trying to settle a messy divorce, or a teenager who is being bullied. It could also be someone coming to terms with the loss of a loved one.
The obstacle is what is getting in the way. For example, if two people are trying to resolve an argument and a neighbor kept coming and interrupting – she would be the obstacle.
What comes first is the knowledge of the situation. What gets in the way is what comes in between to prevent you from solving the problem and you must fight through the obstacle to resolve the situation. Whatever that obstacle, you must find a way to overcome it in order to get what you want.
And then she asserted that you need to “keep pushing the boundaries on that.”
The questions Vicki posed continued. “What do you want? Do you remember what the person you are talking to just said to you?“
By answering all these questions it is easier for you to become who you are portraying and to maintain the control you need over what you are saying so that you truly become that person.
After spending an hour in Vicki’s class it was clear how incredibly good she is at pulling out the essence of the monologue so that she understands it well enough to guide you as an actor.
“First I have to find out from where they come and what motivates them to do this because everyone comes from different training and different backgrounds. Once I figure that out I am able to help them be one with their script,” she explained.
Vicki’s ability to teach comes from both her background and the fact that she’s been teaching at the Conservatory for 15 years now; and in her day was what you call a “triple threat.” She was an actress, dancer and singer.
Vicki’s acting days consisted of a lot of musical theatre. She toured with Damn Yankees, Annie Get Your Gun and Kiss Me Kate. She performed in Milk and Honey, and How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying. Vicki also did cabaret and worked with a couple of dance companies.
“I am a product of the High School of Performing Arts and I have a Master of Arts degree from Columbia,” she added.
And when asked why she has donated so much of her time to teach other actors, her response was quick and concise. “I love it. It’s totally satisfying to me. It is constantly changing, there are surprises and there’s always something new.”
SAG-AFTRA’s Conservatory is the educational component of this organization. For just $35 a year, members can take one class a week from one of the 15-20 teachers who donate their time teaching a variety of acting classes.
For more information about SAG-AFTRA go to this link: SAG-AFTRA and for the Conservatory go to: SAG-AFTRA Conservatory.