Chicago actor Shane Richlen joined our Spring 2019 Beginning Monologue class. We asked him to write about his experience as a first time Invictus student.

As someone who graduated from college a year ago and hasn’t even taken an acting class at all for the year prior to that, I was admittedly pretty nervous but, more than anything very excited to work on a monologue with Charles and Invictus Theatre this spring. I knew it would be a good challenge for me, and it would help me better myself as an actor, and also identify what I need to work on in the future. Shakespeare has an uncanny ability with his monologues to blatantly show us what we need to improve on. Whether that be breath support, intent, clarity of language, or any number of areas we may be lacking in, it becomes glaringly obvious when we try to perform Shakespeare. The language falls flat, verse lines get choppy, clarity is lost. All of these situations point to a technical issue that we need to focus on to better ourselves. Rather than viewing them as failures, I think it’s important to look at them as learning experiences. In studying Shakespeare, we provide ourselves the best material with which to improve as actors.

This class quickly revealed to me the aspects of my acting that I need to focus on. I carry a lot of tension in my body (as, I suspect, many of us do) and this results in me being tense in my gut, and pushing to drive the language, rather than letting the language drive itself. This tension finds its way into my throat and can cause me to use something of a false voice. I’ve found in this class a new trust in the language and the playwright.  It has reminded me to allow myself  to trust the words, and trust that the more I can relax and relieve myself of that tension, the more I can connect with what I am saying. My performance will be better if I relax and remember that I know the right technique. Once I am relaxed and not thinking about myself as much, I can begin to focus on other aspects of the performance.

“Take what he is giving you and make it about him”. It’s easy to forget that sometimes when acting, we become so focused on ourselves and what we need to do that it becomes forced and we are pushing instead of feeling, acting instead of being. Though this is a monologue class, there is always a scene partner to play off of and receive energy from. Maybe it’s another person in class, or maybe (in an audition setting) we have to create our scene partner ourselves. Either way it is important to remind ourselves that we need to be open to what our partner is feeling and allow that to motivate what we are trying to accomplish. 

One of the most exciting parts about being in a class like this one is that we get to experience growth with a group of people beside us. We get to watch as they discover new and exciting aspects of their piece, and we get to share with them our moment to moment discoveries. We get to collaborate, and we get to influence their monologues in ways that don’t normally happen when simply standing and delivering a monologue. With the watchful eye of a talented, compassionate, and intelligent teacher like Charles, we are free to play if we let ourselves!