Describe the play or character or scene or monologue in just one word

Describe the play or character or scene or monologue in just one word_550
Photo Credit: Liz West via cc

Describe the play in just one word?

If you had to identify, in one word, the reason why the human race has not achieved, and never will achieve, its full potential, that word would be ‘meetings.’
Dave Berry
This is an exercise which I find hugely rewarding when I approach any piece, be it as an actor, a director or as an audition coach. I take the play, the speech, the sides, the character and I find the one word which describes the moment, the play or the character.
It is simple but as with most very simple exercises it is both powerful and illuminating.
All too often we as artists can go on and on about our characters and the play we are working on, we can talk and talk and the more we say the less we actually know about what we are working on. We can lose ourselves and lose our way. Saying too much isn’t a sign you know what you are doing it is a sign that you are lost.
When we are able to distill the work down to just one word then we can really start our journey.

Do it at the beginning of rehearsals and revisit it throughout

I guarantee that at first it will knock you for six, and I also know that the word you first choose will change as your rehearse and perform more and more – but by choosing a word you are uncluttering the process and allowing yourself an anchor from which everything else will come.
Once you are able to define a play’s theme with one word you will know exactly what the play is about.
Once you are able to define a character with just one word, you will know exactly who that character is.

Share your words with the rest of the company

Why need I volumes, if one word suffice?
Ralph Waldo Emerson
The whole play is of course defined by much more than just one word, the word will change and everyone will probably be thinking of different words. Have discussions with the rest of the cast, with the directors and the designers and see which words they are approaching the play from – you will start to build up a vivid world from all of these very simple opinions.
This exercise is a way in, a method which will help you to become both specific, economic and efficient with words. It strips away a lot of the bullsh*t which we artists can wallow in. It gets us directly to the play or character’s heart.
I am not asking you to choose just any word.
I want you to be able to choose the one word which will create a world.

Try it out now. Use it on your monologues

Practise this by choosing a couple of monologues – read them and think of one word which will illuminate the story of the monologue and also choose one word which illuminates the character. Spend time thinking of the words – don’t just grab at the first one, go deeper and think of a word which paints a picture and which speaks volumes.
If you can come up with the perfect word for you then I guarantee you will be approaching the piece with a whole new understanding, and you will know the heart of the monologue, the play and the character.
Here are three videos which help give you some ideas for boiling down to the very essence of something and finding your one word.
One SONG can spark a moment
One FLOWER can wake the dream
One TREE can start a forest
One BIRD can herald spring
One SMILE begins a friendship
One HANDCLASP lifts a soul
One STAR can guide a ship at sea
One WORD can frame the goal
One VOTE can change a nation
One SUNBEAM lights a room
One CANDLE wipes out darkness
One LAUGH will conquer gloom
One STEP must start each journey
One WORD must start a prayer
One HOPE will raise our spirits
One TOUCH can show you care
One VOICE can speak with wisdom
One HEART can know what is true
One LIFE can make a difference.