Yes, you - squatting in that awkward corner of Samuel French (somewhere between Bartlett and Chekhov). I see you. You’re spending another gloomy afternoon scouring page after page for that monologue. You know the one - it’s profound without being showy; not overdone; funny and tragic in equal parts; fits your casting and age bracket perfectly – in short, it’s the one that will make every audition panel, agent and casting director in the land instantly fall in love with you. Yeah, that one. How’s the search going?
Thought so. Being an actor is notoriously hard. We’re often broke, unemployed or modelling ironically warm polar bear costumes for a well-know American clothing brand (never again). At times it feels like we’re a one-person business with no business acumen, floundering around in a confusing and corrupt pond of inifinitely lovelier and a bigger fish. We also have to justify our excellent life choices to a plethora of well-meaning, but ultimately unenlightened, relatives and friends who have normal (read: Muggle) things like mortgages, pensions and a profound sense of wellbeing.
More of that last one later, but first, know this: you’re not alone. Just because the world is a shitstorm, it doesn’t mean there aren’t pockets of goodness out there. The Mono Box is one of those good places. Usually someone with an ego bigger than my thighs talks about creating a ‘safe space’ – but I mean it, with no lacing of sarcasm, when I say that The Mono Box is a safe and supportive place to practise your craft.
About a year ago someone suggested I come along to a Mono Box Speech Surgery. So I did. I tentatively ate a Hobnob. Picked up and put down about three plays. Chatted to some people and listened quietly to the Q & A. It was good – I felt welcome. So I came back again. And again. I started going to workshops. I started going to all the workshops I could afford (shout out to all my 0-hour contract compadres). I spent less and less time in my sad little flat and more time doing – anything – movement, film, Shakespeare, voice – anything and everything they offered. And things steadily started to change and life got sweeter. I moved out of the flat, quit the shitty job and started to make plays with the people I’d met. So when I was offered the opportunity to volunteer for The Mono Box, I was delighted, because I know full well how vital this organisation is.
Many of the volunteers at The Mono Box have, perhaps like you, been through the rigmarole of drama school auditions, faced countless job rejections or, purely for example, found themselves Googling ‘permaculture communes in Mexico’ of an evening. We know first hand what it’s like – good and bad – and we’re bumbling along the yellow brick road beside you.
So if you get the chance, come along to a workshop or Speech Surgery – you don’t have to jump straight in – suss us out, chat to us if you feel so inclined (volunteers will be wearing Mono Box badges) - or just potter around the play collection and eat loads of Jammy Dodgers; that’s ok too. But I encourage you to give The Mono Box a go – because you don’t have to do this alone – be kind to yourself. And, who knows? You may even find that elusive monologue that makes your eyes light up and your soul sing.
Martha Bennett is an actor and Mono Box volunteer.