Short Monologues for the Struggling Actor

(Originally appeared on McSweeney’s, July 13 2004)

1. “The Workhorse”

The character of Trish, 28, has just learned that she’ll have to work over Christmas break, even though she specifically told Randy, the assistant manager at The Red Lobster, that she was headed down to Delaware to visit her parents.

TRISH: “Don’t you get it? It’s not just about this, Randy! It’s about more . . . so much more. (beat) When I look up at the stars sometimes, when I’m on break, when I’m standing in the parking lot, and I’m alone and cold and I’m shivering, I look up and I see that life isn’t only about wanting, but NEEDING. I need to do this, I need to do that. That’s a concept that my younger self could not have accepted, do you not agree? But now that I’m twenty-eight-years-old, I just simply MUST. There’s no other choice, you must understand this! I look at those stars and I see an older me. My eyes begin to tear, not from sadness but from HAPPINESS. Please don’t be mad or upset with me, Randy! I’ll always love this job, I’ll always love the people, I’ll always love servin’ up those Blueberry Millionaire Pies, the Softshell Crab Spectaculars, I’ll never forget those Super Daily Specials . . . (beat) What’s that? I have to work or I’m FIRED? (crouching) I am no mule, Randy! No, sir, I am no mule that can just be worked and worked and worked, until death-do-us-part, and then DISCARDED by the side of that dirt road that leads to the lake where . . . (punching, kicking) Look at me, I’m a mule! And I can boot ya straight to the moon! (to customer) Sorry, does tartar sauce stain? I’ll pay for those socks, no problemo . . . (rising slowly to a standing position) Did you know that I played Willy Loman’s WIFE in high school? I had a talent that could not be stopped, Randy . . . the crowds cheered and then cheered some more, they practically went mad with joy. God, those were good days–okay, okay, stop yelling at me! I’ll get back to work, relax! . . . (softly) My order pad in the shape of a lobster tail, seen it? (Bow, applause)

2. “Endless Afternoon”

The character of Mary, 24, must deal with the nasty librarian who insists that she free up the Xerox machine in the local public library, a favorite spot to retreat from the suffocating one bedroom, five-floor walkup she sublets from her former boss at the video store where she used to work before she decided to just “go for it.”

MARY: “It’s funny, Miss Public Librarian, and yet you remind me of a long-lost cousin, who died so very young, so very long ago. She was so vivacious, so in the NOW, that I’ve never really forgotten her. I was so SMALL then, see, and everyone looked so much TALLER. (sadly) Do you know what I mean? Even though you don’t really know me well, can you comprehend what I’m trying to EXPRESS? (smiling) Isn’t it funny how quickly time passes? One minute you’re frolicking in your yard, swinging wildly on a tire attached to a large oak tree, the sun’s rays are honey-drenched and all is RIGHT. (downcast) And the next moment, you’re an ADULT, with RESPONSIBILITIES and you’re UNEMPLOYED and you have no more INTERESTING STORIES to tell your family back in Charlotte, North Carolina? Is this making any sense? (beat) Why are you shaking your head? (very angry) See, I knew that you would do this! Each and every day you shake your head, and each and every day you give me a hard time about copying my CV and headshots! (crying hysterically) How much more do I have to give to you? How about an accent, is that what you’re searching for? (Irish brogue) I am but a wee little person, too drunk off of the nectar of LIFE to pay for PROFESSIONAL headshots! I shall perform a fancy dance, if that’s what ye want! Broken-down, but not broken! Dancing on top of the world, like this, see here . . . (sadly) This gentleman is staring at me! Can you believe it? What’s your problem, sir? You want to use this copier? And because why? (sarcastically) Oh, look at me, everybody! I have to copy my medical exams! I’m going to be a doctor! Here, here’s the GODDAMN copier, okay? Copy your fancy nothingness! I have to leave anyway, there’s a lot goin’ on! (turning to imaginary audience) Got that Blue’s Clues audition in an hour, the role of the TALKING ELEPHANT. Get ready world! I’m gonna MAKE IT!” (Bow, applause)

3. “The Transaction”

The character of Max has just come up with the perfect solution on how to spend the twenty-five dollars his grandmother sent him a few days ago for his 39th birthday.

MAX: “When I was hiking across those planes in the outback of Australia, do you remember that time? About ten years ago, that first summer after acting school? (laughs) How could you, we didn’t even know each other then! O, when I was near death, and the infernal sun was beating down on upon my back, I could picture death, I could smell the end, the end was NEAR. Do you even know what death FEELS like? How could you possibly? Lo, I had an epiphany out there on those infernal planes, not in the religious sense, but in the REAL sense, the true sense, the ONLY sense. (singing) That money, it ain’t nothin’ but a concept! Ain’t nothin’ but a MIRAGE shimmering over that distant horizon! Ain’t nothin’ but an ILLUSION to throw into the air and then watch disintegrate into the OBLIVION of life . . . (dramatically runs hands through his hair) I’m sorry, I haven’t eaten in days. Spent practically everything I had on that singing lesson. (softly) Three glazed donuts and a double-dipped. Seriously. NOW. I’m famished and I am about to faint onto your soda dispenser.” (Bow, applause)