Category Archives: Monologues

***** ROBERT LEPAGE: ‘887’ (SV PICK, SCT) ·


(Dominic Cavendish’s article appeared in the Telegraph, 8/14.)

Some 15 years ago, the Canadian theatre visionary Robert Lepage, who made his name with sprawling, character-loaded epics, achieved a solo triumph with The Far Side of the Moon, combining a trim tale of two brothers with the Cold War rivalry of the Space Race. His latest one-man endeavour for his company Ex Machina – receiving its European premiere here – provokes a similar sense of awe. This is the most intimate show of his career, achieving both a cerebral and an emotional power.

At the age of 57, Lepage has been drawn back to 887. That’s the number of the apartment building on Murray Avenue, Quebec City, where he grew up in the Sixties. He doesn’t just describe it in reminiscence, painting the scene with words. Lepage proves he needs to consistently push the boundaries and nowhere is that more evident than in his technical wizardry. He shows us his old haunts: looming large over a succession of model sets of the mansion block, other local environs of interest and places held dear in the memory.

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(Nell Casey’s article appeared in The New York Times, 10/8; video includes Gray monologue and Talking Heads music.)

Spalding Gray moved to New York City in 1967, shortly after his mother’s suicide, when he was 26. He lived with his girlfriend, Elizabeth LeCompte, in an apartment on Sixth Street and Avenue D, on the Lower East Side. To make ends meet, Gray occasionally worked as a stock boy, while LeCompte sold postcards at the front desk of the Guggenheim. But mostly they were finding their places in New York’s avant-garde theater world.

In 1968, they saw Richard Schechner’s critically acclaimed production of “Dionysus in ’69,” which included an onstage orgy. Gray and LeCompte were electrified by it. The following year, they would become members of Schechner’s experimental-theater troupe, the Performance Group, after the director cast Gray in his rather unusual interpretation of Shakespeare’s “Macbeth.” Schechner recalls coming across Gray’s head shot and seeing a young man “staring out with eyes so far apart — he wasn’t trying to look pretty, he wasn’t trying to do anything.”

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One of Spalding Gray’s monologues ‘The Anniversary’ is included in One on One: The Best Men’s Monologues from the 21st Century from Applause Books:


(George Hunka’s post appeared 3/11 on Superfluities Redux.)

Irish actor Jack MacGowran is probably best remembered as one of Samuel Beckett’s foremost performers, though he also appeared in material as wide-ranging as the plays of Sean O’Casey and William Friedkin’s The Exorcist. With Beckett, he crafted a monologue called Beginning to End based on Beckett’s prose writings and toured this to great acclaim through the 1960s. In 1966 MacGowran filmed the performance for Ireland’s RTÉ Television. Until recently the film was hard to come by, but this too recently cropped up on YouTube in its 50-minute entirety, and it is presented below.



(Monologues are posted as a recurring feature on Stage Voices.) 


ARTHUR is in his 30s; he lives in Brooklyn.


I went to see a psychic on West 76th Street. Sixty bucks a pop. I figured, what the hell. And she was pretty good, too, although she did keep bringing up near-death phenomena. She did know I'd moved, though:  She also knew my work had moved. And she knew I was going to see my father after slightly more than four years . . .

The very next day my eighty-one-year-old Dad shows up. He's with my brother on the last leg of a seven-day road trip from Georgia. In New York, they’re stopping over at the Princeton Club and having Sunday brunch at the Algonquin. Then they're going to see my Dad's boyhood friend, Lucian. So, I walk into the brunch, O.K., to see my father plowing into the dining room in his wheelchair, and his hair is all over. He looks like this mad genius musical conductor. Immediately, the serving staff thinks he IS a mad genius musical conductor and seats him at the famous Round Table. They start asking him why he's been gone so long and when he's going to come back again for his birthday parties. . . . I mean, my father never went to Princeton.  He's never set foot in the Algonquin. I say to my brother, “O.K. what's the deal? You two win at Lotto or what?" He says, "Can't you even once make your old man happy?"


I just get served the eggs Benedict, thinking this can be great, thinking this is the first real meal I've had in weeks as my father puts down his fourth shot of Old Fitzgerald and says, "Well, we did that. Time to go see Lucian."  My brother then says to me, "Take care of the tab, fancy boy."  I say, "Wait a minute. I thought you were taking care of this.” And my brother says to me, “You're the one who's been a little remiss for slightly more than four years. You take care of it." I say, "Yeah, but that's because seeing you people makes me CRAZY.” And I start flailing around trying to dig my debit card and twenty bucks out of my trousers, saying, "I just spent my last sixty bucks yesterday." And my brother says, "So stiff the waiter!"


The next thing I know–after I've done exactly that, giving my brother lead time to load my father into their rented BMW—we land in a rundown tenement on the Lower East Side. I try to tell them that Lucian has had a stroke. I try to explain that Lucian hasn't talked in eleven months and has been practically comatose. I try to tell them that Lucian doesn’t recognize me. I try to tell them that he’s in the hands of the Visiting Nurse Service of New York. I try to tell them that Lucian is totally dispossessed and 1ives in abject poverty. I try to tell them that there’s nothing more anyone can do and that I don’t go anymore to see him. So my father says to this veritable corpse lying shrunken and decrepit in the stench of that apartment: "Get up Lucian. It's time to get down on that field and practice." And, suddenly, Lucian, who is about to go at any moment, becomes lucid. He opens his eyes and says, "Hey Mac, how you doing?" So my father says, “Oh, I'm pretty qood, what about you?" And Lucian says, "Can't complain." And my father starts crawling into bed with Lucian to give him a rubdown, and they start whispering to each other as if they’re little kids planning to run away to see the world.


My brother, the entrepreneur, finally decides to unveil his plan, whereby, we should sell all of our family's property back to ourselves so that we can create an estate. “I gotta buy back my bronzed baby shoes?” I ask. He's says they'd be cheaper if I bought them before Dad dies. "How long's that?" I say, just to be flip, and he says, "Toscanini's got four months, tops. Cancer." And, suddenly, I realize that the brunch at the Algonquin was my father's way of saying goodbye to me.


And, suddenly, I realize that neither of us expect to see each other again.


And, suddenly, I realize he’s saying goodbye to Lucian right now.


I hope death means floating on the ceiling until the ambulance arrives. I hope it's like passing through an invisible curtain. I hope there’s a tunnel of blue light where someone who once loved you comes to meet you.  If we aren't all repenting some ghastly sin we've all committed, then why are we even here? I should have asked the psychic: How can we reach the invisible hand that will point us on the right path? Why won't it reveal itself?


© 2010 by Bob Shuman. All rights reserved.


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(What follows is the opening section of “Pardon Me For Living” – a harrowing, alternately horrifying and comic account of what happened when playwright and actor Staci Swedeen was attacked by a rabid raccoon in May 2003. Ms Swedeen will be performing the show in its entirety at Penguin Repertory Theatre on September 12 at 4 PM and 8 PM.  For more information:

Box Office: 845-786-2873)



The artist is extremely lucky who is presented with the worst possible ordeal which will not actually kill him. At that point, he’s in business.                John Berryman



It’s May and it’s a beautiful day in Sleepy Hollow, the small village where I live on the Hudson River. The sun is out and I really want to take full advantage of all this streaming Vitamin C or D – which one is it? I can never keep my vitamins straight – much less remember to take them – but I know there is some kind of vitamin in sunshine that’s supposed to be good for you and damn it, I want mine.


I also want a comfortable outdoor chair – and I don’t have one that would let me take full advantage of Mother Nature’s benediction.


But wait…I have a coupon to Bed Bath and Beyond –which I also call “The great Cathedral of America” since all of suburbia can be found worshiping at the altar of linens, towels, and martini glasses.


So I get in my shiny green Subaru and drive over to Elmsford.  I wander the aisles and look at pink candles, pastel soaps pressed into the shapes of clams and tropical fish, small pans suitable for frying one egg.  I look at shelves of 400 count sheets, large tubs of chocolates and gummy bears – but that’s not what I want, I want a comfy chair to put on the patch of grass outside of my house.


I find the perfect one – white and greens stripes, and it folds so I can put it in my back seat and now –


I’m headed home and the sun! Oh, it feels glorious.  I glance down and admire the polish on my toe nails.  The shade is called Vintage Wine and that has me thinking – is it too early for a glass of wine?  It’s after twelve and a nice chardonnay would be just the thing with my sun streamed shot of vitamins. 


I keep driving – and in about ten minutes I’m home from Beyond the Bed Bath. I park on the street where I always park. I get out of the driver’s side of the car, open up the back door to get my lawn chair out when something bites me.


 I think.


I think something bites me but I don’t see anything – but now, yes, there is definitely something biting me, biting my left ankle and this is so weird, I’m just standing right next to the side of my Subaru and nothing was around when  I pulled up so what could it be?


I leave my new chair lying on the back seat, I bend down to look under the car – since that’s where– and I poke my nose to see what’s underneath there.


And here is where my mind does this funny thing, and it’s connected with my mother in law who recently died and left behind this rather ugly, frumpy gray old cat named Abigail who smelled and drooled and exhibited all the signs of major depression you’d expect from someone living with a woman who was drinking heavily as she slipped into dementia. 


So after my mother-in-law died in February, my husband and I had taken Abigail in, because who was going to adopt an old cat like this?  And once furry, frumpy Abigail had her dental hygiene attended to and the dreadlocks cut out of her fur, she was actually a pretty nice cat – I was growing quite fond of her.


So when I peer under the car, I’m surprised to see Abigail nipping my ankle.  How did she get out of the house? What is the matter with her?  Why do some cats do that nipping thing, anyway?  I thought she liked me now. But as my eyes focus and my mind clears, I see that this is clearly not Abigail – this is –

 - this  is –


I pull my leg away from the car. Attached to my left ankle is a gray, ravaged looking raccoon who must weigh about ten or fifteen pounds.  It is snarling at me, an angry throaty growl.  Its arms – legs – paws – are wrapped around my ankle.  Its teeth – jaws- fangs – are buried in my flesh.  I try to comprehend what I’m looking at as blood drips down my foot.


There are moments that stop time.


When I was about six years old – before my parents were divorced, before time altered forever – I was playing in the front yard and walking across this thin cement wall that dropped off to the place where my parents parked their car below.


I was pretending to be an acrobat – a tightrope walker.  As I carefully put one front in front of the other, I called out   –


Hey Mom!  Watch me!  Dad, look at me! Over here!  (Falling, attempting to stop)


And I lost my balance and fell through space, through time, through the hole in the universe – coming out at the other end to the sounds of people screaming –


 -and that is the same hole that I fell through today –


 - the sound of screaming, only this time, this time- who IS that screaming?  It takes me a minute to realize that it is me – because the scream is high pitched, a horrified howl, the kind of scream that will be squeezed out of you when you see an animal with its teeth sunk deep in your flesh on a bright, sunny May day, the kind of scream that would make all the hackles stand up on the neck of a small animal if that animal were not already electrified.  I’m trying to shake the raccoon off of my leg, but he- she – IT – is hanging on with a fury.


(c) 2009 by Staci Swedeen.  Reprinted by permission of the author.  Please direct inquiries to Elaine Devlin Literary Agency, c/o Plus Entertainment, 20 West 23 Street, 3rd Floor, New York, NY 10010, or to the author or



(STACI SWEDEEN is featured in One on One: the Best Women’s Monologues for the 21st Century and One on One: The Best Men’s Monologues for the 21st Century (both published by Applause Books.) Staci is also the recipient of the 2004 Arts and Letters Award in Drama, A New York State Council for the Arts New Play recipient, a Lark Theatre and Dramatist Guild Fellow alum. Her play The Goldman Project premiered Off Broadway in the fall of 2007.  Other plays have been performed across the country, published in numerous anthologies and presented in many festivals.


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THE NATURALIST: a five minute play

 by Robin Goldfin


Time: just yesterday.

Place: North of England, an auditorium.  There is a standing microphone on stage.  The ACTOR enters and speaks into it.



I was sitting in the doctor’s office.  In London.  My foot hurt.  I remember thinking: something always hurts.  I feel like such a strange bird.  I picked up a magazine.  It was a Nature magazine.  In it, I found another strange bird.


I have learned that most of my writing starts as a complaint.  My attempt is to transform it into something….It begins with—


(He puts on a pair of glasses, becomes The Naturalist.  Strong North of England accent.)


Access—to the attic—was via trap door—in the ceiling.   By precarious means—I realize now how soon I might have departed this life—I entered the loft and recorded egg laying, hatching and fledging.  For my tree, I chose the flowering cherry in the garden, recording bud changes, first leaves, first flowers, first fruits and their development.  My school was Highly Commended, two medals were awarded, one to me.


So began my love affair with Nature.  It is impossible to estimate here the influence of these early events on my development…as today I stand before you not to accept yet another award, but to pass on the legacy…of love.  I know we are all waiting impatiently to hear from this year’s winner who has so diligently devoted him/her self to observing these creatures in their native surroundings.  So!  Without further ado: The Tree Warden Society of The Home Parish Council of Wombourne, South Staffordshire hereby presents a FIRST for Animal In Its Natural Habitat Appreciation to–


Scout Ernesto Hermon (my strange bird) and his outstanding work, “Defenestration and the Little Finches.”


Scout Ernesto, do come up and tell us—how does it feel to come first?


(The Actor takes two steps forward, pivots, takes off the glasses and stashes them in a pocket to return as 12 year old Ernesto.  Shy?  Mortified.  He stands frozen at the mic.  Speaks to his Scoutmaster.)


I don’t know what to—.  There are so many people—(a whisper) Ok.

I want to thank me Ma, me Da, the…Good Lord!  Don’t move, don’t breathe!


(He gropes in his pocket for telescope and slowly extends it—the sexual metaphor should not be lost—he can barely contain his excitement.  Scanning the audience.)


There!  A snag-toothed warbling frustration!  And there—a belly-throated regret! Wait, it couldn’t be—it is!  A red-breasted lust!  And right next to her—the sleek-throated shame!  Oh, what a pair… this is my…Ah!…..The full breasted loneliness is feeding her babies!  Oh!  The flat-footed failure has laid another egg!…..(Gasp!)—I don’t believe—so rarely seen in these parts: The dark hued blue-crested sadness.  (Whistles)  Look at that wing span…


            (He watches as the bird flies off.  Lights fade.  End of play.)





© 2009 by Robin Goldfin


(Robin Goldfin’s work is included in One on One:  The Best Men’s Monologues for the 21st Century from Applause Theatre & Cinema Books.)




(Wall appeared in The New York Review of Books 4/30. Berlin/Wall opens, starring David Hare, at the Public Theater 5/14/09 for five performances only.)  

Wall: A Monologue

By David Hare

All right. Let's be serious, let's think about this.

Please, please: consider the state of affairs, consider the desperation, consider the depth of the despair. A country has reached a point at which 84 percent of its people are in favor of building a wall along its borders.

Have you ever known anything of which 84 percent of people were in favor? And yet there it is, over four fifths of a nation—can you imagine that figure?—saying something completely bizarre. The Berlin Wall was built to keep people in. This one, they say, is being built to keep people out.

You might call this an extraordinary state of affairs. Hardly a normal state of affairs. And that's the word you hear all the time in the Middle East. "Normal." The Palestinians ask, "When will we have a normal life?" And so do the Israelis. Indeed, the Israeli state was founded in 1948 with the principal ambition of being normal, of being a normal place like any other. The Palestinians call the foundation of the Israeli state the nakbeh: the disaster. And now sixty years later Israel believes itself, in the frequently expressed view of the majority, in need of a wall.

Except, of course, they don't call it a wall. They call it a fence.

It's one of those things, there seem to be so many, don't there?—I'm thinking of abortion, or armed revolt—where the words you use—pro-life/pro-choice, terrorist/freedom fighter—tell the world which way you think. Words become flags, they announce which side you're on. In this case, literally. The Israelis call it the gader ha'harfrada, which in Hebrew means "separation fence." The Palestinians don't call it that. Not at all. They call it jidar al-fasl al-'unsuri, which in Arabic means "racial segregation wall."

OK, let's go coolly into this, shall we? If I use one word or the other, forgive me, it does not imply I am partisan. I have acquaintances on both sides of the fence and on both sides of the wall. "I hate the wall," say my Israeli friends. "I regret it." "I'm ashamed of the wall." "I drive for miles so that I don't have to see it. But it works. 80 percent of terrorist attacks against Israel have stopped. Have been stopped. Am I not meant to be pleased about that?"

Very well. I shall seek to describe the history of the wall.

On June 1, 2001, nine months into the second intifada, a Palestinian suicide bomber named Saeed Hotari crossed into Israel from the West Bank, and exploded himself at the entrance to the Dolphinarium discotheque on the beach in Tel Aviv, killing twenty-one civilians, most of them high school students. A further 132 people were injured. In response to the massacre, a grassroots movement grew up all over Israel calling itself Fence for Life. They argued, as Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin had argued ten years earlier, that the only way of protecting the country from infiltration by terrorists was by sealing itself off from the Palestinian territories, by removing the points of friction between the two communities. But separation would not be a purely military tactic. No, before he was murdered by a fellow Israeli, Rabin had been arguing something much more radical. "We have to decide on separation as a philosophy."

There it is. Not just a wall. A wall would be a fact. But this wall is a philosophy, what one observer has called "a political code for shutting up shop."

Construction began in 2002. The original plan was that the fence should stretch a full 486 miles, the entire length of Israel's eastern border. The current estimate for its completion is some-time around the end of 2010. Varying in width between 30 and 150 meters, this $2 billion combination of trenches, electronic fences, ditches, watchtowers, concrete slabs, checkpoints, patrol roads, and razor coil is priced at around $2 million per kilometer. Some seventy-five acres of greenhouses and twenty-three miles of irrigation pipes have already been destroyed on the Palestinian side. More than 3,700 acres of Palestinian land have been confiscated, some of it so that the wall may run yards away from Palestinian hamlets and villages. Already, 102,000 trees have been cut down to clear its path.

It is, says an Israeli friend, an acknowledgment of failure. "History has not followed the course we might have wished." Another way of putting it, later the same evening, after a few drinks in one of the big beachside hotels that are beginning to make the Bauhaus quarter of Tel Aviv look like Florida: "You do have to ask yourself: I'm not sure Ben-Gurion would be thrilled."

From the start the exact route has been controversial. The most obvious path for it to have followed would have been along the international border, established in 1949 between Israel and Jordan, and known to all parties as the Green Line. But in fact, 85 percent of its intended route is inside the West Bank. The fence snakes and coils, departing eastward from the Green Line in places by just two hundred meters, but in other places by as much as twenty-two kilometers where it goes inland to collect up and protect Israeli settlements established far inside the occupied territory. Sometimes it takes in fertile Palestinian agricultural land and water wells, leaving Palestinian farmers without access to their own fields. Some 140,200 Israeli settlers will be living between the fence and the Green Line. 93,000 Palestinians will be caught on the wrong side of the wall.

For that reason the fence is seen by its opponents not as what it claims to be—a security measure—but more as a land grab, the delineation of a de facto claim, an attempt, like the steady expansion of the Israeli-controlled parts of Jerusalem, to do what is known as "change the facts on the ground." At the outset of the campaign, supporters of Fence for Life insisted that the wall should be a barrier, not a border. It was not to be used as a bargaining tactic in any future negotiation for a final status agreement. But even Israelis have found this intention hard to credit. Before he left office, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert admitted that had he survived in the job he would have sought to set Israeli permanent borders by 2010—and that the border "would run along or close to the barrier."

Even the most ardent supporters of the fence admit that it is, like the blockade of Gaza, a source of huge inconvenience to Palestinians. But they argue, in the words of one defender, that "the deaths of Israelis caused by terror are permanent and irreversible, whereas the hardships faced by the Palestinians are temporary and reversible." The International Court of Justice in The Hague had a different view. On July 9, 2004, it ruled 14–1 that

the construction of a wall being built by Israel, the occupying power, in the Occupied Palestinian Territory…[is] contrary to international law. Israel is under an obligation…to cease forthwith the works of construction,…to dismantle forthwith the structures therein situated,…to make reparation for all the damage caused by the construction of the wall….

Professor Sari Nusseibeh of Al-Quds University puts it most pithily:

It's like sticking someone in a cage and then when he starts screaming, as any normal person would, using his violent temper as justification for putting him in the cage in the first place. The wall is the perfect crime because it creates the violence it was ostensibly built to prevent . . .

(Read more)

David Hare on director Stephen Daldry (interview on You Tube):

For tickets:,com_shows/task,view/Itemid,141/id,965

(An excerpt from David Hare's work appears in Duo!: The Best Plays for Two for the 21st Century due out from Applause Theatre and Cinema Books in August.