While holding auditions for my play “Metamorphosis, Junior Year,” I could tell that the teens had struggled to find relevant, age-appropriate monologues. Some of the most effective auditions were by students who had taken poems from my novel of the same name and rewritten them in first person.
After the play wrapped, the ensemble of teens and I worked on a book we called “21 Monologues for Teen Actors.” We brainstormed ideas, they told me stories from their lives, and I used excerpts from my plays, screenplays, and novels. For months, the teens workshopped the monologues and gave me blunt, spot-on feedback. They impressed on me the need for immediacy, range of emotion, and focus. They also begged for good comedy for girls.
What does this have to do with poetry? Well, when I write novels, I often mix poetry in with the prose—poetry my character has written. So I ended up using a number of those poems in the monologue book, and they are some of the most powerful pieces in the collection. I’ve excerpted three below:
I used a poem from Metamorphosis, Junior Year and titled it “Like Apollo and Daphne.” It’s about a high school girl with a crush on a female classmate.
I’m straight. I know it for sure, or for pretty sure.
But I had a crush on Franny’s mind,
on the way she led my mind down paths I’d never explored—
she was my muse, my woodland nymph.
I had a crush, too, on her intimate way
of holding a cigarette and talking very close to your face
while at the same time keeping you
at a safe distance with her eyes.
I pursued Franny ceaselessly,
like Apollo chasing Daphne
through the thickets,
oblivious to Daphne’s disinterest,
unaware that Cupid’s golden arrow had pierced his skin.
© 2009 Betsy Franco, novel of Metamorphosis Junior Year, Candlewick Press;
© 2010 Betsy Franco, play of Metamorphosis, Junior Year
I used a poem from the sequel to Metamorphosis, a novel in development called The Art of Love. I called it “When Girls are Friends.” The protagonist, Ovid, compares romantic and platonic relationships with girls.
When girls think you’re friends:
don’t take everything personally, ruffle your hair,
slap your butt,
sit on your lap in the quad,
ride on your back,
confide in you,
eat whatever they want in front of you, brush crumbs off your lap,
let you slap their butt,
give you a break,
and think you’re adorable.
© 2012 Betsy Franco
The monologue” Beat Up in 1939″ came from a verse novel in development, Danny and Mitzie. It takes place in Cleveland, Ohio.
of books was jouncing bouncing, bruising
on my back.
I could almost feel their fists already.
They were gaining.
I could hear their shoes slapping the concrete.
“Jew boy!” they yelled.
© 2012 Betsy Franco
Listening to teens read poetry that they understand is one of the most moving experiences for me. They feel it deeply, they say it naturally, and they deepen it with their wisdom and breadth of feeling.
As it turns out, teens all over the country are landing parts using the monologues from our book, including the poetic ones. I know of a freshman college student who got a major role using “Like Apollo and Daphne” and two high school students who is performing it in a California state thespian competition this month. Poetry and auditioning make powerful partners for teen actors.
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Betsy Franco writes poetry for teens (Metamorphosis, Junior Year) and kids (A Dazzling Display of Dogs). She finds a way to sneak poetry into nearly everything she writes–monologue books for actors, plays, screenplays, sketch comedy, you name it. She’s also an actor, a mom, and has two cats. www.betsyfranco.com