Eric Bogosian grew up going to rock concerts. When he was around 17, he saw Jimi Hendrix perform at the intimate North Shore Music Tent in Beverly, Massachusetts. He will never forget the rush he felt when a shredding Hendrix connected with the crowd. "I adored Jimi Hendrix. He played and spoke to us and I was in heaven," says Bogosian. "An audience gets very turned on when the person on stage addresses them directly. That became really clear when I saw bands."
As a playwright, monologist and actor thinking about what makes theater riveting, he sought to create that similar audience bond and intimacy. He wanted to talk directly to the audience and have them feel more included. "I was in love with theater. I wasn't specifically thinking about monologues. I was mainly thinking what makes theater exciting," he shares. "I found this mode of direct address to the audience to be pretty incredible."
Between 1980 and 2006 Bogosian wrote and performed many spellbinding solo shows Off Broadway, including Men Inside, FunHouse, Drinking in America, Sex, Drugs, Rock & Roll, Pounding Nails in the Floor with My Forehead and Wake Up and Smell the Coffee. His Pulitzer Prize-nominated play Talk Radio, about a shock jock, also contained monologues. "Even though I was in a radio station, I was facing the audience. They could really look into my eyes and I could speak to them," he says about Talk Radio
Over and over Bogosian's monologues got people seriously juiced. Frank Rich, who was Chief Drama Critic of The New York Times described Bogosian as "what Lenny Bruce was to the 1950's, Bob Dylan to the 1960's, Woody Allen to the 1970's."
Bogosian created a vastly eclectic potpourri of richly constructed fascinating characters. There was an unsympathetic doctor, a clueless British rock star, a fire-and-brimstone preacher, a much-too-peppy airline ticket agent, a subway panhandler. "I would basically do a dozen of them in an evening and jump from one to the next," he explains of the kaleidoscope of personalities. For him it was like a music set riffing mixes of notes and rhythms -- "doing fast songs, slow songs, ballads, funny bits." Revered director Jo Bonney, (who is also Bogosian's wife), directed the shows.
The poignant monologues not only speak volumes about who we are, our society and our values, they are also extremely satisfying for actors to perform and use for audition material. His monologues have often been practiced in theater schools across the country. "I didn't know until people started telling me," says Bogosian, who for several years played Captain Danny Ross in Law & Order: Criminal Intent. "Often a waiter at a restaurant will approach me and say, 'when I was in theater school, I did your monologue.'"
The more he thought about it, the more he realized that if acting students were doing the monologues in school, how amazing would it be to see skilled actors do their version of them? "It could be a kind of resource for young actors," says Bogosian who takes delight in sharing his knowledge with artists who are starting out. "This particular form of acting requires a certain level of skill."
So Bogosian created the webseries 100Monologues.com where actors from TV, film and stage perform his monologues. Now containing more than six hours of free material from gifted artists -- (including Vincent D'Onofrio, Marin Ireland, Tate Donovan, Michael, Stuhlbarg, Dylan Baker, Michael Shannon, Marg Helgenberger, Sebastian Stan, Stephen Lang, Peter Dinklage, Ethan Hawke, Jessica Hecht, Michael Chernus, Billy Crudup, Glenn Fleshler, Peter Scanavino, Craig 'muMs' Grant, Bill Irwin, Jeremy Sisto, Chris Bauer, David Cale, Josh Charles, Matthew Maher, Danny Mastrogiorgio, Jennifer Tilly, John Markus, Yul Vazquez, Jonathan Ames and many more) -- new videos are posted regularly. "I love actors and love these people who are on the site," says Bogosian.
One of the newest monologues is a particularly eerie one from Peter Dinklage. In another new one Mary Wiseman performs an illuminating piece about God and faith. During Rash, from Bogosian's play Griller, a man (deftly played by John Markus) cooks barbecue in his backyard while complaining to a friend about all the poor people in the city. "He's hilarious in the piece" says Bogosian of Markus. "And he managed to capture a very particular mindset."
Also satisfying for Bogosian is to see monologues that he performed now interpreted by actresses. Alison Wright offers a comical and brilliant take on an overly earnest real estate agent in Gated. In Melting Pot, Marin Ireland is a devoted and hard-working diner cook. "They have taken us into all kinds of unchartered territory," Bogosian adds.
100Monologues.com will continue to feature an exciting mix of actors. In fact, several actors play characters who they have never tackled before. "Many of them are specialized character actors and are rarely given monologues in a movie. The actors have to be of the highest quality to inhabit these characters and make them jump to life."
Bogosian revealed more of the back story of 100Monologues.com and offered guidance to young people beginning their careers. Read the full story here at Forbes.com.
All photos used with permission.