There is nothing as appalling as acting with out action. This happens often in Shakespeare plays, especially when novice actors are chopping it up, or when actors get entranced by their own voice and experience. Monologues are often afflicted by I.A., and is one reason why (I think) many actors avoid performing them. Without a partner, our performances can be more vulnerable to I.A. At least with a partner on stage, our instincts will often lead us into action, but when monologuing, we often fall victim to the trap of bellowing, hamming, or just being dull.
I.A. is most often seen in the theatre, and one thing we seem to forget is that the word ACTING tells us a lot about what we should be doing – Taking Action. Acting is not memorizing words then saying them aloud in front of an audience. You know this. I know this.
I always go back to Hamlet’s advice to the Players for a bit of inspiration, as it not only gives us an insight into (perhaps) the writer’s (Shakespeare?) feelings on performance, but reinforces our commitment to a noble calling (Bold emphasis mine):
“Speak the speech, I pray you, as I pronounced it to you, trippingly on the tongue. But if you mouth it, as many of your players do, I had as lief the town crier spoke my lines. Nor do not saw the air too much with your hand thus, but use all gently, for in the very torrent, tempest, and (as I may say) whirlwind of passion, you must acquire and beget a temperance that may give it smoothness. Oh, it offends me to the soul to hear a robustious periwig-pated fellow tear a passion to tatters, to very rags, to split the ears of the groundlings, who for the most part are capable of nothing but inexplicable dumb-shows and noise. I would have such a fellow whipped for o’erdoing Termagant. It out-Herods Herod. Pray you, avoid it…Be not too tame neither, but let your own discretion be your tutor. Suit the action to the word, the word to the action, with this special observance that you o’erstep not the modesty of nature. For anything so overdone is from the purpose of playing, whose end, both at the first and now, was and is to hold, as ’twere, the mirror up to nature, to show virtue her own feature, scorn her own image, and the very age and body of the time his form and pressure. Now this overdone or come tardy off, though it make the unskillful laugh, cannot but make the judicious grieve, the censure of the which one must in your allowance o’erweigh a whole theatre of others.” – Hamlet, III, ii.
“What am I want to accomplish and how should I get it?” is a good place to start if you feel like you are ambling around on stage. It is also important to work with people you trust – coaches, teachers, friends, directors – who are brave enough to give you constructive criticism when you need it. For there are many an actor who will act and act without external insight and checks, possibly perpetuating a problem.
When you are acting, pursue an action – a task, a need, a want, an objective, look for obstacles and deal with them, read your partner and react to them, and DO, DO, DO!