How to Choose a Great Audition Monologue 🎭
Spoiler alert: not easy.
- •Fyi, I am NOT a casting director.This is just my attempt at a useful list for others, based on trying to think of what knowledge is in my noggin! I have a bachelors degree in acting and directing and have spent a lot of time in audition skills classes and at auditions, on both sides of the table. That's where all this comes from. But I'm not a professional!
- •If you possibly can, ask a director of you can sit and watch a few hours of auditions with them.This is a great way to learn what works and what doesn't when it comes to monologues. Many actors only know their own audition experience and seeing what others do and how directors react is illuminating.
- •You need a bunch of monologues in your artillery.You will have auditions for vastly different plays! Like a musical theatre singer needs a "book" of sheet music for songs they know, I believe in a good actor knowing off the top of their head a minimum of: a contemporary comedic, a contemporary dramatic, something else contemporary for back up, and a Shakespeare/classical comedic and a dramatic. Honestly, the more the better. If they say "can I see something else?" you need to be able to say "Yes!" enthusiastically at the chance.
- •Know your type.If you're a 20-something white male, don't choose a monologue by a character who is a 40-something black female. You get what I mean. Know what age range you believably play. Of course some monologues break this rule, but the point is you will usually be cast in roles that have your own traits and to highlight those. If you love a piece that you would never get to do, keep it as a wildcard!
- •Look everywhere!Read plays, see plays, ask playwrights if they have other scripts you can read.
- •Regarding books of monologues:Always choose a monologue from a play. You will often need to say or write the name of the play and playwright at the audition. "Student, from 101 Fun Monologues for Teens" doesn't cut it. That being said, there are lots of great monologue books that are all monologues from plays listing the source, and can be a great place to start.
- •READ. THE. PLAY.ORDER THE FULL PLAY AND READ IT. Know the c.r.o.w. of the monologue: characters, relationships, objectives, whereabouts. Be prepared for a director who knows the play (even the most obscure) so you could discuss it if they ask you a question or mention the work in giving notes or adjustments.
- •Make sure it's not an overdone monologue.Google "overdone monologues" or the like and you'll get plenty of lists from college programs or large auditions where they literally say "Don't."
- •You have some license to edit.To make a speech make sense, you can cut out some replies or stage directions that don't add to it working in an audition room. Also to make it fit a certain length.
- •Start strong.A first line can be the yes or "next." (Just like on MTV.) Let the monologue help you by having an opening you embrace. I am a huge fan of en media res (starting in the middle of the action) for monologues because it makes you sit forward in your seat and follow what the actor is already passionate about.
- •Who is the person you are talking to with this monologue?This is more coaching, but don't look at a casting director or whoever is behind the table. Know who you are talking to with your words, and place them beyond the table of casting people and at your own height.
- •Regarding 'memory' monologues:A lot of monologues, naturally because it's one person speaking, a character saying something that happened in the past. I hate these, because they are so passive. But if you love one, where you are telling someone about something, make it active. Why tell them this? It's important they understand the memory- why?
- •But what if I'm alone on stage in the scene?You are still talking to someone(s)! An audience, God, someone who died, someone in the next room... never just tell a story to no one.
- •Workshop it!Find your acting pals and workshop a potential monologue. It might not have the effect you think it does, or they would rather hear more from another scene... of course all advice is taken with a grain of salt, but you definitely want time to play around and get confident before deciding to put the monologue in your regular go-to list.
- •Memorize it like your name.Something crazy could be happening in the room that you never expected. And it'll throw you off but you need to know your piece. Know it so well you don't worry about forgetting.
- •Do the monologue you know instead of the new one you kinda know.Always.
- •Feel proud!Think of all the preparation you did giving yourself the best material to work with at the audition! It's one big thing you don't have to worry about, and shows your knowledge of plays and great preparation and work ethic.
- •Or just break all the rules.They're not real rules. It's called a "play" for a reason. HAVE SOME FUN.