Monologue Information

monologue: a speech by a single character in a play.

The final exam for all Drama classes at Westmont consists of the presentation of two monologues in an audition situation. For those students interested in continuing in Advanced Drama next year, the audition is real. For the rest, this is simply a final exam.

This audition situation is your chance to show your full range as an actor. The two pieces you choose should be very different from each other so that you can contrast your talents! Choose one piece that is comic and one that is dramatic. If you want to be considered for Advanced Drama next year, you must choose one monologue written by William Shakespeare (comic or dramatic) and one contemporary monologue (comic or dramatic).

Try to choose pieces that will show off your versatility.

MATERIAL


Material must be drawn from published scripts written for the theatre by someone other than yourself. Poetry, fiction, and lyrics are not allowed. Do not select monologues from monologue books and please be prepared to answer questions about the whole play your selection comes from. Choose a character close to your own age.. Do not use an accent (i.e.. Cockney, Southern, etc.) unless the monologue demands it. Only play one character in each monologue. Do not choose a monologue with violent behavior patterns, vulgarity, strong language or those that are sexually explicit. Avoid imitations of other actors and avoid stand-up comedy. Choose pieces that are unique! Directors have heard the same scenes a thousand times over. Try to dazzle them with something refreshingly different.

Choose a monologue where you are speaking to someone actively. Cut any interruptions from other characters. Avoid monologues that "tell a story" - they are boring. You want your character to be active, not sitting and telling a boring story to some other character who is also probably bored. Past tense narrative monologues should only be used to put children to sleep with. Try to select emotional, present tense, and active material.  Choose monologues with a CLEAR OBJECTIVE. (I want something now!) AND which are self-explanatory (beginning, middle, end). Choose a piece that tells them everything they need to know in advance.

If possible, try to find monologues where a character overcomes some diversity. Finding monologues like this are not always easy, but if you have a choice of playing a self pitying, whining loser or someone who has overcome some major trauma in their life, go for the latter. Everyone loves a winner.

READING THE PLAY


Once you find a great monologue, read the whole play. Do not for a minute think that you will get away with not reading the play. That is how you prepare for the audition. You must read the play that your monologue comes from so that you will have an understanding of your character and the situation that your character is speaking about, or is involved with. It will show like a red flag that you haven't read the play! Reading the play will give you a foundation to build your character around. So be prepared! Read the play!

STAGING


Stage your piece simply for dramatic impact: - Use a limited performance area (5 to 10 feet square) - Place the (imaginary) character you are addressing downstage of you beyond the fourth wall and toward the auditors. Keep consistent eye contact with that imaginary character.

PROPS


Avoid props. Other than things that might ordinarily be worn (glasses, watches, hair ribbon, etc.). You will have one chair available to you for your audition. This chair can be used or not used in any way that is appropriate for your piece(s). You may decide to use it in one, but not the other. You may decide to use it as something other than a chair. The audience will believe anything as long as you do consistently.

BEST


At its best, a monologue is a rich illumination of a character’s heart & soul, a compelling piece that is carefully shaped with a beginning, middle & end.

WORST


At its worst, a monologue is self-indulgent, wordy, and often full of whimpers about failures, and as shapeless as a dirty sock.

PRACTICE


Please practice:  I cannot emphasize this point enough: The more comfortable you are performing your pieces, the better. When you walk into an audition you must be ready to go at the drop of a hat. Forgetting your lines is bad, very bad. So practice! Show your pieces to as many people as possible. Get your family together and go through the whole audition with them as the "auditors". Have them give you notes, if you wish, just get used to performing your pieces. The more comfortable you are doing them, the more comfortable you will be at the audition. Check and recheck your length by reading aloud. Add 30 seconds to get a more accurate idea of how long the piece will take in performance. Aim to come in a minute under time.

DRESS


For any audition, you should look your best while also dressing comfortably. Avoid costumes, but don't dress completely out of character either. Avoid big clunky shoes or jewelry that may impede your movement and avoid anything that will create unwanted sounds (swishing fabric, loud shoes, velcro pops). No hats.

INTRO


Remember that your audition begins the moment you step into view. Be confident, pleasant and positive with everyone. When you get into the performance space, find your light and arrange your space before you begin speaking. Take a breath, then begin.

Hello, my name is _____________________ and I am from Westmont High School, Troupe 2904.
My first piece will be _____________________ from _____________________
and my second piece will be _____________________ from _____________________.

Then let the monologues speak for themselves. Do NOT describe the play or the scene beforehand. Give yourself a moment, and then perform your pieces as best you can.

PERFORMANCE


Avoid performing to the auditors directly. Do NOT make eye contact while you are playing your character. Place your focus just above and beyond the auditor.

TIME


You will have four minutes to complete your audition after you finish your introduction. If you run over time, you will be stopped. You do not have to use your full four minutes for your monologues. If you can show some great stuff in less time, the better. Keep them wanting more. If the timer calls "time" - stop immediately! Thank the timer and the audience and exit. Remember, your lack of preparation is keeping someone else waiting.

TRANSITION


In between your monologues, you need to make a physical and mental transition. Use your transition to show what a smooth and crafty actor you are! Do something with it. For those of you with long hair, you might want to remove a clip and change your look for your second piece. For those of you with a grungy 2nd character, you might want to kick off your shoes in your transition. Use your imagination! Without making a complete costume change, how can you change your look? Rehearse your transitions from introduction to character and in and out of characters ahead of time. Don't say things in the middle. Run the whole thing through as a production, not as several productions broken up with intermissions.

ENDING


When you are done, hold your final moment and then released with a simple smile and a warm thank you. You want your evaluator to remember you smiling.

EXITING


ALWAYS thank the auditors, and NEVER apologize for your audition. Unless you let the auditors know it, they will assume that's exactly what you meant to do. Just in case they thought it was brilliant, don't telegraph that you think you blew it. Leave the stage at a measured pace. There's no need to run away (even if you went over time). If the auditors want to know anything, they will ask.

The following information has been added from several different college web sites as additional information for you.
Use this information with discretion.

Monologue Mistakes


Selecting material that is too old or too young for them. It’s very important to find material that is somewhere in your age range. It only makes the casting directors job more difficult if you’ve selected a monologue with a character that’s too young or too old.

Editing several bits of a character’s dialogue from the play and then trying to “force” it to work as an audition monologue. You must remember, this material was not written to be performed for auditions, that wasn’t why the playwright wrote it. So your slicing and dicing of his dialogue should be done carefully and judiciously. You may need some help with this.

Selecting material that doesn’t have any dramatic (or comedic) impact. Remember, this is an audition, not only do you want to be able to show your wares, you should find material that will “engage” the casting director, make them want to watch.

Selecting monologues that are too heavy on exposition. I really don’t care about a characters entire background, I want to see characters that are alive and active right now in front of me. 

Selecting a monologue that doesn’t have any transition. You don’t want to do a monologue that only expresses one emotion over and over. In the short  period of your audition, you want to be able to express some emotional variety. Always remember, this is an audition for you, the actor. Although the writing may be wonderful, I want to see a monologue that tells me something about you as an actor.

Selecting monologues that can’t stand on their own, without having to know the rest of the play. So often an actor will select a monologue from a play that he’s worked on. The advantage is that he knows the character very well, a good thing. But you also have to look at the monologue as “audition material”. It’s important that it is able stand up on it’s own. If the monologue is mostly expositional, or, if every thing you’re speaking about , can only be understood only if you’ve read or seen the rest of the play, this is not a good audition piece. 

Selecting material that has been “done to death” by other actors. Yes, some of those great monologues really move you, excite you. Well guess what? They move and excite thousands of other actors, who do them every day, at countless auditions. Many of the casting directors that I’ve spoken with, constantly complain about how they seem to see the same material over and over. They can almost recite the lines out loud themselves. It can only work to your advantage to find material that is new, original, and engaging.

Doing the same monologue so often so that it becomes “stale”. Yes, you loved that monologue when you first started doing it three years ago. But after you’ve done it a few hundred times, you’ll notice that you seem to go on automatic pilot every time you do it. You feel nothing. So what do you think the casting director will feel at the end of your audition? Rotate your material constantly. Find material that constantly keeps you involved, and you’ll soon discover that you’ll be giving better auditions, getting more call backs. 

Choosing material that is inappropriate for the play that you’re auditioning for. For instance, if you’re auditioning for a new Neil Simon play, doing dramatic material  from Sam Shepherd or Eugene O’Neil is not a smart choice. No one says that you should only use other Neil Simon material for your audition, but it behooves you to find material that’s in the same ballpark. Try to find things that are similar in genre and sensibility.

Selecting material that runs too long. If the casting breakdown says two minutes, don’t bring in material that runs over four minutes. And don’t cut that four minute monologue that you sometimes do, down to two. More often than not you’ll cut the life, the muscle out of the monologue. Just find an appropriate two minute monologue that is suitable to this particular audition. It’s not like there’s a shortage of good material out there.

Selecting inactive, past tense monologues. Remember when you were a child how your parents used to read you those fairy tales that were mostly told in a narrative form, and mostly in the past tense? If you’ll recall, they told you those stories to put you to sleep. Doing past tense, narrative, expositional monologues will have the same effect on a casting director. Try to select emotional, present tense, active,  conversational material.  

Choosing material that is offensive. Curse words, offensive language, and sexually explicit material is rarely appropriate for most auditions. There are some plays that using this kind of material is appropriate, say some David Mamet plays, for instance. By and large, you’ll only lose points by offending the casting directors with off-color language.

Selecting material that “stretches” you. Auditions are not the time to show your range. Actors should select material that best shows off their strengths right now. There is no point in showing them that you can play a seventy year old character if you’re only thirty.  

Selecting a monologue that’s written in a very distinct dialect. Generally, it’s not too smart to do an audition piece in a dialect. There are exceptions. If the play that you’re auditioning for is written in that dialect, and you are adept at it, it’s okay. Time and again I’ve seen talented actors ruin a good audition because their dialect kept slipping, calling attention to itself.

Ten Steps To Successful Monologue Auditions

1. The first step actually begins before the actual audition. Before you leave home try to get yourself in the right frame of mind. Relax, perhaps do some breathing and stretching. Some people use visualization and imagine what they would like to happen at the audition. See it in your minds eye.

2. Arrive at the audition at least twenty minutes early. Make sure that you are relaxed and ready to work. Sometimes it’s good to go off in a corner and do a quick speed through of the monologue(s), followed by a run through. Don’t waste valuable time chatting with other actors or socializing.

3. When it’s your turn to audition, make sure that you are in positive state of mind, relaxed and ready to act. As part of your preparation, you want to be in character for the first monologue. Enter the audition room in a confident and professional manner. Remember, you are being judged from the moment you enter the room. 

4. Smile directly at the people auditioning you, say hello, and find the playing area that you will be auditioning in. If they wish to engage you in conversation you must be willing to talk with them. Most casting directors save conversations for after you perform.

5. Announce what the monologue is from and the characters name. There is no reason to give a description of where in the play the monologue takes place.

6. Give yourself a moment, and then perform it as best you can.

7. When you’ve completed performing the monologue, if they’ve requested a second one, prepare to make the transition from the first character to the second. Once again, give yourself a moment before you begin. Again, give it all you got.

8. After you’ve finished, smile, let them know you’re through, say “Thank you”. If they wish to talk with you, you must be ready and willing to converse in a friendly and professional manner. They may want to get a sense of you as a person, as a potential actor in their play or company. They may ask you what you’ve been up to lately. You should have the answer to this question prepared in advance.

9. When they’ve finished talking with them, tell them it was nice meeting them, again say thank you, and leave in a confident, unhurried, professional manner. Once you leave the room, the only thing left to do is to let go of that audition and move on to the next thing in your day.

Three short rules should govern your choice of materia:


1. If the audition calls for 2 minutes, do 2 minutes exactly. Such auditions are usually conducted with an egg-timer and operate on the expectation that you have practiced your piece to perfection and can deliver it within the strict limitations.

2. Although comedy monologues are harder to do well in audition settings than dramatic material (humor being a more subjective medium than pathos), it is entirely your choice to do whatever you personally feel comfortable with. If you’re the kind of person who could make reading a grocery list hilarious, go for it!

3. Unless you have a unique spin to put on a familiar passage from DEATH OF A SALESMAN or A STREETCAR NAMED DESIRE, you are probably better off choosing a lesser known play and/or monologue. You need to remember, after all, that directors have heard the same scenes a thousand times over. Try to dazzle them with something refreshingly different.

(1) do not put your hands in your pockets and (2) if they happen to wander there of their own nervous volition, do not have anything noisy in them like loose change or keys that could create a distraction.

Treat every audition like an actual show. Do your best performance when it’s your turn, and accord your competitors the same respectful attention they deserve when it’s their turn.

Criteria for Acceptance into Advanced Drama


In auditioning and interviewing potential students, the Drama Director looks especially for the following qualities:
* A serious commitment to an acting career in the professional theater.
* A potential for vital, individualistic, trainable growth—regarded as more important than the applicant’s present state of technical accomplishment.
* Energy, openness of mind, enthusiasm, and a readiness to take risks.
* A body, voice, and imaginative/emotional powers promising significant dramatic development.
* A potential for identification with the thought process of a text.
* A generosity of spirit essential to ensemble playing.
* A sense of humor, a sense of language, a sense of rhythm, and a capacity for sustained concentration.
* A readiness for hard, rigorous work.

MONOLGUE BOOKS
If you find a great monologue in a book of monologues, find the play it is from and see if the same character has another monologue in the play. That way you’ve found a piece that isn't "over-used" and may be a monologue that auditors have not heard. Besides, you have to read the play anyway. You will find some really great monologues this way in a short period of time. Make sure that it is a monologue that you like. Nothing like going into an audition with material that you are uncomfortable performing. This is your audition. Choose your monologues well. These books are a great resource; so use them.

ON READING THE PLAY.


The auditors will know if you have done your homework, or not. If you go into that audition with just a few lines from some character in some play and they ask you about the play or the character in the play (and they will!) you will regret it. The auditors will probably not wrestle you to the ground and pummel you, even though you would deserve it. You probably will not be called back or be asked to join the program. Read the play and study your character.

PREPARATION


Understand your character's focus. Monologues where the character is talking to another person are GREAT. Soliloquies, where the character is talking to themselves are more difficult when it comes to focus. Granted, Shakespeare wrote a lot of soliloquies - but they are pretty long. Better to choose a nice little speech that is part of classical dialogue rather than a long-winding introspective monologue.

FINDING THE MONOLOGUE


I have always found that the best monologues are those that actors find themselves - the best way to do this is to spend a few hours at the library or at a good theatre book store and breeze through plays looking for big chunks of text that can be pieced together to create a monologue or already are one - you want to find pieces that YOU are attracted to.

As far as contemporary monologues go - there are so many hundreds of plays - I wouldn't know where to begin - the best thing to do is to spend an hour or more at a good theatre book shop (Barnes & Noble is okay and will often have the newest or new plays + classics but stores like Powell's or Limelight Books in San Francisco or even your nearest public library will have MUCH more for you to look through). Pick up a play that has a title that interests you and breeze through it looking for something with a big chunk of text - then read a few lines of it - if it catches you - put it aside and find a few more - then take those plays you've selected and look at them more thoroughly. This is more time consuming then me suggesting a specific monologue, but you'll find it much more rewarding and you will find an intimate connection with the material that I can not give you.

As far as classical monologues go – the choice is up to you. Try to find a piece that is not over-used. Any play from the “high school must read cannon” is probably over-used. Romeo and Juliet, Hamlet, Macbeth, Julius Ceasar, and A Midsummer Night’s Dream. But there are plenty of other Shakespeare play to choose from and hundreds of non-Shakespeare plays that are also classical: Greeks, Romans, Calderon, deVega, Moliere, Racine, Voltaire, etc… Just make sure you understand the piece you find.

Good luck!

ps
If you want to ask me what I think about a few choices - please don't hesitate to ask - I'd love to give you feedback on your ideas - meanwhile, make a choice!

Monologue Choices

Classical Pieces
Shakespeare Pieces
Contemporary Pieces
Monologues to Run Screaming From
8 GOOD 20 line Shakespeare Monologues for Beginners

Email: bengford@sbcglobal.net