what is a monologue?

A monologue is an excerpt of a longer piece written for stage or film. It’s a sample of your work to show agents, casting directors, producers, directors, etc. what you can do as an actor. A good monologue plays up your strengths; it shows the auditor what you can do, who you can play and who you are.

Nothing is more important than choosing the right monologue for your type and skill level. Remember, monologue auditions are your moment to shine. They are perhaps the only time an actor has complete control of the situation.

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Finding a Monologue

Finding a monologue can seem like a young actor’s most daunting task. Just keep it simple. Start out with books of monologues from plays or movies. Don’t use a book of monologues written just for auditions, rather than monologues that really come from scripts; monologues written just for auditions are invariably terrible, and won’t show you off at your best.  While it may be tempting to skip the search and write your own, don’t! The auditors want to see you handle material written by other people.

Pick a piece for a character you can play easily; someone your age and your type. Don’t use accents or dialects; you want the auditors to be able to understand you without having to strain. And your piece should be contemporary -- that is, written within the last 10 years.

Make sure you always have at least two pieces ready to go.  They should contrast each other; if one is dramatic, the other should be lighter or more comic. You can also have a classical piece ready if you’re likely to be auditioning for classical material such as Shakespeare. Nothing beats having several monologues in your back pocket, ready to do at a moment’s notice. The more prepared you are, the more confident you’ll be. Keep your pieces short. 90 seconds is ideal, two minutes is the absolute limit. Don’t worry, the auditors can see what they need to see immediately. Remember, you’re showing them a sample of your work; 1-2 minutes is plenty.

Try to seek out material that has not been overdone. Think of the poor auditors! Imagine a day full of actors reading Hamlet’s “To be or not to be” soliloquy or Juliet’s “Romeo” speech! Be a little more original and consider your audience. What might they enjoy hearing?

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Giving a Professional Audition

When you arrive at the audition, greet the auditors and offer your headshot and resume. They may already have a copy, but always have one ready. Most likely they will ask you your name and what you will be performing. It seems obvious, but have the answer ready. All they need to know is the name of the play or film, and the character if it’s not obvious who you would be playing. Don’t give them a synopsis of the story, the scene or what your character is feeling. Simply do your piece.

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Going Up

Forgetting your lines is every actor’s nightmare. In the business, this is called “going up” on your lines... and it happens to everybody at some point or another. Of course you should always be prepared, know your monologue inside and out, be able to recite it in your sleep, backwards, on cue, etc. But if you do go up in an audition, do not panic. Act professionally. If you are doing a piece no one has heard of, improvise a few lines until you get back on track. If your piece is well-known, then pause a moment to gather yourself, but stay in character. This is vital. The auditors are looking at you as an actor.  Your composure and confidence can sell you on the rare occasion your memory lets you down.

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Some actors make the mistake of staying rooted to the floor when they do a monologue audition. Don’t – it’s boring to watch. Play the room. Move around. Work believable physical business into your monologue. Think of the entire 1-2 minutes you are performing as a mini play. You don’t need to come in full costume or have a bag of props (in fact, this is not recommended), but do stay mobile in a natural way.

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Taking a Stand

Position yourself close to your auditors, but not in their laps. Give your audience some space. Your auditors will generally be sitting behind a desk, so use the desk as your centering point. Stand about 10 feet away (or as the space of the room permits) to begin your piece. If you’re on a stage, don’t hide yourself so far upstage that the auditors can’t see you move properly or hear you clearly.

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Auditors Are Not Scene Partners

Never directly engage the auditors in your monologue. They can’t be free to watch you if they are required to perform with you. In an actual performance, you wouldn’t normally look an audience member directly in the eye while delivering your lines. The same is true in an audition; remember, auditions are like your own mini one-man or one-woman show. Instead, create a scene partner. In your rehearsals, imagine this person very vividly so that you can bring him or her into the audition with you. Place your “scene partner” in front of you, not to the side, so the auditors can see you fully.

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Saying Goodbye

At the end of the audition, most auditors will simply say thank you. Return the thanks and leave. Do not linger, do not ask questions, do not compliment their previous work, do not tell them you have a friend in common, etc. Stay open and polite. If you are asked some follow-up questions, have a friendly, pleasant conversation. Be alert for cues that the conversation is over. A little respect for the auditors’ time goes a long way.

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