How to Choose & Prepare a Monologue
Theatres might be dark right now, but creativity and art are thriving on the world wide web. The show is going on and while we don’t know exactly how or when this #covid19 crisis will pass, I feel confident that audition season will come around again and with it lots of opportunities to put your best foot forward.
In fact, now is the perfect time to develop your audition book. Find a couple of awesome monologues and polish them to performance ready.
How do you find such a piece? What makes for an awesome monologue? Even more importantly, how do you get it performance ready? I’ll tell you…
First, pick the right piece.
A good audition monologue should actively tell a story. It should have a clear beginning, middle and end, and be character driven. You have a minute, maybe a minute and a half to show the director that you can take them (and therefore the audience) on a journey.
Choose something you like. Think about the stories you find interesting in real life. They probably have a purpose and connect to some situation or emotion you are familiar with. If you connect with the story, you’ll have an easier time engaging with it and sharing that engagement in the audition.
Look for something in your age range that fits the kind of character you can play.
If at all possible (and in this time of quarantine there is really no excuse!) use something from a play, written for the stage. At the very least be able to tell the director the name of the piece or the playwright if they ask. This shows a level of care and preparation that directors appreciate. Movie monologues can be good, but screen acting is different from stage acting. Plus, if the director has seen the movie, chances are your interpretation will be just different enough to be dissonant.
Second, prepare the monologue.
Read the play and know the context of the monologue so you can present it accurately. If the monologue doesn’t work without explanation, don’t use it.
Memorize! It seems simple, but you’d be surprised. Practice saying the words out loud. Rote memorization is a method of mechanically learning the words, which allows your performance to be more organic in the moment.
Add blocking to your monologue. Think through where and when you want to move. Otherwise you'll just be standing there, or worse, swaying and stepping in a series of nervous movements. Don’t move for the sake of moving. Think through character and movements that help tell the story.
Develop your character. Who is this person? What do they want and how does this monologue help them achieve that goal? (Character Development worksheets are available for free Backstage!)
Time yourself. Analyze your monologue for pacing. Figure out where you’re going to breathe and practice taking breaths, the same way a singer goes through a piece of music.
Practice enunciating and projecting and doing the monologue exactly how you plan to do it in the audition room.
I’m certainly not much of a gardener, but I believe working on your monologue is like the difference between carefully cultivating a plant so it achieves a purposeful beauty and letting a weed grow wildly. Both have the potential to get you the job, but only one will give you the satisfaction of a job well done.
Need help FINDING a monologue? Email me - firstname.lastname@example.org!
This post is part of an ongoing series related to auditions. Check out Practical Steps to to Help You Prepare an Audition You are Proud Of and 5 Reasons You Need (and Want!) an audition coach.