The single most common question I hear from students and friends in the theatre is “I can’t find a monologue, will you help me?” This plea has inspired me to start a blog that addresses this conundrum and many others that face theatre students and practitioners.
I will begin with the first question, “how do I find a monologue?” Now, there is no simple answer. I wish there were a magic page on the Internet on which you could simply type the name of the play, the character you want to audition for, and it would magically spit out the perfect monologue (that no one else has). However, this magical panacea does not exist, and we all know if it did, that it would simply lead to twelve people doing whatever monologue you were given. In order to try and help struggling auditioners demystify the process of picking material for auditions, here are my tips for selecting monologues:
1. Start with the play. When approaching any audition, you should actually read the play. Shocking I know! There is simply no way to pick an appropriate monologue without knowing what it is you are auditioning for. If you are not willing to do this, why are you taking the time to audition in the first place? If you can find the play, use what you can, a synopsis, YouTube, etc. Getting as much information as you can about the play will help you pick the right piece.
While you are reading, pay attention to the characters and decide which, if any, of them you would be considered for. This is ery important and is a time when you really need to be honest with yourself. If I am 5’2” with brown eyes and a character is described as 5’10” with blue eyes, chances are I will not be considered for that part…be honest with yourself about your strengths and weaknesses, and choose the parts you will actually be cast in!
Now that you have a list of possible roles, look at those characters and think about who they are and how you would describe them. With this list in hand, you can now start looking for a monologue.
2. The task now is to find a monologue that embodies some of the things about the character or characters you are auditioning for. You are not going to find something that is exactly like the character, but you can find something that is similar in style, feeling, and tone. If the play is comedic and the character is quirky, you want something that is comedic and quirky. If the play is a classical dramatic piece you want a classical dramatic monologue. Think about what the director needs to see to prove that you can play the part.
3. Get reading! The only way you are going to find good monologues is to read, a lot, all the time. Read plays, read monologue books, go see theatre, watch theatre on film, etc. This has to start before you are actually looking for a monologue. The more you read and see the bigger your frame of reference will be. I know so many performers who simply get on the Internet and Google “comedic monologue” and then pick one of the ten terrible Internet monologues that everyone else chooses, and then wonders why they were not called back. Hearing the same bad monologue over and over is irritating, and no matter how well you do the “kissing the bag boy” monologue, I’ve already discounted you as a lazy actor. Don’t use the Internet to find your monologue. You can absolutely use it as a tool, for example, instead of looking for the monologue, look for plays. Try searching for “comedic plays with quirky female characters.” You should be able to get the titles of several plays that you can then read!
4. Once you have found a couple of plays that fit your criteria, choose two monologues that you like and that you think fit and prepare them. I always suggest working on two because at some point you will figure out which one is the better choice.
5. Be prepared, be over prepared, be so prepared that you could perform the monologue in a hurricane, but don’t be rigid. Make sure that you are able to be flexible in your delivery, so if the director asks you to do it again in a different way you can.
You will find that if you start reading and seeing more plays this process will become easier. The more theatre that you have in brain the easier it becomes to make a connection between the play you are auditioning for and material that is appropriate for the audition. Remember, there is no magic bullet. There is no perfect monologue that is just waiting for you on Google. It takes time and effort to find the right monologue, and auditioning is 2/3 of the work of an actor. The best way to increase your rate of success is to improve your ability to connect characters to audition materials and to understand which roles you are actually right for, not which role you really want to play.
A Theatrical Prescription: A blog that investigates all of those questions you have about acting, auditioning, and the American theatre for which you never know where to find an answer.
Dr. Amy Osatinski
Dr. Amy is a Theatre scholar, teacher, director, designer, and performer. She is an expert in theatre and musical theatre and is skilled in helping performers put their best foot forward. Dr. Amy has taught, directed and performed in many places from educational, to community, to professional theatre and has a passion for creating theatre that delights and instructs. Dr. Amy holds a PhD. in Theatre from the University of Colorado Boulder and an MA in Education from the University of Colorado Denver. Dr. Amy currently teaches in the Department of Theatre at the University of Northern Iowa