I seem to be faced with a lot of monologue auditions at the moment. They are not deemed to necessarily be a very effective way of judging whether someone is right for a part by “the industry” (that strange mythical creature), but that is largely because a lot of “the industry” is commercial and TV work.
However, I have applied for a Masters at Drama school (only at Central as they have a very strong masters programmes). So this has required me to focus on monologues. I have also needed them A LOT for auditions for touring work. Perhaps as they allow the director to see if you have strength and depth to carry a performance.
I am not an expert on delivering monologues, but my success rate has been reasonable, and I am currently doing a job that involves me performing an 8 minute monologue. So here is how I approach it for an audition:
Choosing the monologue:
- Look at the brief, check what you need, have they asked for something specific – comedic, classic, dramatic, screenplay, play, TV. If they have asked for more than one make sure you show a contrast. Make sure you think about the type of character that you want to play and make sure that the monologue portrays you in that way.
- Try to find something light-hearted (I always break my own rule on this one), this is because a lot of people will do quite depressing pieces and if you pick something light hearted then it will make the people on the panel feel more light hearted! Although don’t get too hung up on whether or not it is the “right piece”.
- I look EVERYWHERE for them: in films you watch; plays you own or you have seen; the internet, search for screenplay monologues, female (male) monologues, film scripts, play scripts, I once made a list of every appropriate Shakespeare monologue for my type by skim reading the complete works. I also look in monologue books, some people don’t like it because it is more likely to be done by someone else, but it is a good way to find new writing that you might not have otherwise come across (if you choose one from here make sure that you then buy and read the whole play).
- Make a long-list that meet the requirements both of the panel and of the type of character that you want to play. Make sure that they fit with your “type”.
- Read the long-list of monologues, OUTLOUD, you will very quickly get a feel for which you are comfortable with and which aren’t.
- Film yourself reading the shortlist of monologues, this will also help you to narrow it down, be strict and get yourself down to about 4 pieces. The go back to questioning which character is closest to what you want to portray, rehearse these pieces.
- Pick the two that you are most comfortable with (if you need one, three or four if you need two), make sure that the two show different aspects of you as a performer.
- Don’t worry about whether or not the pieces you have picked are right (as long as you have taken into consideration the things mentioned above), worry about whether they are right for you! Once you have picked the monologues don’t second-guess yourself unless it really isn’t working for you. If it is then stick with it and worry about how you are going to prepare it. The most important factor is if you can comfortably perform the piece.
- Choose one of the monologues as the primary one but also spend sometime preparing the second choice.
Preparing the monologue
1. My imagination starts working as soon as I read the monologue and I start to create images in my mind. I get a rough idea of the flow of the monologue by reading it a number of times and begin to lightly figure out the character’s objective.
2. Learn the lines. I always think that this is more important than sometimes we give it credit (actors get quite prickly if the only compliment that they are given is that they have learnt their lines), if you are very sure of your characters words then you will begin to make them your own – my preferred method of line learning is to use a combination of:
- Section the monologue – learn one section at a time (it is important if you are working in sections to go back to the whole piece to retain the flow);
- Read it a lot (especially before bed, the lines just start to be absorbed);
- Write it down (usually in sections by memory once I have started to get it in my head);
- Speed run either the whole thing or in sections;
- Repeat repeat repeat!
3. Make it your own. For me this is a combination of characterisation and actioning the text. This is the point when the lines are really taken off the page which is continued in section 4.
- I ask myself a lot of questions about the character: who am I? how old? what is important to me? where do I live? what is my everyday life like? who are the important people in my life? where have I just come from?. Based on these questions how do I move/speak/breathe/interact?
- I find that in a monologue actioning allows you to create multiple dimensions to the piece, and helps me deliver the piece without having to think about it when I’m in the “moment” returning to the objective adds spark where it could be bland. For those who don’t know, actioning the text is about what you are trying to “do” to the other person as you speak (are you trying to elate, sadden, squash, hurt, question them with you words)?
4. Delivery of the monologue (this is more about “in the moment” thoughts feelings) and physicality
- I build a picture of my surroundings – what is the room like, what are the details of the place, what is the weather like? How do the surroundings make me feel?
- I then go back to the questions that I asked in section 3. Making sure that I am embodying the answers to the questions.
- Who am I talking to? Where are they? What do they look like? How are they responding to what I am saying? I imagine very vividly the smallest detail in their face and body language and respond to it.
I hope that helps if you are feeling a bit stuck in a rut, or scared of preparing a monologue, just take it one step at a time and practice, practice, practice.
I hope to make a video about monologues soon, if you are interested please subscribe to Spitting Diamonds. I have tonnes of videos of me attempting to prepare them that I haven’t yet uploaded, showing progress from initial readings to final rehearsals.
If you use different methods to prepare monologues then leave a comment in the comments box……