Top 10 Monologue Tips
Written by: Dave Andrews
September 24, 2008
Filed Under Careers
Every actor hates auditions. It’s the most awkward feeling standing up there in front of one or several strangers and pouring your heart out for a role, knowing that you’re only one of 50 people doing it. Sometimes in the auditioning process though, you don’t have to feel quite so awkward. You won’t be simply ‘one of 50.’ You can be unique. That time is when you’re allowed to do a monologue.
This is a rare opportunity to actually make the choice yourself on exactly what you’ll be portraying to the producer, director, casting director or whomever you happen to be auditioning to. Here are some crucial tips for choosing and presenting your monologue. These monologue tips will help you land the role.
1. Choose your monologue carefully.
You have tons of time to choose the monologue. In a cold read, you may have 15 minutes to prepare for an audition, you may have five. You may even get lucky and have an hour or a day, although this is not common. With a monologue however, you have all the time in the world. You can take days, weeks or even months searching for the right one. Then you can take just as long learning it and making it a part of you. A good monologue will allow you to portray a wide array of emotions: happiness, sadness, anger, guilt, etc. Choose one that not only complements you and your abilities, but allows you to really lay it on the line.
2. Give it some gusto!
Have energy in the presentation of your monologue. Too much energy can be irritating, but you won’t find any producer or director who thinks that not enough energy is better than too much. Having to tone it down is better than having to step it up a notch, so give it your all. That having been said, keep the energy up, but the volume appropriate. Sometimes you’ll be auditioning on a huge stage and at others you’ll be auditioning in someone’s office. Even for the ‘loud parts’ you need to keep the volume appropriate to the venue.
3. Move around!
Whether you’re on a stage or in a smaller setting, you need to be able to move around. How many people do you know in real life who plant their feet in one spot and stay there for a minute or two without moving while they’re shifting from sadness to happiness to anger, etc.? None! When you’re emotional, you move, and that needs to be reflected in your monologue. If there’s a part where you need to sit in a chair, fine, but do NOT sit down for the entire monologue. You need to be mobile. Again, keep in mind that they’ll probably be seeing 50 other people today. Don’t be boring.
4. Face the people you’re auditioning to.
Don’t face the side wall and give them your profile. If you follow tip number three, you’ll obviously be moving around, but keep your focus forward, toward those you’re presenting to.
5. Don’t audition to one person if there is more than one person in the room.
Even if the monologue is intended for one person, which most are, don’t ignore anyone. It’s all too common for an actor during a monologue to hyperfocus on one person and give their monologue to that person. Don’t do this! It will make that person uncomfortable and the others in the room feel ignored. Neither is a good thing. Instead of talking to one person, give the monologue as if you’re talking to a group of friends rather than one. Make eye contact with each of them, or at the very least, don’t focus on one of them. Feel free to look very close to them without actually making eye contact. You’re not supposed to be acting WITH them, but TO them. You don’t want them to be part of the performance. This is your time.
6. Get up close and personal.
I don’t mean to get in the auditioner’s face so they can smell your breath, but don’t get too far back either. They need to be able to clearly see your face and the emotions you portray. This is especially important on a large stage setting where you can move around quite a bit.
7. Keep it fresh!
You don’t want to choose a monologue that they’ve already heard 20 times. This is an invitation for them to directly compare you to others who have come before. For your monologue, you need to be both modern and unique. Don’t choose a piece that’s out-of-date and don’t choose one that they’re likely to have heard others do.
8. If you mess up, keep going!
You’ve picked something fresh, remember? That means that they don’t have these lines memorized. If you flub up, just keep going and stay in character. They won’t even know you messed up. People in real life mess up when they’re talking, so if you keep going, they’ll think you’re just a great actor and that was part of the act. Above all, never EVER apologize! I mean never! Act as if everything went exactly as planned. They won’t know the difference and they don’t want to.
9. Be a professional!
Act like you know how to audition and you know the ‘rules of the game.’ If you’re a pro, you’ll have a professional headshot, but even if you’re new, you’ll still have a nice 8 x 10 that meets the basic definition of a headshot. Have a résumé with the headshot, typed with the spelling checked, double checked and triple checked. If you have no experience at all, at least provide a cover letter, again typed and spell checked.
10. Know when to say when.
There are two words that will always come out of the mouths of the people auditioning you: thank you. They’re not just being polite. In ‘audition speak’ those words actually mean ‘we’re done, so leave’ in a polite way. Once they say that, don’t waste any more of their time. It doesn’t mean they hate you and it doesn’t mean they love you, it just means the audition is over. They’re busy and that’s their cue to you that it’s time to move along. Thank them and head out the door with your shoulders high and a smile on your face.
These monologue tips cover the most important aspects of monologue choice and execution, as well as pointing out the most common mistakes made by actors of all levels. Take them to heart! As a person who used to be the auditionee and now is the auditioner, I can tell you that following these tips can make or break you chances at getting that part.