I know it’s college audition season when I hear my students share their lists of monologues with all their acting buddies. They are looking for that perfect monologue and it is hard for young actors to feel confident with their choices—even when they get it just right. Here are some tips to choosing a monologue that will be just right for you when you audition for college, high school, or any general theater audition.
The “A” in acting is for active. Storytelling in a narrative monologue can be a real snooze! Avoid that with something active, not passive. Acting happens when you try to get what you want so literally ask yourself: What am I doing to get what I want? All the non-verbal communication in a character that is falling apart or falling in love or having a nervous breakdown gives a monologue life beyond the words. You cannot communicate all that emotion if you are simply focusing on the words.
Be a smart risk-taker. Stay away from profanity, nudity, or sexually charged material. It is not impressive and can be offensive. Follow the lead of “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee” and “Rent.” If they can make a school version without profanity, so should you when auditioning as a young performer. Show your edge with actions and intentions and leave the potty mouth at home.
Make real life your art. Find monologues that easily connect to the real personal experiences, thoughts, and emotions that have been important in your life. Material that speaks to you in this intimate way allows you to more easily connect to the character and demonstrate the depth of your understanding. College and high school auditions always require you to demonstrate depth, but they are rarely about showing your full range.
Be age-appropriate. There are many monologues with complex, age-appropriate characters. It simply shows poor preparation when a teen attempts to play Blanche in “A Streetcar Named Desire” because she performed that character in a high school performance. If you want to impress your professors in high school or college, do the research to find quality, age-appropriate material.
Don’t scream. Surprise your audience with the unexpected by playing an opposite. It can be much more powerful and interesting to play a menacing character in a quiet, contained voice. Yelling can make the character seem one-dimensional and that is an audition killer!
Catherine Weidner, chair of the theater program at Ithaca College, summed it up best: “We are looking for people to come through their material. It’s about inner life and connection.”
Let the portrayal of your character come from an honest place in your heart and life, and everyone in the room—including you—just might forget they are seeing a performance.