Some young actors dread working on monologues. Perhaps it’s because they have trouble speaking to someone who isn’t there or maybe they have no idea how to find one that’s unique enough to fit their personality and is interesting to perform. Well, help is on the way!
I’ve worked with young actors for over 30 years and in that time I’ve figured out what works for kids when it comes to monologues. Here are the six elements to look for when deciding on a great monologue for children and teens.
1. Age Appropriate
Nothing makes an auditor cringe more than watching a child play an adult they cannot identify with. Kids play older characters all the time in school, community or children’s theater. But when performing a monologue to showcase your general talent you must find a piece that is age appropriate. Many plays are racy with foul language and strong sexual content. Although you may watch them on stage or on screen, they are not suitable for auditions and class work. The challenge is not only to find a monologue your age or close to it but to find one that is relatable and interesting enough to capture someone’s attention.
Start by looking at who you are. Are you quiet and shy? Sassy or outgoing? Ask yourself what you value and find important in life. Look for monologues that easily connect to your real personal experiences, thoughts, and emotions. Material that speaks to you in an intimate way will not only be easier to connect with but will demonstrate the depth of your understanding of the character and so create an honest impact.
Acting means to do, not to talk. Narrative monologues telling a story can be a real bore. Look for what the character is doing while they try to get what they want. Are they freaking out because their parent won’t let them have a sleepover? Are they discovering what love is as they meet someone that gives them butterflies for the first time? Active, not passive pieces will have more interest and conflict, making for a more captivating performance.
What does your character want? What stands in their way? If you don’t have a compelling conflict, the auditor has no reason to listen. Find a monologue with heightened stakes. The situation doesn’t have to be life-or-death, but it should feel that way to the character. If the blockade is big enough the monologue will have tension and urgency, two ingredients for an interesting scene.
A good monologue will show a difference between what your character wants and feels at the beginning of the piece and at the end. Find material with different beats or changes of action. Watching a character journey from point A to point A is boring. Take a leap from point A to point B and the monologue becomes important. If your character changes their intention and the ways they overcome the conflict, there will be more growth and the scene will be more fulfilling to watch. This will also allow you to showcase your range, which is helpful for auditions.
6. No Ghosts
Of course, when performing you should know who you’re talking to, but the monologue should not be written answering questions that we don’t hear. Any time the dialogue contains unheard interjections from other people, the audience becomes confused. Additionally, you should be speaking to a single person. This will allow you to clearly pursue what the character wants from the other person and how they are going to get it.
There you have it, plain and simple. If you follow these guidelines, your child will be able to showcase their skills and be a standout sensation.