Having a sharp and dynamic monologue or two in your back pocket is always a good idea. For example, when I was a talent agent we would give new people sides to read to see if they could handle dialogue. Many of the actors asked us after their read if they could show us a monologue as well. If we liked them we always said yes; it was their chance to show us their strengths as they saw them. If the piece was well prepared, appropriate, and exciting, it would give us the additional information about them, as well as the confidence to possibly sign them.
Preparing a great monologue isn’t that much different than preparing any great audition. However, because it’s just you and you alone, there are certain things in your preparation that you will want to pay special attention to. Whether you’re preparing for an agent, casting director, stage, or film, here are three things to remember when you’re preparing a monologue.
1. Keep it short. When preparing a monologue keep the piece at one minute unless otherwise instructed. This is important if you’re going to use it to audition for an agent or casting director. People in those professions are used to seeing auditions on reels in short bursts. This “clip mentality” doesn’t lend itself to a long attention span. If you’re using it for stage or in a workshop one minute is still a good idea, as your monologue will have more immediacy and you’ll show that you have the skill and confidence to deliver in a shorter time frame.
2. Keep the stakes high. In a monologue you are solely responsible for moving the action forward. Your intent/motivation needs to provide you with the energy to drive through the piece with immediacy and passion without the help of another character. If the stakes aren’t high enough, the piece will lose focus and drag. Be careful not to just manufacture something that sounds urgent—it needs to be an intent that has meaning and honestly ups the stakes for you. This is no time to play it small, go for something that really gets you involved and energized.
3. Know who you’re talking to. I’ve seen so many monologues over the years that were just a series of words spoken into the air. There was no particular point of view because the actor had no idea who they were talking to. Establishing who you are talking to and how you feel about that person in a deeply personal and specific way is what connects you to the piece and to the viewer. And since the other person isn’t there you get to create the relationship that connects you in the most compelling way possible, ensuring that the piece is fully invested with your heart and not just your voice. Remember, you’re still talking to someone—they’re just being very quiet!
Remember these tips when preparing your next monologue for an audition, and you’re sure to impress everyone in the room.