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Five Things you Need To Know To Blow Them Away With Your Monologue

1) The 15-second principle

When you perform a 90-second to three-minute monologue, audiences don't have the benefit of knowing the surrounding story or background. So tell them the who, what, when, and where of the monologue in the first 15 seconds. By giving your listeners this information right away, you'll give them the advantage of knowing the greater context of the piece, allowing them to go on the journey with you. If the monologue starts without the listener knowing whom you're talking to, it won't be colored by your relationship to that person. As an example, try this with any monologue: Add "Mom" to the very beginning and see how everything you say thereafter allows the audience to imagine what mom's reactions are and how your words are being delivered in terms of how you should—or shouldn't—talk to mom.

2) Who are you afraid of?

When performing your monologue, you must address it to the person you fear the most—and that can't be your best friend, your shrink, or your priest. You can tell those people anything (because you trust them), and yes, it may be provocative information (because you trust them), but (because you trust them) there is little risk for you or the audience. We came to watch you risk pain, joy, and sadness in front of us—so choose a monologue that has you talking to someone who is not an easy person to tell what you need to tell him or her. The more you are afraid of or uncomfortable about delivering that monologue to someone, the more we in the audience will be blown away by the volatility and the tension of your situation.

3) Perform it in the now!

Monologues are about showing audiences "the moment," so don't tell us about a moment that happened in the past; bring the moment to us now! This is imperative when you're performing monologues, because you don't have the luxury of a long story arc, and in that short audition or performance, you want to be as compelling as possible. Telling a story that happened in the past is far less dynamic than bringing us into that actual moment. If the line reads, "I can't believe my girlfriend caught me looking at another woman in front of her. I am so sorry for that," notice what happens with this adjustment: "Honey, I can't believe you caught me looking at another woman in front of you. I am so sorry." It's scarier for the character to admit this directly to his girlfriend than for him to tell us that it happened. Audiences reap the rewards by watching the actor's emotions as they are happening.

4) Dress the part!

If you're auditioning for the part of a baseball player from the 1940s, find that vintage uniform and audition in it. If you're auditioning for the part of a homeless woman, filthy it up and bring them your vision of a homeless woman. Why make the casting team (or audience) imagine what you would look like? Do that work for them and show them that you're creative, inventive, and a risk taker. Be sure to make any costume changes easy, and keep that part of your process out of the actual audition, or else you may use valuable audition time or be considered high-maintenance.

5) Do not be afraid to edit!

So many monologues have great stories but also have the problems listed above. Do not be afraid to edit the piece to bring it into the moment, to make it clear whom you're speaking to, to own it. If you're not working with sides presented by the casting team and have the luxury of choosing your own material, edit the piece so that you shine as brightly as possible. If you're performing the monologue in front of a live audience in a show, do everything you can to find the author and make sure she or he is okay with you making changes. If you don't feel comfortable editing the piece without the author's consent, then dump it and find another or write your own.

Robert Galinsky is co-host and co-producer of the Manhattan Monologue Slam.
He is a coach and consultant and has worked with corporations and in the entertainment
industry with such companies as Virgin Mobile, Citibank, NBC, CBS, Animal Planet, and Bravo and most recently with hip-hop artist 50 Cent.

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