When your child is just getting started as an actor—whether she is auditioning for school plays or feature films—it is always good for her to have a few monologues on hand that show off her talents.
I know that, as a parent, helping your child to search for a good monologue can feel like an overwhelming process. As your child progresses through the entertainment industry, this will become easier and easier, but, at first, the process can be tricky.
There are a few tried and true tactics that I recommend to parents of the students at my acting studio, 3-2-1 Acting School in Los Angeles. Here goes!
Finding a monologue with your child should be a collaborative process. Of course, you can help to steer the ship by guiding him to find and read through materials, but ultimately, the decision regarding what monologue he performs should be his. The monologue should “speak” to your child and feel like a story that he wants to tell and would have fun telling.
Stay on brand
By “on brand,” I mean: what character types does your child naturally play and like to play? Start by considering your child’s personality. Is your child a total goofball? Sensitive? Emotional? Head of the class? Feisty? Help her to find some scenes from a Disney or Nickelodeon show. Is your child the child who cries on cue and brings on the drama? Have her check out some scripts from dramatic plays or independent dramatic films. Once you really understand your child’s types and your child’s brand, then you can specifically find monologues that are at great fit!
Monologue books for kids are great starter tools for finding good material! You can also find great monologues by reading plays, movie scripts, and literally writing down the dialogue from a scene on TV show or film that you like.
Start with what you know: plays, shows, and films that you and your child have seen and can relate to. You can find a surprising number of scripts online, with simplyscripts.com being a great resource. Also helpful are YouTube searches. I especially like the “Hollywood 101” book series by my colleague Chambers Stevens; he has written great monologues for children, both dramatic and comedic.
The monologue should be active
By active I mean that the best monologues are spoken at heightened moments in a story when a character is directly addressing another character and pursuing an objective, actively. Some monologues can be full of self-reflection and exposition—a character can merely be describing a scenario that happened in the past, or talking to herself. These tend to be more challenging for actors to work on. The best monologues are active and can be spoken directly to a scene partner or imaginary “other.” The character should be strongly pursuing an objective; she should want something from the other person in the scene. Ideally, the monologue should have some sort of build/change. The character should end up in a different emotional place than where she started.
Brief equals best
Try to find material that is no longer than one minute. In some cases, for drama school and professional theater auditions at the teen/adult level, actors may be asked to do monologues that are up to two minutes long, but this is rare. Brief equals better. You can also edit down a monologue to make it shorter. At Equity open theater calls, for example, where monologues are more popular, casting directors can see hundreds of people in a day. You don’t want your child to be the one with the three-minute monologue that throws off the entire schedule!
Also, if a casting director wants to see more after a minute, she will ask.
Always, always have more than one monologue prepped and ready to go! Preferably a dramatic monologue and a comedic monologue. But the more, the better.
For drama school programs, your child may be asked to prepare more than one monologue. If they ask for two, your child should prepare four. Always have double of whatever is required (e.g. a comedic monologue and a backup comedic monologue; a dramatic monologue and a backup dramatic monologue), because you never know when casting might ask to see something else!
Cut and paste; make it work
Some of the best monologues are actually multiple chunks of dialogue that occur over the course of a scene, stitched together. This doesn’t always work; it may not always make sense for you to skip over the other characters’ lines and combine text. But often it does, and it makes for a brilliant monologue.
If you see a really active and engaging scene in which your child’s character has a few chunks of text that can be logically combined, give it a try! Have your child help you pick out the pieces of consecutive text that speak to him, cut out the other character’s lines, and see if you can combine them to make a seamless, logical monologue.
As always, keep the process enjoyable. That’s why we are in this business to begin with, right? To have fun. The experience of building a series of monologues will be an enriching and educational one; your child will be engaging with new material and advancing as an actor. Good luck!
Be sure to check out our kids auditions! And watch the video below for more advice for young performers.
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