How to Pick a Monologue for an Audition

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Actors audition for a new play with a script, for a new series with sides, and for a new commercial with copy. But once in a while, actors will be asked to do a monologue, especially when meeting with an agent. Most actors believe it’s easier to audition opposite a partner, but you’re on your own with a monologue. These are always the most difficult auditions to pull off successfully, so it’s best to be prepared. These tried-and-true strategies will help you learn how to choose a monologue that impresses at your next audition.

How to choose a monologue

Select one that entertains you. No one in the industry wants to watch an actor working really hard to impress them with their acting, especially if the piece is boring or mediocre. Choose a monologue you love. Doing so will make CDs and agents love watching you.

Find one that fits you like a glove. Know your type and range, and make sure the part is age-appropriate and physically accurate. It’s agonizing to watch a 25-year-old trying to be 45 or a guy from Minnesota trying to be a Mafioso from Brooklyn. A monologue should show who you are, not add layers of dialects, character traits, a limp, or something outrageous to impress. If they can’t tell you’re acting, that’s good acting.

Choose one that is serio-comedic, not just comedic or dramatic. Serio-comedic monologues allow you to show a change in emotion but also keep your audience laughing. Start with a piece that’s funny, quirky, and gets people to laugh—and then turn the screw. Hit them with something heartbreaking or touching. Before you know it, they’re in your corner and you’ve won them over. 

Work on one that has an arc or storyline. Avoid the Johnny-one-note monologues that show one emotion throughout. They’re boring and tedious, and there’s nothing worse than watching someone rant and rave angrily at the audience for four minutes. We all love to hear stories with twists and turns, so bring us along with you.

Keep it short. Agents usually make up their minds about an actor in less than 10 seconds. After two minutes, they change their mind and it goes the other way. Stay within their attention span by selecting a brief but impactful monologue and you’ll have more success.

Find one with an element of surprise. If the audience is three steps ahead of you, they get bored fast. Shift gears suddenly and change your mood or voice. Find a way to keep your audience on the edge of their seats, wondering what will happen next. Everyone loves to be pleasantly surprised.

Choose one that’s not full of foul language or rude innuendos. The exception here is unless it is essential to the character who, in spite of the language, is funny or quirky. But be careful. Well-written monologues like that are few and far between, and most actors aren’t clever enough to pull them off. You run the risk of alienating everyone within earshot and looking like a mediocre actor. Choose good writing over something flashy.

Discover one that shows you’re a winner. When you leave the room, what will they think of you? What was your lasting impression? Will they cast you? Call you back or shrug? Don’t choose to play a loser, someone who whines, or is a victim. Leave them thinking you’re amazingly courageous—a pirate, a rebel, a survivor!

Avoid a recognizable one that a star already did well. You’ll be compared to that star—such as Jenna Ortega in “Wednesday” or Jeremy Allen White in “The Bear”—and won’t win. Instead, find a likable, lesser known character and do the monologue your way. 

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The views expressed in this article are solely that of the individual(s) providing them,
and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Backstage or its staff.

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Gwyn Gilliss
As the “Foremost Marketing Coach for Actors,” Gwyn was a successful actor herself working in all mediums. An Emmy Award nominee, she appeared on dozens of network daytime and primetime series. Her film scripts won awards from Beverly Hills to Cannes. She’s the premier role model with winning strategies and first-hand knowledge of the TV, film, and theater industries which she shares to help actors succeed. Request a complimentary 15-minute career session: gwyngilliss.com/contact.
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