Many actors see monologues as a necessary evil, but why? Perhaps there is a blocker standing between you and delivering that perfect monologue, which is why industry and Backstage Experts are here to help. Below, they reveal the reasons you’re coming off as anything other than 100 percent believable.
You don’t know your source material.
“People come in with a monologue, and they’ve never even read the play. You think, Well, that can’t be the choice, because we know that person is this, that, and the other. If they would have read the play, they would’ve known that.” —Stuart Howard, casting director
You’re choosing against type.
“Know your type and range as far as being cast. Make sure the part is age-appropriate and physically accurate. It's agonizing to watch a 25-year-old try to be 45 or a guy from Minnesota try to be an Italian Mafioso from Brooklyn or a plain Jane try to be a femme fatale. A monologue is the time to show who you are, not add layers of dialects, character traits, a limp, or something outrageous to impress. Avoid props unless it is so essential to the scene that it won't work without one. If they can't tell you are acting, that’s good acting.” —Gwyn Gilliss, actor, marketing coach, and Backstage Expert
You’re poorly cutting the monologue.
“When piecing together a monologue from within a scene, it’s important that your character has the same objective throughout the cutting. This will create a through line that makes sense and gives you a clear objective to play… Avoid monologues that are narrative in nature, storytelling scenarios, or lines written in the third person. The once-upon-a-time style gives you little chance to play an objective.” —Mary Anna Dennard, college audition coach and Backstage Expert
You aren’t directing yourself.
“When I was a new director and teaching, I would see actors do monologues and I realized they weren’t directing themselves, just hoping they’d be able to rely on having an acting connection. The staging wasn’t set and so it didn’t tell the story well because they’d freeze in one place or wander around; it’s like sending a cast out with no staging!” —Karen Kohlhaas, director, actor, and teacher
You’re being predictable.
“Create a beat change after the first line of your monologue. Industry people disagree on so many areas of the business and performance, but one thing I’ve never heard any disagreement on is that they want to be surprised. So, let’s imagine the first line of your monologue is something, like, ‘I don’t want your money, I want you to listen to me,’ and the second line of your monologue is, ‘It seems like nothing I say means anything to you.’ Stop after you’ve delivered your first line. Assign a reaction to your imaginary scene partner upon his/her having heard what you just said. Choose something like shock, denial, resistance—anything that keeps the conflict ongoing and strong. Then, instead of continuing on rant-style (which is what so many actors do), with your next line, ‘It seems like nothing I say…’ take a breath and change your tactic.” —Brian O’Neil, acting career coach, consultant, audition coach, and Backstage Expert
You aren’t doing your research.
“Should you do one monologue or two contrasting ones? Classic or contemporary? Serious or comedic? How long is your time slot? Will you be asked to sing?
“What are the names of the people behind the table? Can you find their photos online so that you recognize them upon arrival? What are they currently casting and what do they typically cast? Knowing your audience will help you select an appropriate piece.” —Lana Veenker, casting director and Backstage Expert
You’re not choosing a focal point for delivery.
“Choose a focal point before you begin. Take a few seconds to look over your auditors’ heads and pick a spot—a window, a piece of tape stuck to the wall, an air vent. Put your imaginary scene partner there, and though he may move around (mine—possessed by the devil—always deserts me), the focal point will remain your anchor.” —Jackie Apodaca, Backstage Expert
To find your perfect monologue, check out The Monologuer on Backstage!
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.