A Professor’s Monologue Suggestions + Strategy for Your College Audition

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In a Backstage piece I wrote in January, I recommended actors preparing to audition for college acting programs adopt a positive perspective and plan to enjoy their experience. To aid in that process I advised you prepare at least four monologues, but what should you choose? 

Most colleges and conservatories require applicants to present two contrasting, fully memorized monologues no longer than two minutes in length from plays of established playwrights. Each monologue should be under two minutes, preferably ranging from one minute to one and a half minutes. Several programs request that one be from a classical play, usually meaning from a play by Shakespeare and that’s 10–18 lines of verse. I recommend you include in your four monologues two from a contemporary play (one comedic, one dramatic) and two from a Shakespearean play (one from a comedy, one from a tragedy).

Check to see if the specific places you’re applying suggest appropriate plays and characters, or contemporary monologues to avoid. For Shakespeare plays, don’t stress too much about finding material that is less known, especially for women as there are fewer pieces written for women characters than men. I think it’s entirely appropriate for women to perform Shakespearean male roles and there are several characters that are nongender specific.

READ: What You Need to Know Before Delivering Your Next Monologue

For your contemporary monologues, you can search an anthology of monologues from published plays. There are several fairly recent collections that include “The Kilroys List: 97 Monologues and Scenes by Female and Trans Playwrights, Scenes for Latinx Actors: Voices of the New American Theatre” by Micha Espinosa and Cynthia De Cure, “Multicultural Theatre: Scenes and Monologues from New Hispanic, Asian, and African-American Plays” edited by Roger Ellis, and “Voices of Color: 50 Scenes and Monologues by African American Playwrights” by Woody King Jr. 

My personal library includes “The Actor’s Book of Contemporary Stage Monologues” edited by Nina Shengold, “Contemporary Monologues for Twentysomethings” edited by Jessica Bashline, “One on One, The Best Women’s Monologues for the Nineties” edited by Jack Temchin and “Best Contemporary Monologues for Men 18-35” edited by Lawrence Harbision and Daniel Guyton. There are numerous websites you can use as well, including Backstage, that organize their monologues by categories. Sometimes websites include videos of actors performing monologues and recently I’ve experienced a disturbing trend where instead of reading the plays as part of their preparation, actors copy another’s video performance. Don’t do this. There is no short cut. Read the plays your monologues are from. 

For examples of monologues that would be a good fit for your college audition, below are four lists for both men and women featuring dramatic contemporary, comedic contemporary, Shakespearean dramatic, and Shakespearean comedic monologues. I’ve chosen characters in their late teens to early twenties and tried to avoid offensive language. Most of the monologues are active, where the character is speaking to someone for a reason, has something at stake or is in a moment of discovery and not just telling a story. These monologues vary in length and some might need to be cut down. I’ve included the first few words and last few words of each monologue so you know what to look for in each play.

Young Women’s Contemporary Monologues, Dramatic

1. “Crumbs from the Table of Joy” by Lynn Nottage

Character: Ernestine

Monologue: “There you have it, They white,…Seems to us only white folks can laugh on Sundays.”

2.  “Doubt” by John Patrick Shanley

Character: Sister James 

Monologue: “He’s taken an interest. Since Donald went on the altar boys…There was alcohol on his breath.”

3. “Good As New” by Peter Hedges

Character: Maggie 

Monologue: “We look around for heroes, desperate for heroes,…Now every time I look at you I will think, liar.”

4. “Lydia” by Octavio Solis

Character: Cici

Monologue: “She touched me and I flew…showing me her own sccc- ggghn mmm her-own—ssccrrmmgfmhm”

5. “Cleveland Raining” by Sung Rno

Character: Mari

Monologue: “Someone’s sticking their face into the crib…And that gives me a strange kind of hope, a feeling that I can stay.”

Young Women’s Contemporary Monologues, Comedic

1. “An Octoroon” by Branden Jacobs-Jenkins

Character: Minnie 

Monologue: “I know, right? Grace’s a@# always talking about running away…Grace is such a mess.”

2. “How I Learned to Drive” by Paula Vogel

Character: Lil’ Bit 

Monologue: “I don’t know. Maybe it’s just me, but do you ever feel like you’re a walking Mary Jane joke?...but they’re sending out these signals to men who get mesmerized, like sirens calling out to them to dash themselves on these ‘rocks.’”

3. “A Chorus Line” by James Kirkwood, Nicholas Dante, Marvin Hamlisch, Edward Kleban, and Michael Bennett

Character: Val Clark 

Monologue: “So, the day after I turned 18, I kissed the folks goodbye, got on a Trailways bus - and headed for the big bad apple. Cause I wanted to be a Rockette… For looks, three.”

4. “In the Next Room (or The Vibrator Play)” by Sarah Ruhl

Character: Catherine Givings 

Monologue: “Do you want more children, Elizabeth?...I suppose that makes me an inferior kind of women and a very inferior kind of Jesus.”

5. “Miss Firecracker Contest” by Beth Henley

Character: Popeye 

Monologue: “Oh well, I reckon what it was when I was sewing up there in front at the big store…’Popeye, you’re fired.’”

Young Women’s Classical Monologues, Dramatic

1. “Richard III”

Character: Lady Anne 

Monologue: “Foul devil, for God's sake, hence, and trouble us not…Which his hell-govern'd arm hath butchered!”

2. “Henry VI Part 1”

Character: Joan  

Monologue: “First, let me tell you whom you have condemn'd...Will cry for vengeance at the gates of heaven.”

3. “Troilus and Cressida”

Character: Cressida 

Monologue: “Hard to seem won: but I was won, my lord,… My very soul of counsel! stop my mouth.”

4. “Hamlet”

Character: Ophelia

Monologue: “O, what a noble mind is here o'erthrown!...To have seen what I have seen, see what I see!”

5. “Measure for Measure”

Character: Isabella 

Monologue: “In brief, to set the needless process by,…For my poor brother's head.”

Young Women’s Classical Monologues, Comedic

1, “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”

Character: Hermia

Monologue: “Now I but chide; but I should use thee worse,… So should a murderer look, so dead, so grim.”

2. “Pericles”

Character: Marina 

Monologue: “I am a maid,…And whispers in mine ear, 'Go not till he speak.'”

3. “The Merchant of Venice”

Character: Portia 

Monologue: “Away, then! I am lock'd in one of them:… I view the fight than thou that makest the fray.”

4. “All’s Well that Ends Well”

Character: Helena 

Monologue: “Then, I confess, Here on my knee, before high heaven and you… But, riddle-like, lives sweetly where she dies.”

5. “Two Gentlemen of Verona”

Character: Julia

Monologue: “How many women would do such a message?... To bring me where to speak with Madam Silvia.”

The following non-Shakespeare monologues might be used as classical depending on the program, as they’re not strictly Shakespearean verse:

1. “The Mistress of the Inn” by Carlo Goldoni

Character: Mirandolina 

Monologue: “Huh! Marry Him!... Yes, I’ll use every art I have to conquer this enemy of women!”

2. “Tartuffe” by Moliere

Character: Dorine

Monologue: “Yes, so he says himself. Such vanity… Think then what perils wait on your design.”

3. “Tartuffe” by Molière

Character: Mariane 

Monologue: “Father, I beg you, in the name of Heaven… By exercising all your rights upon me.”

4. “The Servant of Two Masters” by Carlo Goldoni

Character: Smeraldina 

Monologue: “Stop, stop! what on earth are you doing?...I'd make every man who was unfaithful carry a branch of a tree in his hand, and I know all the towns would look like forests.”

READ: 25 Amazing Acting Colleges You Should Know

Young Men’s Contemporary Monologues, Dramatic

1. “Fences” by August Wilson

Character: Cory

Monologue: “I live here too!...all you ever did was try to make‘em scared of you…put me out, come on!”

2. “Red” by John Logan

Character: Ken

Monologue: “Bores you?! Bores you?!... BECAUSE NATURAL LIGHT ISN’T GOOD ENOUGH FOR YOU!”

3. “Lydia” by Octavio Solis

Character: Misha 

Monologue: “For what it’s worth, it wasn’t just mom who raised me. It was you too asshole…I’m gonna forgive you. You’ll see.”

4. “The Dance and the Railroad” by David Henry Hwang

Character: Ma 

Monologue: “Locusts travel in huge swarms,…Second Uncle never tortured actual locusts, just weak grasshoppers.”

5. “Jesus Hopped the Train” by Stephen Adly Guirgis

Character: Angel Cruz 

Monologue: “Hail Mary...Hail Mary...Hail Mary, you’re a lady, talk to your f@#%in’ Son... please tell Miss Hameric I’m sorry cuz I am sorry—"

Young Men’s Contemporary Monologues, Comedic

1. “Orphans” by Lyle Kessler

Character: Treat 

Monologue: “I SAID I JUST NOW SEEN A FRIEND OF YOURS! I seen an old re-run of the Charge of the Light Brigade, staring none other than your old buddy Errol Flynn…And this time I am certainly not giving in.”

2. “Maricela de La Luz Lights the World” by Jose Rivera

Character: Jason 

Monologue: “We're not supposed to be rescuing people today, we're on vacation… You, Maricela, you could win the Trojan War single-handedly!"

3. “The Foreigner” by Larry Shue

Character: Ellard 

Monologue: “Don't tell me you've never seen a knife…. Put 'em together. "Faw-werk" [...] Good! That was great!”

4. “Beside Riverside and Crazy” by Stephen Adly Guirgis

Character: Oswaldo 

Monologue: “Yeah but— wanna try some of these fresh organic raw almonds from Whole Foods instead?...don’t take this wrong—but they say pie is like poison.”

5. “Mr. Burns, a Post-Electric Play” by Anne Washburn

Character: Quincy 

Monologue: “This is a cartoon. That’s what we’re doing. A cartoon… Maybe they’ll take you in there.”

Young Men’s Classical Monologues, Dramatic

1. “King Lear”

Character: Edmund

Monologue: “Thou, nature, art my goddess; to thy law…Now, gods, stand up for bastards!”

2. “Henry IV Part I”

Character: Prince Henry 

Monologue: “For worms, brave Percy: fare thee well, great heart!... Till then in blood by noble Percy lie.”

3. “Troilus and Cressida”

Character: Troilus 

Monologue: “You understand me not that tell me so:..Hope of revenge shall hide our inward woe.”

4. “Henry IV Part I”

Character: Hotspur 

Monologue: “The king is kind; and well we know the king…When he was personal in the Irish war.”

5. “Measure for Measure”

Character: Claudio 

Monologue: “Ay, but to die, and go we know not where;… To what we fear of death.”

Young Men’s Classical Monologues, Comedic 

1. “Merry Wives of Windsor”

Character: Fenton 

Monologue: “From time to time I have acquainted you… The maid hath given consent to go with him.” 

Note: This needs to be cut down.

2. “Pericles”

Character: Pericles

Monologue: “See where she comes, apparell'd like the spring,… To compass such a boundless happiness!”

3. “Taming of the Shrew”

Character: Tranio 

Monologue: “Pardon me, sir, the boldness is mine own,…If you accept them, then their worth is great.”

4. “Twelfth Night”

Character: Antonio 

Monologue: “Orsino, noble sir, Be pleased that I shake off these names you give me:… Not half an hour before.”

5. “Loves Labour’s Lost”

Character: Berowne 

Monologue: “This fellow pecks up wit as pigeons pease,… Pay him the due of honey-tongued Boyet.”

The following non-Shakespeare monologues might be used as classical depending on the program, as they’re not strictly Shakespearean verse:

1. “The Servant of Two Masters” by Carlo Goldoni

Character: Truffaldino 

Monologue: “I'm sick of waiting; I can hold out no longer… I'm sick of waiting; I can hold out no longer.”

2. “The Rivals” by Richard Brinsley Sheridan

Character: Faulkland 

Monologue: “In tears! Stay, Julia: stay but for a moment.—and long hoarded spleen, shall make me curse my folly half the day and all the night.”

Monologue ready? Apply to casting calls 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.

Clista Townsend
Clista Townsend is a distinguished guest lecturer with Manhattanville College’s Dance and Theatre program. She founded and served as Artistic Associate of Novel Stages and Arcadia Shakespeare Festival in Philadelphia and Ark Theatre in Los Angeles.
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