A Professor’s 4 Tips for Preparing a Monologue

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A student came to me for “tips” to improve her monologue work. She complained the form causes her to struggle and push. Of course it does.

Monologues are evil. No amount of imagination or focus can make up for the fact that they force a performer to work in a vacuum, requiring an intensely connected art to be demonstrated in an isolated, disconnected way.

Evil, yes, and also necessary. But there are ways to dance with the devil—and gain the upper hand. Here are four tips to keep in mind while preparing a monologue.

1. Choose an active monologue. Story pieces, while funny or touching on the page, can spew out in an unfocused ramble. Playing strong actions to achieve a clear objective keeps you on point.

2. 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.

3. Choose a short piece. If they ask for a two-minute monologue, choose one that takes less than 90 seconds, even strewn with self-indulgent pauses. Most auditors make up their minds in the first 30 seconds—why worry about going over?

4. Own it. Once you’ve made your choices, gather your wits and go for it. Find the moment, fill the space, and take your time.

Happily, most auditions rely on cold reads and sides. The monologue—while important in early career stages—eventually returns to the underworld from whence it sprang.

Good riddance.

Jackie Apodaca is an associate professor and the head of performance at Southern Oregon University.