When Do You Need To Perform a Monologue? An Acting Coach Explains

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There’s a lot to think about when launching an acting career: classes, auditions, headshots, representation. It can be overwhelming. One more thing to think about on top of all that is monologues. Beginning actors can be confused about the need for a monologue or more than one. Under what circumstances will you be asked to do one? And under what circumstances won’t you be? Here’s what you need to know.

There are a few instances when you won’t be asked to do a monologue. One is in commercial auditions. These auditions typically involve reading or reciting some copy or a line or two, perhaps while engaging in some activity. They’re not going to ask you to perform a monologue so you can get out there and start trying to book a commercial without having one ready. You also won’t need one for film and television auditions. In these, they’re almost always going to ask you to read sides from the project and that’s it. No monologue required.

You might be asked to do a monologue in a few situations. When meeting with prospective representation, you may need a monologue. Chances are good, if they want this, that they will give you some notice and ask you to prepare something. But the truth is the longer you know something the better you know it and the freer you’ll be to focus on the acting values, and less of your psychic bandwidth will be taken up with remembering the next line. It’s not a bad idea to have a monologue at the ready if you’re embarking on a search for representation so that you’re sure you can show prospective representation what you can do as an actor. 

Auditions for theater are another place where you may need a monologue. For whatever reason, monologues are more frequently requested in auditions for theater now so if you plan on auditioning for theater, you should have at least one monologue ready to go.

Then there’s the area where you’ll definitely be asked to perform a monologue: auditions for graduate programs. There’s no question about it. They’re almost certainly going to want to see more than one as well. They’ll probably ask to see two and probably suggest that you have two more ready to go. Your monologues will need to be contrasting: classical and contemporary, comedic and dramatic. If you’re going to audition for graduate programs, you’ll be well served to give yourself a lot of lead time on these. You don’t want to spend your audition for Yale struggling to remember the next line of your monologue. Again, the longer you know something, the better you know it, so getting those monologues down well ahead of the audition date is a winner’s strategy.

Those are the main scenarios in which monologues do and don’t get requested. Hopefully, this will help you prioritize as you take on the various challenges of starting an acting career. 

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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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Andrew Wood
Andrew Wood is a graduate of the MFA Directing program at the Yale School of Drama, and he has a Ph.D. from Stanford University in literature. In 2004, he founded his acting studio in San Francisco, and expanded it to Los Angeles in 2008.
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