How to choose a monologue
Performing monologues is a great way to improve your craft as an actor but monologues serve different purposes, so when choosing a monologue you need to identify the main purpose of that monologue. Are you auditioning to be accepted for drama school? Are you rehearsing a monologue you might be asked to perform when auditioning for a film role? Or are you just learning a monologue to improve your craft? These are questions you need to ask yourself to choose the best monologue for your goal.
Before getting into these different scenarios however, there are some types of monologues you should generally avoid, for example monologues that are extensively descriptive with little action. A monologue needs to have drama, emotions and the character needs to be pursuing something that is valuable for him or her. A monologue with little action or emotions and mostly descriptive won’t do any good either as a tool to practice your craft nor to impress a director or casting director. So avoid them.
Another general rule to follow, and this is valuable when you are auditioning for a role or being accepted to drama school, avoid monologues from plays or movies that are very popular. Directors and casting directors have probably heard them hundreds of times and would probably bore them. Find material that is little known but good and they will appreciate it such as new movies, modern plays or even Netflix shows or short films. However, make sure that the monologue doesn’t require the listener to know the story very well in order to understand it. You should be able to summarize the story in a couple of sentences and then the content of the monologue should do the rest.
Lastly, as a general rule, avoid profanity, any explicit sexual or vulgar language as, even if most directors and casting directors might be open minded when it comes to these topics, you never know who you might offend.
When you are auditioning for a film role and they ask you if you know any monologues you could perform to showcase your skills as an actor, make an effort to find a monologue that showcases your strengths and is the character is the closest to your casting type. So, to start, know your age range. If you are 18 years old, don’t choose a monologue a middle aged man would perform no matter how good it is. Also, even if not that common, some monologues are specifically written for actors of color, some for latinos, some for asians and some for caucasians and so on. So, pay attention to the subject matter and choose accordingly. And most of all, be honest with yourself and find a monologue you are right for and matches your personality.
But ultimately, whether you are looking for a monologue to showcase your skills or get accepted into an acting program or just training, follow the simple principle of choosing a monologue you can relate to. Maybe the character has a personality similar to yours, maybe the character is the person you aspire to be, maybe the story of the movie or play means something to you or maybe the character has a background you can relate to. When you do find that piece you can relate to, you will probably understand it better than the next actor and that will ultimately reflect in your performance.
When you’re performing a monologue to get accepted to an acting program, the most important thing to remember is emotion. Acting teachers will want to assess your potential and range as an actor so choose an emotional piece. Show energy. Try to get out of your comfort zone a little. They are not trying to cast you for a role, they just want to see of what you’re capable of if they teach you the craft of acting. Finally, if you’re looking for a monologue just for training purposes, that’s when you have to let go. Your main purpose will be to explore as many emotions as possible, learn to laugh, cry on cue and control your emotions as a professional.
So, to summarize, choosing the right monologue for you depends a lot on your purpose. The best way to start, no matter what the purpose of the monologue you are selecting would be, is to find material that speaks to you and you relate to emotionally. If you need a monologue to sell yourself and what you have to offer as an actor to a casting professional or a director, go for a piece that is closest to your casting type. Be brutally honest with yourself. Realistically, what casting role are you most likely to land a job for? If you are selecting a monologue for an acting program, emotion is the key factor. Show energy and your range as an actor. Finally, if you want to find a monologue to simply improve your craft, ask yourself, what type of character is exactly the opposite of who I am? What emotions am I usually uncomfortable exploring? Are you uncomfortable crying on cue? That should be your guide to find a piece that pushes you to improve your range as an artist.