Whether you are a beginner or an experienced actor, practicing monologues is one of the best ways to improve your craft. It is a great way to explore different emotions, expand your type range, understand the stories of the movies and plays you watch at a deeper level, understand the emotions and motivations of the characters you play. Doing scenes is also a great way to train to be a better actor but monologues have the advantage that you can practice themwhenever you want, over and over again and carry them with you into the audition room.
So, looking for monologue ideas? Well, first, what’s a monologue? What type of monologues are there? How do you go about choosing the best one for you? How do you prepare it and perform it?
A monologue is an extended speech by one character, either addressing one or more people to make a point or express his or her feelings. When the character’s speech is addressed to himself or herself as a way of expressing aloud his or her thoughts or emotions, the actor is performing a type of monologue called soliloquy, also called “interior monologue” in narrative literature. In this type of monologue the character expresses his thoughts and emotions to himself, without addressing another character in the story. These types of monologues are usually less popular with performers. Actors usually perform monologues of characters addressing other characters in the story as those usually have more drama, action, and are more emotional.
The most general distinction of monologue types is the dramatic monologue, that is more serious in content and backstory, humorous monologue and the monologue that is both funny and serious, also called serio-comic. So the very first thing to consider, if you decide to practice and perform a monologue, do you want to do something funny or serious? Or maybe a piece that is both humorous and serious? Second, think of a specific emotion you want to explore or a specific situation. Maybe the character is frustrated about something, maybe he’s telling a story, he might be angry, crying, or maybe in love. On our search page of monologues for actors we list several emotions and situations the character is experiencing for you to select when searching for material. If you think of anything more specific, you may also use the keyword search.
Another option you have is to write your own monologue. You don’t need to come up with an entire story but just an interesting character that resembles your physical type, think of a situation and write your own piece. Writing, however, is not an easy thing to do and is time consuming. That’s why most actors tend to look for existing monologues from movies, plays, tv shows or books.
If you are considering writing your own monologues, you may find some interesting ideas in our section of “How to write a monologue”.
If you just want to look at existing monologues from various media and choose one that is right for you and what you are trying to accomplish, you may want to look our section on “How to choose a monologue”.
When it comes to selecting a monologue, make sure you pick or write an age appropriate monologue. If you end up choosing one, pick one that is appropriate for your age range, try to be original don’t choose one that is a classic and that the person you are delivering the monologue to has heard 100 times. Pick one that gives you the opportunity of showing what your skills as an actor are. Avoid profanity and vulgar content as, even if most directors and casting directors might be open minded, you never know who you might offend.
If you’re pressed with time and don’t have much time to memorize a long monologue, try check out our 30 second monologues. If you need a monologue for an audition you’ll need a longer one, at least 1 minute or between 1 or 2 minutes. That will give your casting director a better idea of your skills. But if you have time and want to find a monologue to practice on, take the time to find a monologue that is at least 2 minutes or more.
How to memorize and prepare a monologue
Memorization is key to get the best performance of the monologue you choose. There’s many ways to help you memorize your monologue but the truth is, the best way is to perform it as many times as possible until you don’t have to think about your next line. If you’re pressed with time and you need to memorize your monologue as fast as possible, some techniques include:
- Read your monologue out loud at different speeds
- Write it down or type it
- Break it down. Every monologue, or at least most of the best written ones, have a structure. The character is usually telling a story, trying to make a point, revealing his/her own feelings and will have a beginning, middle and end. Find your monologue’s inner structure and focus on the key points of each section.
- Record yourself with your iphone or an audio recorder and play it back
- Perform it in various settings such as in front of the mirror, in your car, in front of one friend or several people
I can’t stress highly enough how important is to do your homework and learn the lines as well as you can. There’s nothing worse of an actor performing a monologue trying to remember his next line. Even if you think you know the lines pretty well, the truth is you need to know the lines so well that during the performance all of your energy will be used to explore the emotions of the character, not thinking about the lines. Knowing the text extremely well will also help you understand the emotions of the character and think like your character. This will help you find the right rhythm, pace, gestures and pauses that will make the performance truly shine.
Another key technique to prepare a monologue is to think of the circumstances your character is when delivering the monologue. That applies not only to a specific monologue but to the whole character you are playing. If you need to memorize a lot of lines and dialogue in general it’s very important to truly understand the story, what role the character you are playing has and the circumstances when the character delivers the monologue.
Even if you know your lines very well, the next step before the delivery is to record yourself with a camera or even just with your phone. This way you’ll be able to see for yourself what you are doing right or wrong. If you want to hear other people’s opinions on your performance, you could try our Actorama Pro section where our members are able to upload their video recordings and get feedback from other actors on what you did well or what you might have to work on. When you review your performance, don’t forget to also focus on the details such as what you are wearing and what you should be wearing when delivering the monologue, any nervous habits you might have, your facial expressions, the speed of the delivery, the tone of your voice and if you should use more pauses.
Now that you are ready to actually perform, take a deep breath and focus on getting in the mind and emotional state of the character. As we said before, think of the circumstances of the scene, try to feel what the character is feeling and what he/she is thinking about. Convince yourself you are the character you’re playing. This will also help you get rid of stage fright and being nervous. Block everything out and also visualize yourself performing in front of the audience.
When performing, key points to remember are
- Don’t direct the delivery straight to the person that is observing the monologue or you are auditioning for as you don’t want to involve the person. You just want to show them the delivery and your skills and if you do look at them it might even annoy them.
- If auditioning, when asked to slate, only give whatever information about yourself you are asked about, don’t give too much information about your monologue either, keep it short. That’s your first chance to show that you are a professional.
- When your performance calls for specific physical movements, always adapt your performance to the space you’re performing. Any movement should have a purpose and serve the material you’re performing. In short, don’t overdo it but if the monologue calls for it, don’t be afraid to move around the stage or use props. Casting directors like it when actors can adapt their performance on the spot and use objects that are in the room as props. Also adapt your performance depending on whether you are on a big stage or a small room. Project your voice if on a big stage and avoid too much movement if in a small room.
- When making a mistake, try not to break character but improvise. It’s better to let the actions and emotions flow and then explain after your performance what you missed than break the action at any small mistake. And Finally when you finish, let the emotions hang on for a beat before ending your performance, don’t end abruptly. Now you’re done and you’ve given your best, make sure you listen to any feedback and, if auditioning, thank the director or casting director for their time. Good job!