Choosing the Right Monologue for Your Audition

Being able to choose the right piece of audition monologue is one of the most stressful parts of going to an audition. Often, big parts from big productions won’t do you too well in the context of a two-minute monologue in front of a casting director.

True, your monologue should fit well with the type of show or film you’re auditioning for, but for those times that you don’t know where you’re actually in for, how do you choose the right kind of monologue to wow your critical audience? Here are some tips to check out:

Choose material that fits you

Allow yourself to express your own personality. Take a monologue that showcases your strengths—after all, you want to impress the casting people. Monologues should also be age-appropriate—not as your actual age but the age of the character you’re supposed to be playing. Remember that in Hollywood, they usually cast older people as teenagers. Most of the cast of Pretty Little Liars, for instance, are in their 20s even though they had to play high-school girls.

Active monologues are always better

Telling a story or a memory is okay if you are reading to children in the library, but it is not exactly the best thing when it comes to auditioning for a role.  The Bay Area casting director Meryl Shaw shared, “Look for pieces where the action is going on right now, right here, and where the character has something at stake. Pieces where your character wants something from the scene partner or is having an in-the-moment discovery are the most dynamic.”

Don’t do experimental work

While it’s fun to audition using experimental material, it’s not the case for most auditions. Unless the casting call calls specifically for it, it is better to read for a typical character. This is because nonlinear, poetic monologue does not show your actual skillset or type or even what it is that makes you a good actor. Casting directors usually make their decisions depending on how you work with your text, so if you’re going “out there” for an audition, they will have to follow you without context, and that is no way to evaluate your work.

Showcase your acting, not anything else

Most people make the mistake of doing other things while auditioning, such as dancing or movement. While this is good for your versatility as an actor, your skillset is already on your resume and doing things at the audition other than what is required will only distract your casting directors. Don’t worry, if they need anything else from you, there will be separate auditions for that—for your singing, dancing, or any other skill that you might need. When reading a monologue, make sure that it emphasizes on your acting, if that’s what you’re auditioning for.

Previous performances are off-limits

“Using a piece from a production you’ve performed is challenging. You need to start all over again, and the monologue needs to become its own mini-play, as opposed to a moment in time in a larger arc.” Shaw shared. “I discourage this choice; it’s often hard to override the memory cells!”

Self-written monologues, stand-alone pieces, and non-dramatic literature are also off-limits

No matter how well you do with sonnets or performances that helped you win state speech in high school, they are likely not going to give your casting directors the information they will need to cast you for a role—specifically, are you a good a good enough actor to win the role?

It is a good idea to choose a well-written play to prepare yourself for an audition. No matter which one you choose, however, when it comes to reading for your casting director, it is a good idea that you know your material first before you take the mark on stage.

Only use dialect when called for

Maintaining an accent can be difficult, especially if you are not an expert in it. So if the role you’re auditioning for does not require you to speak in a dialect, it is better to steer clear away from it. Accents in general are not impressive, especially if you plan on doing a generic Southern one that doesn’t really have any connection to the real thing. Only do dialects for a second piece, and when you do, make sure that you have the right training for it to perform accurately.

Keep sex, violence, and offensive language out

An audition is essentially a job interview, so a casting director most likely does not know anything about you other than your audition. A piece with a lot of sex, violence, and offensive language is considered to be in bad taste in auditions, and what they learn about you, they can learn by the monologue you present them with.