Audtion Monologues - What Not To Do

  • Christopher Dobson

    Actor

    I'm just starting out and I'm currently looking into what sort of monologues I should have under my belt. Most importantly I want to steer clear of anything that's too overdone or just not right, so i was wondering...

    When it comes to auditioning what plays/ monologues/ playwrights should you not do/

    Thanks:D Chris

    • 14th Nov 2008
    • 5518
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  • Emily Clare

    Actor

    Hiya! I know that people talk a lot about monologues being 'overdone' etc, but I think it is more important to choose monologues which suit you and you can perform well, first and foremost. I don't believe anyone would mind seeing a monologue for the 1000th time if this time it is done amazingly well! I would always look for ones that suit me first, and worry about how popular they are second, but that's just my advise! Em xx

    • 19th Sep 2008
    • 1
  • Lee Ravitz

    Actor

    Emily is right, basically...BUT the risk with doing well-known monologues is the question of whether you can do anything particularly impressive and dynamic with them. Essentially, when something is well-known and popular, you may run into two difficulties:

    1. The casting people in question have seen it performed over and over again by different actors, sometimes extremely good actors in highly thought of productions. This may prejudice them against your reading, unless it is truly brilliant.

    2. If something is commonly used for an audition speech, it is statistically quite possible that they have already seen someone else perform it earlier in the audition session, and this can force odious comparisons on what you do, without your intending it.

    So, sometimes finding original pieces which suit you is preferable - they will also surprise your audience, which can be a very good thing, if they are feeling jaded after a long day of auditioning. Equally, when something is little known, there is less expectation of what it is actually about - so, the 'arc' of your performance, your story telling ability etc. are likely to be judged less prejudicially in this scenario.

    Still, Emily is right to say - don't fear doing a well-known speech if it is ideal for you; you shouldn't be afraid of it for that reason. But sometimes finding more original speeches open your horizons. It's also good to try for a certain degree of originality at Shakespearean auditions particularly (though there aren't really any major speeches from Shakespeare which haven't been done at some stage or another, there are those which are less well known but just as good as your Hamlets, Henry V's etc. etc.)

    • 19th Sep 2008
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  • User Deleted

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    I read a piece by a US casting director recently (can't remember who), and she said she'd scream if she heard 'Tuna Fish' again.

    • 22nd Sep 2008
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  • Mark Kempner

    Actor

    I make them up! I really do!

    1) It avoids the its all "been done before" syndrone

    2) It means you can draw on personal experiences and match something closely to what you are actually auditioning for

    3) You never have to worry about remembering lines and because of that, you can relax into it at the audition.

    I've got a stock of pre-written ones I like, but usually I make them up.

    I think any actor should be able to improvise for 2-3 mins in this way.

    I also string several speeches togther from plays, as you can easily make up a monologue in this way.

    Just another thought...how often do you get asked to do one?! I find its rare these days?

    • 9th Nov 2008
    • 4
  • User Deleted

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    I would never make a monologue up, Im afraid, as I always introduce the monologue with the name of the play, character, author and date.

    Also, monologues that are supposedly overdone are nine times out of ten not overdone because other actors think that they shouldnt do it because its over done. I think the best idea is to find monologues with characters that are close to your age I.E I wouldn't advise doing a monologue of a 50yr old character.

    I always make sure i read the entire play too as when i first started out i did one from a monologue book and the casting director asked me to explain the characters journey in the play before i began my speech lol

    Best of luck

    Gav x

    • 10th Nov 2008
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  • User Deleted

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    Steer clear of any Berkoff monologues. You may love him, but there's a lot of people in the industry that still bear a grudge against him due to him breaking the Union strike a couple of decades ago.

    • 11th Nov 2008
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  • Claire Dodin

    Actor

    There's some very good advice here, however I agree with Gavin: don't write your own monologue unless you are a truly brilliant writer. Some people can, most people can't.

    I sat through many audition monologues and I find that what works best are monologues that are not soliloquies. i.e when you are talking to someone and not at the audience.

    Also, good audition monologues need to work out of context and have a journey within the monologue for both the character and the audience. You start at point A, go through point B that changes you and leads you to point C.

    Comedy is also greatly appreciated (unless asked otherwise). When you sit through 50 drama pieces in one day, you can lose the will to live! ;-)

    If you want to stay clear of over done monologues, look at the popular audition books, and don't do these ones.

    Find something that really suits you by reading lots of plays and enjoy the process! :-)

    • 12th Nov 2008
    • 7
  • Glen Mortimer

    Actor

    As a casting director myself, What I will advise you is this; Make sure the piece you choose shows a wide range of emotions. A casting director likes to see what an actors range is. remember, It's not the piece they are interested in, it's you and your ability to act. eg.. if you were to choose an emotional piece, does the casting director know if you are capable of being angry? Choose wisely and show them what you're capable of.

    Glen Mortimer

    • 12th Nov 2008
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  • Mark Kempner

    Actor

    This is turning into an interesting debate. I completely agree with Glen on this.

    I take your points on board, but the fact is there is not definitive right or wrong in this business. I employ lots of actors, and I find some of them can improvise at the drop of a hat, and others can't! The ones that can't, like a script. Who's right, who's wrong…when both actors can be equally brilliant at an audition?

    To say you should never make up an audition piece is daft to me! Why on earth not!

    One could argue that that the director may have a definitive blue print on how the "well known speech" from a play should be delivered. Once he or she has heard it delivered, that might slant their opinion on you as an actor. If you improvise well you can show off a lot of range and ability in a very short space of time. If you are not right for that role, you may well get called back for another?

    I didn't say I write them in any case. What I said was…I sometimes "make them up" according to the mood I am in, and in performance, I find I can display what the character requires for that specific role. This works for me and has been very effective for me over the years. I am not trying to say it's the only way though….but it works for me. It might work for others too?

    The pre-written ones I like and sometimes use are written by successful playwrights …but I rarely use them to be honest.

    You certainly do not need to be a brilliant writer to write a 2 min monologue either. This is just a basic actor's skill isn't it? One should be able to write a purposeful monologue based on self experience and mood. You can write a letter and tell someone a story with a beginning middle and end? With a tiny bit of development and thought, you can easily turn that into a meaningful drama, or the funniest thing in the world! I would not want to write a full length play or movie….but a short scene, a short piece to camera and or the director in a room. Anyone can do that…and if you can't, I feel you are not fully equipped to call yourself a professional actor?

    Maybe I am wrong, but that's how I feel. It is also just an opinion, and once again…who is right who is wrong?

    The director needs to know: Can I direct them? Are they right for this role? Do I like this person? Can he/she act? If I am the director, I assume they can learn lines and say them under pressure, the other attributes are more important surely?

    Sometimes one has to prepare a specific scene, and then of course, you have to stick to the written lines.

    I auditioned for the role of an argumentative cab driver in a film in which my character would be acting opposite Dustin Hoffman. I saw the script, but it was a very short scene, and one I was determined to put my stamp on! The casting director was delighted to let me improvise around the dialogue and character. I got the role!

    When on set, the director, (also the writer) appreciated the audition improvisation I did, and said that Dustin Hoffman likes to improvise all the time!

    Our scene was to be an argument in a taxi…it was only a few lines….but Hoffman did not want to rehearse, he was insistent that we just improvise around the 2 main points of the scripted dialogue. The argument lasted from its original 15 secs to around 1.5 mins. At one point he screamed out of the window "Mark and I have our own Fucking movie going on here!" It was without doubt the most fun I have had in the business!

    However, that suited that particular moment. I appreciate we can't all go around improvising all the time, but please... never ever be afraid of it?

    Before you all ask: NO…I did not have the nerve to ask DH about that famous story in Central Park opposite Lawrence Olivia, when they were filming Marathon man!! I wished I had now!!

    • 12th Nov 2008
    • 9
  • User Deleted

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    I've written a couple of monologues, which have gone down well; but I've never even considered ad-libbing at an audition.

    • 12th Nov 2008
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  • Lee Ravitz

    Actor

    Without getting into the debate as to whether choosing to improvise in an audition is worthwhile or not, I would say the following: to a certain extent, it depends what you are auditioning for, and what you mean by delivering a speech.

    Essentially, using a monologue as a test of talent is most prevalent in stage circles; it is pretty uncommon as an audition technique for screen, where the primary interest is in seeing what you can do with the given script for the project, whether this is learnt beforehand, or cold read.

    Asking actors to perform monologues seems to be less popular in stage auditions than it used to be; at very least, most auditions will ask for a monologue coupled with a cold reading of the part that is actually being auditioned for. But monologues do still have their uses from a theatrical point of view; they can demonstrate something about how effectively an actor can use space, how convincingly they imagine the 'circumstances' of a scene around them, what kind of emotional journey they can take an audience on etc. All of these attainments are useful for a stage actor, and so, 'testing' the actor for such qualities is important. In a sense, it *doesn't* matter what gets presented so long as the intentions and the drive within the scene are coherent, although, in many stage circumstances, I wouldn't advise deviating too far from any set text. Classical work, for example, is often directed by those who are highly conversant with the text, and who demand close attention to it - many Shakespearean directors, for instance, literally wince when they hear verse lines being misdelivered. There are some good reasons for this attitude - for the truth is that subtext in stage work is revealed only through the words, through what the actors say to one another: we are never close enough to the actors to simply see a subtext register in their eyes/faces/etc. The story is told through the words (as well as gesture), and so, proving you can pay attention to the words can be very useful in auditioning for stage productions.

    When auditioning for screen, it is a totally different scenario. The interest here is primarily in terms of reaction, spontaneity and believability, because the camera can detect the most minimal of subtexts in the change of a facial expression or a glint in the eyes. I have it on good authority from top casting directors that no-one actually cares what words you deliver at a screen audition, so long as they are in the ballpark, and delivered with the right conviction. Ad-libs are more than welcome if they flesh out an underwritten character. Any phraseology that doesn't suit your delivery, but which you can convert into a form that works for you, is more than acceptable. What you want above all is to come across as immediate and 'real'. In screen scenarios, improvisation will almost certainly help your cause, although it's very unlikely anyone will be asking you to improvise around a pre-prepped monologue - they *will* often ask you to improvise around the script as written - it's always assumed that the script, as given, isn't set in stone, anyway, and is subject to alteration if a line doesn't work, sounds clunky etc.

    • 12th Nov 2008
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  • User Deleted

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    Luke,

    Berkoff broke a Union strike over commercials in the late 90s, by doing a voice-over for an advert. I have it from various reliable sources, that there is still a lot of resentment in the industry about it!

    • 12th Nov 2008
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  • Christine Hounslow

    Actor

    My twopenneth - i agree with Lee that audition pieces seem to be more used for stage - I was once asked to do my piece, which I performed as per the guidance notes in the book, and was then asked to perform it again but this time smiling all the while - which I did, and then asked to perform it again whilst appearing nervous and agitated. I got the part and was told that they wanted to see if I was "reverential to the text" under all circumstances, could take direction, and was prepared "to be altered". I have never had to give a monologue for a film part but have usully been asked to improvise.

    The head of my drama school told us to have three prepared pieces - a comedy, a drama and a "neutral" piece. I took this advice and still learn new pieces all the time as a back up if needed. I have to say that when I was looking for an agent they all asked me to do three pieces. For you younger actors it is useful to have a Shakespeare piece prepared as well.

    • 14th Nov 2008
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