Theatre Auditions

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How To Audition
My Audition Goal
Kinds of Theatre Auditions
Theatre Audition Questions
Dressing for Theatre Auditions
Selecting Audition Monologues
Rehearsing the Audition
Performing the Audition
Singing Auditions
Sample Monologues
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More Questions? Just

Selecting Audition Monologues 

Never do a monologue that you have found in a monologue book.  If you have found it there, so have ten thousand other lazy actors. 

Do your really want to be doing a monologue that the directors have already heard eight times that same afternoon?  Even if you perform the monologue more effectively than the seven performers before you, we stopped listening the moment we recognized the material.  Most fifty page monologue collections really only have three or four appropriate monologues; the rest are marginal.  Anyone that purchases that particular book will recognize and select the quality ones.     

Avoid performing monologues from well-known plays.   

Chances are that the directors for whom you are auditioning have already directed those plays.  Your performance of that monologue can never compete with the rose-colored memory of their own "perfectly directed" production.  Of course, exceptions to this rule always exist.  Some companies or directors will specifically request that you do monologues from certain well-known plays or by certain popular playwrights.  The directors are the people that hire you; perform the material that they request. 

Not all great monologues come from plays. 

Dramatic writing isn’t always found exclusively in plays.  Some of the best monologues are discovered in first person narrative short stories or novels.  But you will rarely find these monologues packaged and ready for you.  You will need to custom cut certain prose passages to fit your specific needs. 

But there is great danger here.  Prose is not dramatic literature.  Certain sections of dialogue or narration however do share the essential qualities of dramatic literature.  Remember, in dramatic literature the words become actions; every word seeks a reaction or response.  Be sure the words you select from prose literature are capable of being transformed into action.    

I really can’ find a monologue that I like.  I think I’ll just write my own!

You must know how to write drama to write your own monologue; words that are actions that reveal character.  Writing your own monologue can be very dangerous.  What you think is brilliant, individualistic, and meaningful is often general, trite, and stale.

Does this mean you shouldn’t write you own monologue?  Not necessary.  Just be sure that you have someone you can absolutely trust and has the expertise in theatre to tell you honestly whether or not your writing works.

Avoid "I remember" monologues.  These lack conflict and don't give you anything to DO.  Acting is doing. 

Regional and state theatre conventions often offer seminars in “how to write your own monologues."  Many of these seminars ask participants to write “I remember” and finish the monologue by relating a significant real experience from the participant’s past.  This is not a dramatic monologue.  This is an expositional story.  Work to find, write, or identify monologues driven crucially forward by action.

Avoid "idea monologues." 

Idea monologues often come from didactic non linear plays and express complicated, almost poetic new visions of mankind's destiny.  Redefining the universe and creating a connected, truthful character all in one minute is exceedingly difficult.  One monologue I heard recently spoke about the "topography of the future." Do you want the directors thinking about future landscapes or your acting ability?

Unfortunately there just aren’t that many parts for gay men in Centerville USA.  Consider that when selecting your monologue.

There are many more gay men in theatre than parts for gay men in the theatre.  Do you really want to limit yourself by your audition to only gay parts?  Gay or straight, you are a chameleon.  The theatre is not about gay or straight people; the theatre is about artists

Monologues about theatre and auditions are risky.

I watched a “meta-theatrical”monologue that started with… “I’m not an actor.”  Unfortunately I agreed in my mind and stopped watching.

Monologues that begin…. “Excuse me, can I talk to you?” 

Mentally I answered “no” but he did anyway and I resented that.

People laugh much easier than they cry; and people LIKE to laugh much more than they like to cry.  When in doubt and if you have the choice, do a humorous monologue.

Does this mean directors should be rolling on the floor with side splitting laughter when they see your monologue?  No.  “Leave ‘em smirking,” would be a more reasonable objective.  Monologues in which the humor is bittersweet or monologues that draw humor from relationships or everyday actions are very effective.  Read the Billy and Bull monologue published on this website. The humor comes from the relationship between the husband and wife.  The humor is low key, genuine, and real, yet just quirky enough to “leave ‘em smirking.”  The actions, words, and experiences in Billy and Bull don’t shock.  The humor does not come from outrageously breaking social conventions. Remember that the audience often laughs most when they see themselves and their own lives in the material.    

If you use a monologue with a dialect, we will probably think that that's the only way that you know how to talk. 

You are performing a one-minute monologue at a cattle call audition.  Aside from the words “Hello” “Your Name” and “Thank you,”  the only words I hear from you are the words of a dialect monologue.

Young performers with personal dialects scare me; scare me because I wonder, “Is what I see what I get?”  Young performers have a great deal of trouble getting rid of the dialect they grew up learning.  Their dialect is part of their family, their culture, their self identity. 

If you choose a dialect monologue for a general audition, I don’t know who the dialect belongs to; you or the character.  I become doubtful and apprehensive. I will choose someone that does not have a dialect because I don’t know whether or not you have the talent or desire to get rid of it.

Contemporary means "everyday speech." 

The audition guidelines request “contemporary.”  Do what they ask.  Use dramatic literature.  No poetry, no Edgar Allen Poe language, no impressive descriptive prose.

Avoid four letter words, sexual, or abusive language. 

We only see you for one minute.  We assume that you PICKED this kind of material to reflect your personality or your beliefs.

The young girl auditioning wore a very conservative lacy pink dress, low heeled shoes, and even a pink beaded hair ribbon.  If everyone in the world had to share only one sister, she would be the one.  Then she started her monologue.  In her minute performance she graphically shared how her brothers, uncles, neighbors, and father had molested her for the past twelve years.  The monologue used words that I found “uncomfortable.”  And the words were repeated several times for effect. 

I remember thinking, why would a girl who looks like my sister pick a monologue that has language like that? 

I remember thinking that I had obviously misjudged the young lady; to pick a monologue like that she must indeed be much more “worldly” than she seemed.  Of course, I’ll never know.  But most importantly,  I really didn’t care.  Right or wrong, I realized that I was not willing to invest in someone that would pick material like that for a first impression audition.    

Material should be within your age range.   

The young man looked sixteen years old and his monologue related how much difficulty he was having with his grandchildren.  I didn’t believe the monologue and I didn’t believe him.  Why would he pick material that would so blatantly strain his credibility. Because I couldn't accept that he had grandchildren; I didn’t believe anything else about the monologue.  

Men should do male monologues; females should female monologues. 

Joe, in The Shadow Box, has some wonderful meaningful monologues about dreams and his impeding death.   The Shadow Box has enjoyed a tremendous production life; a favorite of colleges, community theatres, and small professional theatres.  Most directors have, at some point in the their professional life, had the privilege of directing it.  When the young lady started the monologue, I immediately recognized it and thought, “Doesn’t she know those actions belong to a fifty year old man?" I immediately began wondering if she knew that little about her art.  I stopped watching her monologue and lost interest in her.

Monologues should contain content within your cultural and experiential range.   

Am I saying that you should only do cattle call monologues about things you have personally experienced or are in some way familiar with?  Yes; that is exactly what I am saying.  In your work, in workshops, in scene work, and in perhaps in some call back auditions take risks; search for roles that will stretch you into radical new experiences; but not in cattle call monologues.  Your monologue introduces who you are to us.  Cattle call auditions are so difficult and stressful.  Increase your confidence and comfort by using material and experiences that are part of your life.  Most importantly, use this one minute to help us get know you and be interested enough in you to call you back.