Why is the Process of Finding Monologues for Auditions So Difficult?
Monologues are frequently used in auditions, coaching sessions, and classes, so it’s important to know how to look and where to begin your search.
But why is the process of finding monologues for auditions so difficult?
For musical theatre actors like you and me, the monologue search can be extremely challenging.
It’s just not the same as looking for an audition song.
Maybe that’s because we’re used to singing at our auditions… and the true theatre nerds inside of us all have a secret database stored away in the back of our brains with thousands and thousands of Broadway songs.
But frankly, I’ve gone to more and more auditions that are now asking for a monologue - in addition to a short cut of a song.
You’d be surprised at the amount of direct messages and emails and texts asking for help to find a monologue for auditions.
I get it, I do. As an actor, I would love nothing more than for someone to hand me the perfect monologue.
And for some reason, it is always easier for me to suggest for other actors than it is to think of monologues I can do myself. An audition is based on how other people view us while the choice of monologue is set in how we view ourselves. A successful monologue choice is one where outside perspective matches inner perspective.
So whether you’re just starting out in the biz or a longtime pro, the search for the perfect monologue never ends.
Here’s the biggest issue I find we run into when searching for monologues.
We’re often told to read a lot of plays.
And there’s really no shortcut here - you have to read plays. The most unique pieces are discovered by you, not a coach or a book.
Most published monologue books are not good source material, because they are not attached to any story or character development — they are random words written for the purpose of actors, like you, in search of the perfect monologue. And, like you, there are thousands of actors buying that book and working on that same monologue which every casting professional and acting coach has heard over and over and over again. So, all of your efforts are thrown out the window as soon as they hear the first sentence because their inner monologue is; oh, no, not this one again.
So if you don’t know where to start, think of a stage actor who is similar in type to you. Do a web search of the plays in which they have performed and the playwrights with which they have worked. Then, seek out those plays and playwrights. For example, if you identify with Alison Pill, you might want to look up Theresa Rebeck or David Harrower’s Blackbird.
But here’s the reality...
Yes, the best advice we’re often given is to read plays. Which is ideal but not always practical, especially concerning contemporary plays. First, because I suspect that contemporary playwrights are writing fewer and fewer monologues. Secondly, because unless you live near the Drama Bookshop or have money to spend ordering from Samuel French, you aren't going to find contemporary plays. Libraries don't stock them - except MAYBE the Pulitzer Prize winning hot new play of the year that everybody is also going to use. And they still probably won't have a monologue in them.
If you don't have the money to order scripts at random from Samuel French and Amazon… Google casting breakdowns of new plays.
I'll Google "(title of play) audition casting breakdown" and read them, see if there are any characters I could play, that appeal to me. If I find one, then I'll look up the play and if it interests, I'll order and read it. It's a long-winded way of finding monologues but it's been really good for me to find new plays that I necessarily wouldn't have found otherwise, especially as I've aged out of my old monologues. I've also observed that new plays are more likely to have detailed casting breakdowns as opposed to classics (think Death of a Salesman, because we have our assumptions about those characters already).
It's not a perfect, or quick solution but this is how I've found the monologues that I've really loved.
We all know the rules:
Don't do overdone monologues or monologues from film/tv.
Make sure it's a published work.
Make sure it's active (I.E. not telling a story).
But in reality, as long as your perform it well, and it's engaging. No one cares. Which is something I'm trying to find for myself.
So i’ll be honest… the problem, for me right now at least, stems from finding distinct pieces that show off my voice as an artist, as well as my range.
When I walk into an audition with a monologue, I want to give them a two-minute idea of the stories I want to tell and the characters I want to play.
So here’s my last bit of advice today… don’t ask “What’s my type?” but “What are the stories I, as a theatre artist, want to tell?”
Think about the stories that reach you, the stories you connect with, instead of trying to figure out how someone sees you. Then use that information to lead you to material. Find out who’s writing those stories. Read those playwrights. Do those monologues. Seeing the monologue hunt through the lens of your preferences will lead you to writers whose plays you love and audition material authentically right for you.
Beyond the monologue and the audition, you will be taking charge of your artistic journey. And when that happens, you will enter every audition room knowing “This is who I am, and this is a story I choose to tell.”
Others will see you as you want to be seen: as an artist with an authentic voice.
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