MONOLOGUE - THE BASICS
by Bob Fraser
THE ACTOR'S TOOL KIT #13
Monologues? Which ones work the best, where to find them
and how many does an actor need in the repertoire?
Here are some answers to these important concerns:
The monologue that works the best is the monologue you are
most comfortable doing. It's also important that the piece
shows you to your best advantage. And the minimum number
you need is two.
This general advice brings up some specific things that
are important to doing a successful monologue:
1. Play Your Own Age.
It is mostly a bad idea to play an older man or woman if
you are a teenager - or vice versa. Many actors make this
mistake and then wonder why their monologue choices are
not very successful. This happens most often when the actor
chooses to do something that appeals to them, as opposed to
finding something that shows their skills in an appropriate
Remember, your goal is to have the viewer (auditor) get
caught up in your performance - not sitting there trying to
imagine you are 50 years old, when you are actually 20.
Pick something that you believe you'd be cast in today -
not years from now - or years ago.
2. Avoid The Highly Dramatic.
Hysterical, over the top, harrowing monologues are generally
to be avoided for a very simple reason: done properly and
truthfully, they can make the audience (auditor)
uncomfortable. This is not the outcome you're looking for.
It is difficult to judge a performance that seems as if it
is out of hand. That may be the exact effect intended by the
writer, but remember you don't have an entire play to work
up to the emotional outburst of the climax. It's also not a
great idea to do monologues with racist, sexist or foul
language - for the same reason.
3. Do What You Are Good At.
Many actors make the mistake of thinking that a monologue is
a perfect chance to "stretch." It's not.
Most of the time when you are asked to perform a monologue it
is in an effort to see where you might fit into a company or
university program. This is your chance to show your best
qualities and your most usable skills.
This means that if you don't have some experience (and
practice) doing Shakespeare, you should probably avoid a
Shakespearean monologue. There are other "classics" such as
Chekhov, Sheridan and the Greeks. (Most of the translations
have less difficult language with which to deal.)
Although it's very important to memorize the piece, you
would be well advised to not stop your "home-work" there.
Once you have the monologue memorized, there is still a lot
of work to do. Finding motivation, telling the story
convincingly, nailing the "music" of the piece, varying your
pace and vocal quality, etc. etc. One proviso to this advice
is to keep it fresh - don't rehearse it to the point where
it becomes slick and cold.
Big no-no: Don't try to do this work on the day before your
audition. In that direction lies failure on all sorts of
levels. If you plan to enter almost any university acting
program this will be a pre-requisite. And many professional
situations will require a monologue -- so start working on
your monologues now.
If you do your "home-work" you will be more confident.
However, it's very important to realize that in many (if
not all) situations the director (or auditor) might ask you
to make some acting adjustments in your prepared piece.
You must be ready for this. If you are not, your confidence
may be shaken and your ability to take direction will suffer.
This is not a good outcome. Again, the more thoroughly you
know your monologues, the easier it will be to handle this
6. Two is not really enough.
Most monologue situations will require two contrasting
monologues. Generally this will be a comedic piece and a
dramatic one. However, sometimes you will be asked to do two
different dramatic monologues -- or two comedic and still be
able to demonstrate contrast in character, emotion and
presentation. This brings up a really important point. You
will always be well prepared if you take the time to
constantly add to your repertoire of monologues. I know
professional actors, of many years experience, who still
do this chore on a regular basis. It is the crux of an
actor's constant study and preparation - and it inevitably
will get you work.
7. Demonstrate the product.
This is the central point of all monologues. Your job is to
demonstrate the product (you) so that potential buyers
(directors, casting people, agents, etc.) can make a fully
informed choice. If you do not do the necessary "home-work"
to put together a good demonstration of the product you are
offering -- don't expect the buyer to be that interested.
Again, this is your business. Pay close attention to your
business or you will not be in business for long.
Finally, remember that the end result of your preparation,
research, practice and attention to detail can be the
realization of your dreams -- so taking these steps is
probably worth all the hard work.
Another question I get all the time is, "where do I find
good monologues?" or "Tell me a good monologue to do."
Go to the library. Surf the internet. Read, read, read and
read some more.
Oh yes, this is going to take a lot of work on your part.
Look, I'll be blunt: No one else is going to do this (or
any other part of preparing to be an actor) for you.
Waiting for someone else to give you explicit directions to
"the monologue tree" is a path to failure and frustration.
If that's what you expect - my advice is to find something
else to do with your life.
Acting is just too hard for people who can't be bothered
to do their own legwork.
"Reprinted from ACTOR'S TOOL KIT, the email course just for
subscribers of Show Biz How-To, the free e-zine for actors.
Get your own subscription at: www.showbizhowto.com
© 2007 Bob Fraser Productions All Rights Reserved"