ACT Audition Guide

ACT Guidance Notes for Auditions

Monologue: a speech by a single character in a play.

Monologues for actors should be chosen carefully and it helps to have a wide range of material to choose from.

Borders and Waterstones in Brighton and City Books in Hove all have large selections of play scripts and monologue books. The local libraries don't have much but you can ask for an inter library- loan by checking availability on their computer catalogues and asking the desk staff to request it from whichever library currently holds it.

The Universities and City College both have extensive collections of scripts and audition books. You can only take these out if you are a member but you can go into the library, select scripts and photocopy them very cheaply.
University of Brighton library is opposite St Peter's Church, near the Phoenix Art Gallery - comprehensive selection on the 4th floor.
University of Sussex library is on the Falmer campus - the building on behind the Gardner Arts centre.
City College Library is on the 1st floor of their Pelham Tower building in Pelham Street.

Tip for Actors looking for Monologues

Once you find a great monologue, read the whole play. Do not for a minute think that you will get away with not reading the whole play. You must read the play that your monologue is from so that you will have an understanding of your character and the situation that your character is speaking about and/or is involved with. Remember, the people that you are auditioning for, especially at drama schools, will have sat through numerous auditions and will have a very good working knowledge of play texts. It is always easy to spot an actor who has not read the play!

Reading the play will not only give you a foundation to build your character around it will also equip you with vital information if you are asked any questions. So be prepared!

So - you must know the context of the whole play. In reading and studying the play ask yourself the following questions;

  • HOW does your character relate to the other characters in the play?
  • WHERE has he or she come from emotionally and physically?
  • WHAT is the situation they find themselves in? Is there an emotional journey?
  • WHY do they do what they do, say what they say and feel what they feel?
  • WHEN does the action take place? How does this effect all of the above? - be specific.
  • WHO are their family/friends/enemies/colleagues etc?

For an audition scene, it is a good idea to stick with a 2-3 minute piece, with a character that is close to your experience and a role you really think you would be cast in. Don't try to be adventurous and experimental - the best acting is truthful and simple.

  • Choose a character close to your age.
  • Do not use an accent (i.e.. cockney, southern, etc) unless the monologue demands it and you are to a native standard.
  • Only play one character in each monologue.
  • Choose a monologue where you are speaking to someone actively. Cut any interruptions from other characters.
  • Try to select emotional, present tense, and active material. Choose monologues with a CLEAR OBJECTIVE. (I want something now) AND which are self-explanatory (beginning, middle, end).
  • If possible, try to find monologues where a character overcomes some diversity. Finding monologues like this is not always easy, but if you have a choice of playing a self pitying, whinging loser or someone who has overcome some trauma in their life, go for the latter. Everyone loves a winner!
  • Stage your piece simply for dramatic impact: - use a limited performance area (5 to 10 feet square) - place the (imaginary) character you are addressing downstage (towards the audience) of you and beyond the fourth wall (edge of stage) and towards the audition panel. Keep consistent eye contact.
  • Avoid props. Other than things that might ordinarily be worn (glasses, watches, hair ribbon). Usually you will have one chair available to you at an audition. This chair may be used or not used in any way that is appropriate for your piece. You may decide to use it as something other than a chair. The audience will believe anything as long as you do it consistently.
  • At its best, a monologue is a rich illumination of a characters heart and soul, a compelling piece that is carefully shaped with a beginning, middle and end.
  • At its worst it is self indulgent, wordy, over acted and unstructured. Avoid this like the plague.
  • Please rehearse! I cannot emphasise this enough. The more comfortable you are performing your piece, the better. When you walk into an audition you must be able to go at the drop of a hat. The more comfortable you are doing the monologue the more comfortable you will be in performance or at the audition.
  • Remember that your audition or performance begins the moment you step into view. Be confident. When you get into the performance space, find your light (if there is one) and arrange your space before you begin speaking. Take a breath then begin.
  • Avoid performing to the audition panel/audience directly. Do NOT make eye contact while you are playing your character. Place your focus just above and beyond the audition panel/audience.

The following is from An Actors Guide - Making It in New York by Glenn Alterman.

Common monologue mistakes

  1. Selecting material that is too old or young for them, it's very important to find material that is somewhere in your age range. It only makes the casting director's job more difficult if you've selected a character that's too young or old.
  2. Editing several bits of a characters dialogue from a play then trying to "force" it to work as an audition monologue. You must remember, this material was not written to be performed for auditions, that wasn't why the playwright wrote it. So slicing and dicing of dialogue should be done carefully and judiciously. You may need some help with this.
  3. Selecting material that does not have any dramatic (or comedic) impact. Remember, this is an audition, not only do you want to be able to show your wares, you should find material that will "engage" the casting director, make them want to watch.
  4. Selecting monologues that are too heavy on exposition. I really don't care about characters entire background; I want to see characters that are alive and active right now in front of me.
  5. Selecting a monologue that doesn't have any transition. You don't want to do a monologue that only exposes one emotion over and over. In a short period of your audition, you want to be able to express some emotional variety. Always remember, this is an audition for you, the actor. Although the writing may be wonderful, I want to see a monologue that tells me something about you, the actor.
  6. Selecting monologues that can't stand on their own, without having to know the rest of the play. So often an actor will select a monologue from a play that he's worked on. The advantage is that he knows the character very well, a good thing. But you also have to look at the monologue as audition material. It's important that it's able to stand up on its own. If the monologue is mainly expositional, or if everything you're speaking about can only be understood if you've read the whole play, this is not a good audition piece.
  7. Selecting material that runs too long. If the casting breakdown says two minutes, don't bring any material that runs over four minutes. And don't cut that four minute monologue you sometimes do down to two. More often than not you'll cut the life, the muscle out of the monologue. Just find an appropriate two/three minute monologue that is suitable to the audition. It's not like there is a shortage of material out there.
  8. Selecting inactive, past tense monologues. Remember when you were a child how your parents used to tell you fairy stories that were mostly told in narrative form, and mostly in past tense? If you'll recall, they told you those stories to put you to sleep. Doing past tense, narrative, expositional monologues will have the same affect on a casting director. Try to select emotional, present tense, active, conversational material.
  9. Selecting material that stretches you. Auditions are not the time to show your range. Actors should select material that best shows off their strengths right now. There is now point showing them you can play a seventy year old character if you're only thirty.
  10. Selecting a monologue that is written in a very distinct dialect. Generally it's not good to do an audition piece in dialect. There are exceptions. If the audition piece is written in that dialect and you are adept at it, it's okay. A dialect that keeps slipping, calls attention to itself.

9 steps to successful Monologue Auditions

  1. The first step actually begins before the audition. Before you leave home try to get yourself in the right frame of mind. Relax, perhaps do some breathing and stretching. Some people use visualization and imagine what they would like to happen on the audition. See it in your minds eye.
  2. Arrive at the audition at least 20 minutes early. Make sure that you are relaxed and ready to work. Sometimes it's good to go off into a corner and do a quick speed through of the monologue, followed by a run through. Don't waste valuable time chatting with other actors or socializing.
  3. When it's your turn to audition, make sure that you are in a positive state of mind, relaxed and ready to act. As part of preparation, you want to be in character for the monologue. Enter the audition room in a confident and professional manner. Remember, you are being judged from the moment you enter the room.
  4. Smile directly at the people auditioning you, say hello and find the playing area that you will be auditioning in. if they wish to engage you in conversation, you must be willing to talk with them. Most casting directors save conversations for after you perform.
  5. Announce what the monologue is from and the characters name. There is no reason to give a description of where in the play the monologue takes place.
  6. Give yourself a moment, and then perform as best you can.
  7. When you have finished performing, if they have requested another monologue, prepare to make the transition from the first character to the second. Once again give yourself a moment before you begin and give it all you've got.
  8. After you've finished, smile, let them know you're through, say "thank you". If they wish to talk with you, you must be ready and willing to converse in a friendly and professional manner. They may want to get a sense of you as a person, as a potential actor in their play or company. They may ask you what you've been up to lately. You should have an answer to this question prepared in advance.
  9. When you have finished talking with them, tell them it was nice meeting them, again say thank you, and leave the room in a confident, unhurried, professional manner. Once you leave the room, the only thing left to do is to let go of that audition and move onto the next thing in your day.

Janette Eddisford
Spring 2005