Thursday, December 12, 2019

Musical Theater Part II: Tips for Performing Your Best Monologue

Let’s talk monologues! Often when you audition for a musical, in addition to being asked to perform a song, you will be asked to present a monologue. What can you do to stand out from all the others? Here are some tips to help you get into character and nail that audition!

It’s a good idea to have at least one dramatic and one comedic monologue in your back pocket ready to go at all times.

Here are some tips for delivering monologue magic.

Pick a monologue that is unique, reflects you as a person, and they haven’t seen a thousand times before

If you show casting directors something fresh, the panelists will like you better already. If you bore them with something they have seen way too many times, you just put one nail in your coffin. While some of the classic monologues in Shakespeare are classics for a reason, it can be risky to take on something that many others in your age range/casting category are also likely to attempt. Think carefully about your type, your personality and the kinds of characters you are really drawn to. There will be something out there that can represent you and set you apart.

Also, be sure to pick a monologue from a play. Don’t do a song or recite a poem, or do anything else that is not a play, unless that’s what has been asked for. A scene from your favorite film is also probably inappropriate. Stick to the brief! And pick a monologue that you love so it turns your light on.

Find a “hook” to make you stand out

It could be the monologue itself, or it might be a backstory choice or that you have lots of crazy movement, or that you have no movement and control with deep inner power. It could be your voice. A hook is anything they don’t expect. Basically, it is a classy gimmick. It is something that surprises them and makes you light up and have fun. Make something magical.

Get their attention at the very beginning

Wow them at the very beginning. Surprise them. It might be the way you start with your back to them and then flip around. It could be a sound you make or an audible breath you take. Do something different; something they don’t expect, something weird. Obviously, it should go along with the interpretation of the monologue.

Create something magnificent

Pretend that you are creating a tiny little special event that people would want to buy tickets to see. And then, make it look like it just accidentally happened.

Shift and change

Make it seem like the first time the piece has been spoken, every time. That’s the big challenge for all actors -- so it should be your focus! Take the time to discuss the piece with somebody else if you can and compare interpretations. It’s vital to really break down and think about the way the piece flows, how emotions are changing or what is being realised, discovered or dissected in the language.

Monologues are long. Think about the levels of emotion in the piece; where does the character start? Where do they end up? You need to find motivations to shift and go different directions constantly. Imagine what the character to whom you are speaking is doing and let that push your buttons. Let your voice be flexible and more interesting.

Body Language & Focal Point

Make sure you’re aware of how you are behaving before you even get started. Panellists notice how people present themselves, so make sure you’re ready and appearing as professional as possible. Once you start your monologue, don’t stand there and say lines from a “dead” body. Even if you are barely moving, there should be life energy through your whole body. Think of it as dance. Your body tells the story, too.

Also, decide who you are directing the monologue to - is it someone in the audience, is it a spot on the wall? Wherever you need to direct it, keep it consistent. You’re only ever talking to one of four things: yourself, the audience, another character or god - be clear who you are speaking to. And don’t eyeball the panelists! Your panelists will want to make notes, so staring them down may make them a little uncomfortable, however looking above the panel’s eye-line is fine.

Don't go over time

Seems very obvious, but it is essential. Make sure you time yourself before you get to the audition. Do not go over! You might very well be stopped before you have a chance to finish. Remember: there are likely a lot of other people being seen on the same day, so make your first impression a professional and respectful one. Only take the time you’ve been allocated.

Take on any direction

Often, a panel will offer you some direction or ask you to repeat sections. Don’t deliver the monologue the same way again - show that you have taken comments on board and are working to adapt or show new sides of the material. Your adaptability and willingness to try is more important than whether you deliver the new direction perfectly.

Don't worry about mistakes

Mistakes are fine, just as long as you keep working through them! The ability to pick yourself up and keep going, or quickly get back into the zone, are helpful for your audition and will show you in a favorable light. So don’t let a slip up stop you - everyone makes mistakes! The ability to be resilient is very important and an attractive quality in any drama school candidate.

Always have a great ending

The ending is the last thing they see of you. Surprise them. It is what they will remember most. For example, on the last line, just do the exact opposite of whatever you were just doing. So if you were screaming, whisper. If you were intense, go catatonic.

And the most important advice always: Have fun!

This article was inspired by and adapted from articles on and