Auditioning for a role in a play, film or drama school is a nerve-wracking experience. My mother Dorothy Vernon always said, “don’t hold anything back for the recall or you won’t get the recall.” Like all actors she had many stories about auditioning – the good, the bad and the downright humiliating. For all but a small handful of actors auditioning is an occupational hazard. Whether you’re recording a self-tape in your bedroom or stepping into a cold rehearsal room on a Monday morning, so much is out of the actor’s hands. But there’s one thing you can get right and that’s the monologue you choose to perform. A well-selected monologue will showcase your acting skills, range and understanding of character.
Understand the Requirements
Before you start searching for monologues, it’s essential to identify the specific requirements of your audition. Consider the following:
- Time Limit: Auditions usually have time limits for monologues, ranging from one to three minutes. Make sure your chosen monologue fits within this timeframe. Read aloud and time yourself.
- Genre and Style: Is the audition for a comedy, drama, classical piece or contemporary work? Ensure your monologue matches the genre and style of the production.
- Age, Gender, Background: Fortunately, things have moved on from binary characters and playing ‘to type’ but it’s worth considering how you want to present yourself. Do you want a monologue that matches your age and self-identified gender?
- Character Type: Consider the character’s traits and emotions in the monologue. Can you relate to the character and convincingly portray their feelings and motivation?
Research the Production
To select the perfect monologue it helps to have a good understanding of the production you’re auditioning for. Research the play, film or show, and try to learn more about the characters, themes and overall tone. You don’t always get a lot of information but find out what you can.
Showcase Your Range
A strong monologue should showcase your acting range and abilities. Look for monologues that allow you to explore different emotions, from joy and humour to anger and sadness. You’re looking to demonstrate your versatility as an actor and your capacity to convey complex feelings. If you’re asked for more than one monologue (for example for a drama school audition) take the opportunity of finding two very different characters to perform.
Choose a Memorable Character
Select a monologue that features a memorable character with a distinct personality. A well-written character will give you more material to work with and make your performance stand out. Casting directors are more likely to remember you if you bring a unique and captivating character to life.
Avoid Overused Monologues
Steer clear of monologues that are overly popular or frequently used in auditions. Judges and casting directors will have seen these monologues countless times, making it harder for you to make a lasting impression. Choose something fresh and less predictable.
Know the play beyond the monologue
During the audition, be prepared to discuss why you chose your particular monologue. Casting directors might ask you about your selection to gauge your understanding of the character and the monologue’s relevance to the production. Read the work and take time to consider the monologue within the whole play. Is it a turning point for the character, a plot reveal or an introduction? What’s the whole play about and what is the playwright saying through their work?
Practice, Practice, Practice
Once you’ve chosen your monologue, it’s time to dive into the script and start practicing. Memorise your lines thoroughly and work on your delivery, paying attention to your character’s motivation, objectives and emotional journey. Seek feedback from acting coaches, peers or mentors to refine your performance.
Salamander Street champions actors and values the work you do to bring stories to life. We publish many monologues – within plays, from solo actor plays and in anthologies. Selecting an original work for your audition could be a critical step in showcasing your acting talent. If you’re looking for advice, get in touch – as well as recommending monologues for you to consider, we can forward your questions to the playwrights to give you an inside view of the character.
For your consideration:
Placeholder by Catherine Bisset is a dramatic solo play set in 1790 Saint Domingue about the daughter of an enslaved woman reflecting on her life as an opera singer and the importance of resistance. It is a rare look at performing artists during the time of slavery and a tour de force performance opportunity.
Candy by Tim Fraser is a solo comedy-drama about identity, mental health and, most importantly, love. A monologue that swaps between comedy and heartbreak and explores masculinity in an original way.
SHE by Anthony Clark is comprised of seven short plays with monologues throughout that explore the female experience in all stages. Gripping passages of female rage and despair, alongside humour and tenderness.
these words that’ll linger like ghosts till the day i drop down dead by Georgie Bailey is an experimental play that deals with grief and mental health crises. A chance for actors to express regret and despair in a modern take on losing someone you love.
Cowboys and Lesbians by Billie Esplen made a splash at 2023’s Edinburgh Fringe for its charming, romantic and sexy look at love between two school girls. It’s a modern take on young love, interspersed with a comic pastiche of a western romance.
See a full list of plays with great monologues and duologues here
An audition is an opportunity to perform. A lot will be out of your hands, but we wish you all the best. We hope something great comes from your next audition – and, as my Mum said, “don’t hold anything back for the recall.”
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