Acting Teacher • Coach • Actor • Director • Writer

How Can Young Actors Find Appropriate Monologues?

by Rita Litton

“As an acting teacher and coach, I often field requests from young actors seeking a good monologue, something distinct, comedic, one-to-two minutes… Can I help?

I usually suggest a private session. I bring in folders with hundreds of age-appropriate monologues and I promise that the student will leave with at least two contrasting pieces they  love, and that suit them. Finding a good monologue is not simply a matter of knowing which new play has a catchy or memorable monologue, selecting the longest paragraph of text in a play, or jumping on the first monologue your drama teacher hands you. Finding the right monologue is a bit like Prince Charming peddling his glass slipper; you want a great fit.

I begin a search session with the student reading several monologues out loud. Actors have a hard time knowing their “type.” I focus on your vocal quality, inflections, and timing (which is key for comedy). Are you at ease or uncomfortable with the material? How smart (street or book) are you? Do you understand complex language? Can you easily identify with the life story/background of the character or are major substitutions going to be necessary? How comfortable are you with your body and how do you use it? Is there anything in your physicality that suggests this is material you can relate to, whether or not you have had these personal experiences? When a piece clicks with an actor, their reaction/response will often make the monologue come alive!

Keep the choice of material within your age range.  When looking for  ‘good contrasting monologues ‘ chose characters that have different rhythms, backgrounds, points of view, attitudes, or conflicts —not ages. Most schools would also prefer to see one comedic and one dramatic selection.

Most students have not seen or read that many plays—the required choice material for most colleges. It’s important to understand the background and exposition of your monologue when the stakes or the subtext may not be obvious in the text. While students know they should read the play, many either don’t take the time to do so, or don’t read it before choosing their selections. Working with a coach with extensive theater experience is invaluable in choosing appropriate material.

Choose monologues that speak to you, that allow you to bring your intelligence, imagination, life experience, empathy, unique type and personality to your performance. Seek opinions from those you trust and allow time to find something wonderful! You’ll also have a more satisfying audition experience performing something you love!”—Rita Litton

(Excerpted from my Backstage Expert article, 2016, by Rita Litton.)

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