Even in the age of self tapes, having a book of audition monologues ready is an absolute staple in the working actor’s toolkit — especially if you’re working in live theatre. If you’re exclusively focused on film, having pieces at the ready you can come back to and work for class, showcases, etc. is equally beneficial.
This book will be updated many times you grow as an actor and as your type changes. Some categories may be thicker than others, but if you’re looking to build (or refresh) a standard monologue book, here are your foundation pieces to include.
1. Classical Monologues
Even if you haven’t touched Shakespeare since high school, having classical monologues you can rattle off will come in handy. Choose two dramatic classical monologues (at least one Shakespeare) and make sure you know them inside and out. Every word and every reference should be researched and understood within the context of the play. These should show off your type and be appropriate casting for you. Try to stay away from the most overdone ones.
Make sure you also have two comedic classical monologues. These can feel tricky to find if you’re not well-versed in classical theatre, but they’re worth it. Find pieces you can really play with that show you off. For example, one circumstantial comedy that shows you off as a lead, and one that leans into character comedy.
2. Contemporary Monologues
Again, you’re going to want at least two dramatic contemporary pieces you can whip out at a moment’s notice. These should be up to date (contemporary works from the 80s or 90s might feel dated, so if you have one of those, make sure you also have one that feels much newer). They should also show off your type, but perhaps different sides of your type. For example, if you auditioned with one and were asked if you had anything else, try showing off something different in your second piece.
As you can probably guess, you also need two comedic monologues. The same rules apply. They should both show off your skills without showing show off the exact same things.
3. A Bonus Skill Piece
If you have any skills that you know are your bread and butter (physical comedy, puppetry, etc.), having a monologue that helps you show it off in text can be a great advantage. This piece may not be appropriate often, but could be something you pull out in specific circumstances to give you an edge.
4. A Wild Card Piece
Have that one monologue that just feels like you but it just doesn’t fit anywhere? Maybe it’s written for a different gender or age, needs an uncommon accent or the topic is too niche–whatever the reason.
Having one wild card monologue can be a great thing to have on hand. It can shake off the rust if you need to work on something in class that brings you joy, and when the right audition comes along to actually use it, the payoff can be huge.
5. A Song or Two
If you’re a singer, you’ll have a songbook, which is an article for another day. If you’re an actor who can sing, it’s good to have at least two songs on hand to show that skill off. Secure one go-to song that shows off your range and type so you can act and sing at the same time. Get at lease one additional character song such as a patter song or something simple and funny.
Even if you go six months without needing your monologue book for auditions, it’s worth it to keep it up fresh, ready and up to date (when you need it, you’ll really need it). Having it on hand can save so much time and stress.
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