I “know” about 5 monologues. Most are Shakespeare. If you are an actor, you have probably been told to “know” at least 4 monologues – 2 classical (one comic one dramatic) and 2 contemporary (one comic and one dramatic). If you are a “film actor,” you may have also been told to learn a few monologues from film (film monologues are more uncommon).
Monologues for theater purposes are most used for general auditions. If you are called in to audition for a specific part, you will probably be preparing and auditioning with sides provided by the producers or casting director.
A monologue can also be used when auditioning for agents.
In some cases, during film auditions, you may be asked to perform a monologue as well as read from the script. In all of my auditions for union (SAG, AFTRA) jobs, which, mind you, have not been all that numbered, I have never been asked to perform a monologue. However, for indie films and student projects, I have been asked to perform monologues and improv some personal character history, so be prepared!
Here are a few monologue tips:
As an actor, especially if you are auditioning for theater, you should have at least 2 contrasting contemporary pieces and 2 contrasting classical pieces.
If you pick a piece from a play, you can combine a few speeches to make one speech.
If you are not auditioning for theatre and are working more in film, you can pick a monologue from a film.
Your monologue should be no longer than 2 minutes in length.
Your monologue should show off your strengths as an actor.
When searching for your monologue, do not pick from the “Best Monologues for Men or Women” type books.
Your monologue should be active – you should be in pursuit of something (internally or externally).
Your monologue should have transitions.
Your monologue should excite you and you should love performing it.
You should practice/rehearse your monologue at least 50 times before performing it for an auditor. After 50 times, you have “learned” the monologue.
Once your monologue is learned, you should “keep it fresh” by rehearsing with it at least once per week.
Don’t be afraid to use silence or stillness.
Look for opportunities to use contrast (quiet/loud, slow/fast, etc.).
Don’t be afraid of editing a monologue so you are not rushing to finish under 2 minutes (and, two minutes is probably too long!).
If you are using a monologue for a staged play audition, consider how you are going to use the space. Most people are going to set up center stage. Perhaps there is a more interesting choice for you?