Audition Monologues

Part One: Thoughts from an Auditor
Photo of a smiling girl with short hair performing one of her audition monologues

Choosing Your Audition Monologues

Choosing audition monologues for your programs of choice is, of course, an incredibly important part of the application process. Most of the time you’ll have just a few minutes with the auditors to demonstrate who you are as an actor. It’s a daunting task. So let’s get the obvious out of the way: monologues are tough. Talking alone on stage for 90 seconds? To no one?! You’re not alone if your first reaction is “AAAHHH!” But we don’t think it has to be scary. It can be fun. Actually, it should be fun.

One of the main reasons the monologue process becomes so un-fun is because if you ask too many people for their advice, you end up getting a lot of different conflicting rules. You should be careful about who you listen to. That’s why we’re doing the research to offer you the best advice we can. This is the first in a long series of blogs that will deal with audition monologues, and we’re going to start with someone who is very qualified to offer advice: a repeat auditor for professional training programs named:

Robyn Hunt

Robyn Hunt has credentials. She has taught at two MFA programs: the University of Washington and the University of South Carolina. She also has acted extensively, written plays, founded theatre companies, and trained with world-renowned Japanese theatre artist Tadashi Suzuki for over a decade. And yes, she’s seen countless audition monologues performed. So we asked her for her thoughts and highlighted what we think will help you the most as you prepare. Let’s jump in.

The most important feelings about a piece are yours

It takes a lot of work to get a monologue performance-ready, so why suffer through it? If your hair stands up on end when you first discover the piece, then Robyn Hunt thinks you’re headed in the right direction. “If the actor wants the process to be nourishing in some way,” she says, then they should “LOVE the piece itself and be capable of relishing the chance to perform it, under any circumstances.” How wonderful to think the experience could nourish you! Remember, the auditors want to see your passion and joy. Looking for promising artists means looking for people who love what they do. So love your audition monologue. Or I should say, love your audition monologueS. Which brings us to the next point.

Have several pieces ready

We all know that most auditions ask for two audition monologues, but that doesn’t mean that you should only have two prepared. It’s common for an auditor to ask if you have something else you could show, and Hunt says that the answer to that question should always be “yes.” In her opinion, “actors should allow enough time to have three, preferably four or five, good pieces.” So it’s important to keep in mind that finding a good piece isn’t just skimming through a play, locating a chunk of text, and saying ‘that will do.’ Take the time to do some deep play reading and consideration. Start your search early. 

Be wary of extreme emotions

Yes, the moments of extreme emotions in a play can feel really great in performance. But is choosing a piece in which a character “breaks down” the best choice for the stressful environment of an audition room? Probably not. Hunt cautions against emotional “cranking”–putting yourself in a situation where you have to manufacture a big moment. It can be the death of a good audition. You want to set yourself up for success, not stress about whether or not you can find the ‘right’ emotional state when the clock is ticking. In Hunt’s experience, a piece that makes the actor “use the words to build a case to convince the listener” is more than enough to capture the auditors. Remember, acting is doing.

Choose something that fits you

Hunt echoes the oft-repeated advice that the character you choose should match your identity in regards to age (within reason), ethnicity, and gender identity. She goes on to state more specifically that “there should be no appropriation of the struggles and difficulties BIPOC characters have endured, unless the actor has a right, from experience/inheritance, to embody those issues”, Even if the monologue doesn’t feel like it really confronts those issues directly, you’re best to steer clear. You don’t want the auditors to be distracted by the question, “Does this actor know they don’t fit this character?” Remove any barriers that could distract from a great performance.

It’s about the listener

This may seem obvious, but it deserves some space here. Your monologue is about the listener. And no, we don’t mean the auditors. We mean the character you are talking to. Hunt reminds us that the judgment of a good audition is the same as the judgment of a good onstage performance: “Can the actor, in the moment of performance, connect with someone else, make that other [person] real, and the situation matter, and use the words and the ideas to cause something to happen in the other person?” Hunt can still tell the story of a young actress who did just this at the URTAs in New York. She captured the attention of everyone in the room, and ended up receiving offers from fourteen different programs.

That’s it for now. We’ll keep engaging this question with people who know their stuff. And we’d love to hear from you! Have thoughts about what makes a good audition? Have questions about what makes a good monologue? Feel free to reach out to us! Shoot us an email! We’d love to hear from you and help answer any questions about this process.

Robyn Hunt’s bio:

A member of Actor’s Equity, Hunt has acted professionally in the U.S., Canada, Europe and Japan. She worked for over a decade with Tadashi Suzuki, performed in Tokyo and Kanazawa in OPIUM, a joint Pacific Performance Project/Theatre Group TAO production under the direction of Kenji Suzuki, studied and performed in Kyoto under the direction of Shogo Ohta, and between 1994 and 2000 performed frequently at the Actor’s Theatre of Louisville, under the direction of Jon Jory. Hunt was co-founder and first artistic director of the San Diego Public Theatre and co-heads the Pacific Performance Project/East now based in Columbia, S.C. and E. Sandwich, Massachusetts. In 2001, she received a University of Washington Distinguished Teacher award. In 2013, she was named one of five new Carolina Distinguished Professor endowments.

Acting roles include: Dottie in NOISES OFF, the title role in MOTHER COURAGE (Connecticut, Seattle and Columbia), Ranevskaya in GRAVITY (Seattle Playhouse, and the Connelly Theatre, NYC) and in THE CHERRY ORCHARD SEQUEL at LaMama, Serafina in THE SUICIDE, Titania in A MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DREAM, and multiple roles in BLACK SNOW. Hunt performed in the New York debut of Peter Kyle Dance as Miss Haversham in “To What Extent” at the Henry Street Settlement/Abrons Arts Center in fall 2007; in 2000, she appeared in another Kyle dance, “Going.”

She has created several evening length dance/theatre pieces, including the trilogy SUITE FOR STRANGERS, which had its Seattle debut in 2004. Other dance/theatre collaborations (with Peter Kyle and Steven Pearson) include: MYRA’S WAR, PRIX FIXE, and Shogo Ohta’s THE WATER STATION (MIZU NO EKI). She wrote FLIGHT, which toured in 2014 to Edwardsville, Illinois, Flint, Michigan and to Bangor, Maine. She appears in the January, 2008 article “Shaping the Independent Actor,” in AMERICAN THEATRE magazine; in winter 2012 GIA READER, “”An Artist Examines the Intersection of Creating and Teaching,” and in THEATRE Forum, fall 2000, in two articles on OPIUM. She performed at DNA in New York in Nancy Bannon’s THE POD PROJECT in 2009, and later as Cherish in Bannon’s DRINKING INK at the 92 Street Y in New York. She most recently appeared as Alisse in FLIGHT.

Tim Giles

Tim Giles is a theatre artist who likes to make work capitalizing on risk, coming together, and a little chaos. He also makes music, bakes a mean loaf of bread, and runs around outside a lot. As a Southerner, he thinks everyone needs to recognize the beauty of one of the best words ever invented: y’all. It’s gender-neutral! If y’all start to incorporate “y’all” into y’all’s everyday vocabulary, y’all’ll quickly understand its usefulness.

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