GETTING READY FOR THE BIG DAY
For actors the new year means auditions and more chances to land their next favorite role. (My favorite show is almost always the one I am working on, how about you?) Many theater companies hold auditions near the beginning of the year and TesserAct is no exception. We will host auditions for The Sedgwick Stories the first week of year, (Sunday, January 6th &Tuesday, January 8th). I'll include a link to our website below if you'd like to consider auditioning.) As a way of helping you prepare for your next set of auditions, wherever they may be, I have compiled a list of tips.
WHAT THE HECK IS A GENRE?
Read the audition notice. Do they ask for a specific genre of monologue? Do they specify a length? Follow these directions. The rest of these tips, you can take them or leave them, but this one, please do what they ask. If they do not give a specific genre, use your deductive reasoning powers. If you are auditioning for a comedy, maybe don’t do a dark dramatic classical piece. If the play is a classic, you probably shouldn’t audition with a fluff piece. There are always exceptions to every rule. Make it work for you by picking the perfect piece.
- Classical: Shakespeare, Moliere, Greek plays, usually written before the First World War.
- Modern: written after the First World War, in the last 120 years
- Contemporary: might be the same as above, might mean something more current
- Comedic: the situation and the monologue are humorous
- Humorous: same as comedic
- Dramatic: the situation and the monologue are serious
- Serio-comic: a mixture of both
PICKING YOUR PIECE
Now that you have decided on a genre, time to pick your piece. If you already have something appropriate in your repertoire, even better. You will have less prep work and be able to focus your time on just your presentation. For those not quite so prepared, choosing a monologue can be a very lengthy process, and you may find it taxing and confusing. I like to think of it as a treasure hunt. I love to find pieces that reflect something about the play I am auditioning for. Kind of a private joke between me and the auditors. It's a way to show you have a sense of humor and you did your research. That may not be your cup of tea, so here are some other things to think about while you read all those juicy monologues.
- If you are auditioning for a specific role, make sure you do your research. What qualities would you bring to the role? Make sure the monologue you choose allows you to do that.
- Pick something interesting with levels, so you can show your emotional range. Even if it seems like it is written that way, most monologues are NOT one note rants. There should be plenty of different emotions and interactions you can bring to the piece.
- Love the piece, love your character. Pick a character that suits you. Find the passion in your portrayal. Believe it, or at least act like you do. Make it authentic.
- Skip the dialects unless specifically asked to show one.
- Maybe don't do an angry or "yelly" monologue. They can make auditors feel uncomfortable and if this is their first impression of you it might not be the one you want. Again, trust your own instincts.
Where do I find monologues?
Libraries and bookstores have at least a few decent monologue collections on their shelves. (You can also find original pieces on the internet, some of which are decent, but I wouldn't recommend using one of them unless you are a seasoned auditionee. Many of these pieces lack dramatic action and you might find yourself disappointed that you didn't get to show any range.)
If you are feeling industrious you can search for monologues in your favorite plays. If you are feeling a little more adventurous, you can try movies, tv shows, novels, even poems. Again, use your intuition. What does the play you are auditioning call for? What will best show your ability to play the part you desire?
Do Your Research
Besides memorizing your monologue, you are going to also want to be able to state the following: the name of the play, its' author, your character, and, if they ask for it, what has just happened in the scene before your piece. Knowing what has just happened, what has led up to this moment when your character is suddenly inspired to talk at length, means you have a great place to start discovering your interpretation of the piece.
Break Down the Bones
Dissect your piece. Break it down into bits. What energy are you projecting? Are you talking to one person or more? What time of day is it? Where are you, when are you, why are you there? Do your homework. Once you are memorized, (get this done asap, you will thank yourself later), you can begin to work on different ways of conveying what the character is wanting to communicate.
Commitment and Intention
When you have made all your decisions (and make them now, you don't want to be fumbling for intention in front of the auditors), commit to them and write them down. I make notes right on my monologue, which I have also highlighted and broken down into beats. For instance, above a phrase I might write “pleading”, then above the next phrase “soften”. Now, you have a map to follow, and a concrete way to help you remember the choices you made.
Monologue Discovery Assistance
You need to memorize your piece backwards, forwards, upside down and backwards to be able to feel free to experiment with interpretations. Well, maybe not backwards, but you get my meaning. There are many ways to help this process and I suggest you use as many as you can make work for you. Writing out your monologue, pen to paper is extremely helpful. It helps you to understand the order or the piece, the shifts in mood. Speaking into a tape recorder and playing it back works, too. Old fashioned memorizing one line at a time, much like preparing for a test, is also helpful. You can create cues for yourself by always shifting your focus to the right on a certain line. Setting physicality, (as well as emotions and intentions) can give you a framework in which make it harder to lose your place.
Practice Makes Perfect
You must practice your monologue every day. Whether you are on the subway, in the shower, washing the dishes or taking a walk, run it in your head. Visualize your movements, your facial expressions, feel your emotional shifts, and intensity levels. Ask friends if you can run it for them. Team up with other actors so you can all have a supportive audience. Do it for your dog, cat, mom, kid and Uber driver. Working on your monologue in many different locations will make you less likely to get flustered when you walk into an unfamiliar or overwhelming space.
It's Almost Showtime!
The night before and the day of the audition, be nice to yourself. Don't eat a tub of ice cream, or run a marathon unless you do those things every day. Take it easy. Get plenty of rest, fluids and eat healthy foods. Run your monologue in your head before you fall asleep. You have done all the work, you will rock it!
Next up: AUDITIONING TIPS, Part Two: How Not To Freak Out on Your Big Day
Here's the link I promised with the information for TesserAct Theatre Ensemble's auditions for The Sedgwick Stories. Check it out!