Common Mistakes in Selecting Monologues

Looking for a monologue… again? Whether you’ve aged out of your old ones or are simply looking for something new, finding monologues is one of the most repeated and yet most tiresome tasks for an actor.

Having your finger on the pulse of the industry is important to help follow threads of work and actors you resonate with. Seeing and reading theater more frequently is overall the best way to find new material. The more work you know, the more you can discern what resonates with you and notice similarities between works you are drawn to. By and large, you want to find a monologue that is active and shares character qualities with your personhood and skillset.



Mistake # 1: Picking a monologue simply because it is esteemed or popular.

At the end of the day, the creative teams and programs you are auditioning for want to see you, not what you think they want from you. Just as how you shouldn’t write your college essay about what you think they want to hear, you need to be choosing your audition monologue for yourself, not anyone else. If you chose based on these criteria, there is a higher chance that your piece is overdone!

Instead… Pick a monologue that you love. Often, the monologues you choose become a part of your repertoire for years. Make sure it’s one you want to be there! A play you love, a character you love, a theme you’re passionate about… make sure you resonate with the piece of choice in some way. When you love it, you tend to work harder and perform better on it. Since you spend so much time refining your audition pieces, make sure it’s something you truly want to spend time on.


Mistake #2: Selecting a monologue from a different medium or writing your own.

Stay away from self-written monologues, monologues written just for auditions, and, depending on the program, movie monologues. If you’re auditioning for the MFA in Acting, this especially holds true. While writing your own monologue is a great expression of creativity, theater is a collaborative art form. Unless they ask you to bring your own material, creative teams are often looking at how you navigate understanding and communicating a lived experience outside your own from a theatrical text. True, this skill often draws from your own well of lived experiences; however, showing an ability to perform a piece written by another artist is both reputable and in line with the collaborative nature of our industry. For the MFA in Acting, you will be working on many plays, and they want to see your ability to adapt and understand the pieces you may be assigned in the future.

Instead… Pick a selection from a play, classical or contemporary. They want to see how you work with text! Like mentioned above, make sure it’s from something you love. It can be from your favorite playwright, an actor you love who played the part before you, or you just resonate with the character’s narrative. Perhaps the piece offers you a chance to use a skill, like your physical comedy. Either way, your piece is often a conversation starter, and having it come from the medium of theater shows off your acting ability for theatrical endeavors the most.


Mistake #3: Passive monologue choices (a.k.a. the story, rant, or musing monologue).

While it is tempting to choose a “story monologue” for your audition piece, they are often passive and fail to demonstrate character qualities since they focus on communicating what happened. They usually tell a what more than they theatrically illustrate character, emotion, or intention. This is a common mistake in monologue selection, as often the dense paragraphs of these story selections are easy to spot.

Instead… Choose an active monologue.

Knowing clearly to whom you are talking helps give a monologue dimension. A good monologue is often the same as a dialogue with one verbal participant and one nonverbal participant. When your monologue is active, those watching will be able to see more strongly what the character is trying to do and who they’re talking to.

Try This! Look for portions of a script where there are longer lines in a dialogue between characters. Though not strictly a “monologue,” sometimes a great audition piece can be cobbled together from a two-person scene by omitting the other person’s lines and using them as nonverbal motivation for changes in beat or tactic.

In order to avoid these mistakes, the best thing you can do is get an outside opinion on your selections. An acting coach is perfect for this! This pair of outside eyes is unbiased and professional, offering a more formal and precise form of feedback than family, friends, and even teachers already familiar with your work. As experts in the field, they may also kindly steer you away from overdone works and offer fresh pieces to take a look at. Book a free consultation or start coaching with Theater.Academy today by visiting here.

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