Expanding the Canon: Additional Classics to Consider

The classical monologue for the longest time seemed to only mean a Shakespearean selection, leaving the actor with the same few choices as those before them. “Should I do Hamlet, Beatrice, or Lear?” With a limited canon to select from, your monologue choices may feel a bit claustrophobic. You may also find yourself struggling to find a character or script you feel resonates with your own artistic voice when the options are just few authors.

Thanks to expansive historiography, we are expanding the canon of classical monologues to consider. With scholarship and archival research, people like the staff at Hedgepig Ensemble Theatre’s Expand the Canon initiative and theater historians continue to uncover playwrights and plays lost to time. These authors were marginalized or devalued by their original time, but the plays are creative and incredibly well-crafted. When choosing your classical monologue for auditions, consider expanding your own repertoire with the resources below!


Hedgepig Ensemble Theatre’s Expand the Canon Initiative

Expand the Canon is a curated list of classic plays by women & underrepresented genders – and a call to action to produce them.” – Expand the Canon’s Website

Hedgepig Ensemble Theatre in New York City started the Expand the Canon Initiative in 2020 when they began to see a notable difference between the diversity of humankind and history and the works we consider to be “canonical.” This culminate in a committee-curated list each year of classics by women and other marginalized voices to be re-seen, re-read, and help refresh our classical programming in the theater. You can access the plays, playwright bios, summaries, pitches, producing information, & more simply by creating a free account with your email! From female contemporaries of Shakespeare like Aphra Behn of England to uplifting non-Western authors like Efua T. Sutherland from Ghana, there’s a plethora of plays to behold!

Expand the canon yourself by viewing the 27 classic plays (and counting) by visiting their page here.

Consider their Contemporaries…

Try to take some time to familiarize yourself with what theater was happening at the same time as notable figures. Just as we know Ariana Grande isn’t the only good pop singer in our current moment, there were more than just the Shakespeares and Moliéres in theatre’s history. Consider their contemporaries!

For Shakespeare, consider Aphra Behn, Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz, and Thomas Kyd.

For Moliere, consider Susanna Centlivre, Luise Gottsched, and Hannah Cowley.

For Arthur Miller, consider Lorraine Hansberry, Alice Childress, and Maruxa Vilalta.


Archive.org and other Library Resources

Many classical works are now in the public domain; the difficulty with their access is often finding them (and finding them in your language). Library databases like archive.org can help you uncover some classics for your repertoire. Head to archive.org and search “classical theater play” or any other keywords you may wish to clue-in. Try it here.


Here are a few places to start!

The Uncle by Princess Amalie of Saxony (1835)

“If you’re looking for the German Jane Austen’s riff on a marriage plot where the impressionable ingenue turns out to be a shrewd strategist… consider this fresh, delicate romantic comedy.” – Expand the Canon’s Initiative

The Rover by Aphra Behn (1677)

Multiple plot lines and colorful characters adventure through Naples at Carnival time in this Restoration comedy, a perfect option for the comedic actor tired of Much Ado About Nothing and Twelfth Night.

Rachel by Angelina Weld Grimké (1916)

If you’re passionate about social justice in your art, this play may have something for you! “Rachel, a young Black woman in love, wonders if she could endure having kids of her own given the racism she and the children in her neighborhood face everyday. Though certainly a tragedy, this play also shows Black love and Black joy in this historically important piece.” – Expand the Canon Initiative


While we typically pull monologues from Western forms of theater such as realism and verse, you may wish to broaden your scope in terms of audition material. Consider the beautiful magic inherent in Sanskrit theaer or perhaps the traditional and poetic Japanese Noh for an ancient yet less-often-heard piece.

Sakuntala (Sanskrit drama, India, 4th Century CE)

Written by the ancient poet Kālidāsa likely around the 4thcentury CE, Sakuntala dramatizes the titular mother of Emperor Bharata, a tale originally found in the Mahābhārata. Featuring meet-cutes in the forest and lots of magical realism, you can read it here!

The Mountain Crone a.k.a. Yamamba by Zeami (Noh Theatre, Japan)

Famous Japanese writer Zeami called this a play with many detours. The story crafts a tale of a mountain mother who lives in the wilderness through villagers and the appearance of Yamamba herself. If you love nature, you’ll find line after line in Noh that uses rich wordsmithing to describe the world and human relationships in a way that still resonates in the contemporary world. Perfect for elevated and heightened language opportunities! To learn more about traditional and modern Japanese theater, feel free to check out our first-of-its-kind Digital Anthology, Introducing Japanese Theater.

Our coaches at Theater.Academy can help you suggest, select, and refine these pieces starting as soon as you schedule!

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