The time has come to pick your college audition material. Between dozens of differing requirements and millions of monologues to choose from, it can be tough to feel like you’re making the right decision. After all, no monologue is perfect; every piece comes with its own set of perks and challenges. In addition to confirming that your monologue choices fit the criteria for each program for which you’re auditioning, use this list of Dos and Don’ts to make sure you’re setting yourself up for success. You may recognize a few of these rules from a college’s published guidelines, but even if a school doesn’t specifically state it, these are beneficial to abide by for any audition.
1. An age-appropriate monologue.
This is probably the most common rule you’ll see from colleges. It may seem confusing at first; you’ve played characters much older or younger than you in your high school productions, with great success! The difference between those productions and a college audition comes down to context. In an audition, colleges want to see you play a character in your ‘natural age range,’ A.K.A. a character you could conceivably play in a non-school production with all ages auditioning. Of course, you’re not strictly limited to a 17- or 18-year-old character, especially if the subject matter of the monologue isn’t age-specific. A 28-year-old character navigating a crush on a friend is much different than a 28-year-old character struggling to parent their young child. Use your best judgment (or consult a trusted teacher or coach) to determine how far “age-appropriate” extends. Generally, teens and early 20s are the way to go.
2. A monologue you’ve done before.
If you’ve played a role or competed in a competition with a monologue that meets the guidelines for a college audition, don’t be afraid to use it. Your comfort with the material will show. You should also feel free to reuse monologues for multiple colleges; as long as it matches what the college requires, don’t waste your time preparing a new monologue for each audition.
3. A gender-bent monologue, especially for a classical/Shakespeare piece.
for a classical/Shakespeare piece.
Unlike with age differences, you can certainly be successful in a college audition with a monologue that is traditionally performed by genders different from your own. This is particularly true for Shakespeare and other classical texts, which lend themselves well to gender-bending. Avoid making a mockery of the piece by gender-bending it, but if you can play it honestly, go for it. Especially if you are trans or gender-nonconforming, the gender of the characters in your monologues can be a great way to showcase your range onstage.
4. Read the rest of the play your monologue is from.
Not only is it important to understand your character’s circumstances to breathe full life into your monologue, if you have a Q&A or work session with your auditors, they might ask you about it! You should understand your monologues’ sources as well as any other show you’ve performed in. This is also necessary to confirm that your character is a good fit for you (i.e. one whose age, race, and/or disability status are appropriate; this information isn’t always listed in the dramatis personae).
Additionally, be sure to research the pronunciations of plays and playwrights’ names, even if you think you have them right. Your slate is where you make your first impression; make sure it’s well-prepared.
5. Make sure your contrasting monologues are actually contrasting.
Many colleges ask for contrasting monologues in the audition. Some specify one classical and one contemporary. Others just ask for two monologues and don’t give any further direction. Regardless, if you’re doing two monologues, seize the opportunity to show off two different aspects of your acting ability. Classical and contemporary are just two ways in which your monologues can contrast one another. Even better if one is comedic and the other is dramatic; one is a romantic situation and another is familial; or one employs tactics like begging and pleading and another involves pleasing and playing it cool. A good set of contrasting monologues usually contrast each other in more than one way.
1. A monologue that requires a dialect that isn’t your own.
While it’s great to list dialects in the special skills section of your résumé, auditors from colleges and universities want to get to know you. Don’t use your precious audition time to demonstrate a dialect that isn’t your own. This also goes for over-the-top ‘character voices’; anything that obscures the basic quality of your vocal instrument is inadvisable.
2. A monologue that requires props, costumes, or any other external elements.
Some colleges outwardly forbid props and costumes for auditions. Others accept them, but don’t encourage them. Either way, it’s not a good idea to stake the success of your audition on anything other than your body and voice. What if your costume rips or you lose your prop on your way to the audition room? Plus, you don’t want anything to distract your auditors from your performance. If their eyes are on the prop in your hand, they’re not entirely focused on your performance.
3. A ‘memory’ monologue.
If it starts with “I remember when” or “Back in those days,” it’s not a great choice for a college audition. Why? The purpose of most ‘memory’ monologues is to give the audience information about a character’s past, and that can make them difficult to motivate without their surrounding context. Instead of a monologue where a character narrates a story, pick a piece with a defined ‘other’ and a more active objective.
4. A monologue about an intense trauma
Shocking your auditors with a piece about violence or sex will make you memorable, but not in the way you want. Don’t describe a gory scenario, defend yourself from an assailant, or scream and cry after receiving bad news. Same goes for excessive profanity or innuendo. You want your limited audition time to be enjoyable for your auditors, not painful. Remember: for a regular audition, your auditors are assessing your fit for a particular character. For a college audition, they’re evaluating your overall skillset as an actor and your strength as a student contributing to their program. The best thing you can do is pick monologues that spotlight your range as an actor, as well as demonstrate who you are as an artist. If you follow these suggestions, pick monologues you’re passionate about, and find all the peaks and valleys there within, the right program will find you. Some of Theater.Academy’s coaching plans, like the Monologue Prep plan, include personally-tailored assistance to choose the monologue that fits you best.