Thursday, May 13, 2010

Choosing Your Material

Last year around audition time I did a post with a few tips about the actual process of auditioning. This year I’m going to offer some tips as to how to choose your material for an audition.

BE AGE APPROPRIATE. If you are a young actor in the age range of 18-35 pick a monologue that is around the same age as you are or as the role(s) that you are auditioning for. Don’t pick a monologue where the character is a middle-aged woman who is going through a divorce just because it is dramatic and you think it will showcase your abilities as an actor.

Sorry but a good monologue generally does not necessarily equal a good monologue for you. And, a monologue where the character is forty does not help me see you as the 18 year old in the play you are auditioning for. And on that note…

KNOW THE PLAY. Read the play you are auditioning for before you come to auditions. Don’t just read a synopsis. Or the Coles Notes version. Or watch the movie version. Do your homework and read the bloody play. It will take an hour or two out of your life. You will not die from this, I promise.

Now having read the play, this should inform every decision you make from this point forward. This will tell you how to choose a monologue that will best show you off and get you cast as one of the characters in the play. How do you do this?

CHOOSE MONOLOGUE CONTENT THAT MATCHES THE STYLE OF THE PLAY. This may also seem like a no-brainer but I will say it again do not show up with a classic monologue for a contemporary play. If you show up with a Lady Macbeth monologue you are not only already breaking rule #1 above but you are also doing yourself a complete disservice. Unless you are auditioning for Shakespeare or some other classical piece of theatre no Lady Macbeth’s are required. Thank you.

Further on this note, is the issue of accents. Generally, as a rule, DO NOT DO AN ACCENT. If I hear one more person show up to an audition doing a bad southern accent from a Tennessee Williams play I may just shoot myself in the head. No joke.

Again, unless you are asked to do an accent, don’t. Just don’t. I want to hear your delivery of the words not you butchering the words to death.

DO WHAT YOU KNOW. So, you’ve slimmed it down. You are going to do a contemporary monologue, without an accent, that falls within a suitable age range. There are many to choose from so how do you choose? Do what you know.

Example: You are a loud-mouth funny guy. Do a loud-mouth funny guy monologue. You are an awkward geeky sweet guy. Do an awkward geeky sweet monologue. You are a sarcastic hipster. Do a sarcastic hipster monologue. Ok, you get the picture.

An audition is the time to show yourself in the best possible light, and more often than not, the best possible light is showing me who you are. Not you trying to be something you're not. If you are more of the quiet and introverted type, 9 times out of 10, I am not going to buy your orgasm monologue. Yes, there are times to stretch yourself as an actor and artist; however, auditions are not the best time for that. Do what you know.

Ok, you’ve thought about it and you've picked a monologue. Now READ THE PLAY FROM WHICH YOU HAVE CHOSEN YOUR MONOLOGUE. Again, no synopsis, Coles Notes or movie version. Read the actual play so you know the context from which this monologue comes from. I can’t tell you the number of times I have asked an auditioner: “So, what play is this from?” Only to have them stare at me like a deer caught in the headlights. Or for someone to do a monologue completely out of context. A good example of this is the female monologue from Oleanna. Unless you read the play you will not understand the context from which to approach this monologue. The number of times I have seen Carol from Oleanna done completely out of context is ridiculous.

Don’t be that person. Be the person who comes in and rocks your monologue because you’ve actually read the play that your monologue comes from and understand the context and character. Be the person who has chosen your monologue because it matches well with your personality and the style of play you are auditioning for.

It is not as simple as leafing through a monologue book and then choosing one because you like it. In order to put your best foot forward you have to do your homework and you have to know why you picked the monologue you did. Just by doing this you will already be leaps and bounds ahead of 90% of the other people auditioning.

Then it’s all up to the director. And, if you don’t get cast, it won’t be for any other reason except that maybe, for this particular production, you weren’t right for that particular director’s vision of the piece.

There is nothing you can do about that. But you can be prepared.

~Sabrina Evertt
Artistic Producer


  1. This is a fabulous post, Sabrina! Thank you so much for sharing this insight. I whole-heartedly agree with your advice and I really try to follow it. It's part of the reason I've taken up reading plays as my 654th job. This is absolutely the best way to prepare and to look like a smart actor!

  2. Thanks Britney! 654th job?! Wow, you must be busy:)