Actors are always encouraged to have a monologue or two prepared in the event that an agent, casting director, director, producer or anyone else hiring talent, wants to see more.
Choosing a monologue that is not just good, but will insure that they remember you long after you have walked out the door is a talent in itself.
Actors are asked to prepare a short monologue when they begin at the studio in order to place them in the appropriate class. Some of the more common mistakes I see are as follows:
1. Material is too long. Nobody needs to see a five-minute monologue. If you can’t show your goods inside of a minute, four more minutes won’t change a thing. Unless you are asked for a longer piece, keep your performance to less than a minute.
2. Material is age inappropriate – It’s distracting to see someone doing material that is written for someone years older or years younger.
3. Material doesn’t show range – A lot of monologues are one note. What I mean by this is that there is no emotional range. This doesn’t make is a bad monologue it just doesn’t make it great for auditioning. It’s nice to see an actor be able to navigate a multitude of emotions inside of a minute.
4. Material is not type appropriate – I often see actors perform a piece because they liked the movie it’s from and the original actor. The problem with this is it may have nothing to do with what the actor will ever be hired to perform.
5. Material is iconic and will probably never be done better than it was by the star who made it memorable. (i.e. Brando in “On the Waterfront,” Ledger “The Dark Knight”)
6. Material is beyond the actor’s current skill set – While it is admirable to see someone select something from Shakespeare, if the actor has not been trained to do Shakespeare, it’s probably not a great idea. It’s also risky to choose a piece that insists on authentic tears if you have only been able to make that happen once in rehearsal.
7. Material has been used too often – Choosing a great monologue from an older film or play is a great idea because it probably hasn’t been overdone and thus, you won’t need to worry about being compared to the last five actors who performed the piece.
8. Material is written as a voice-over – some really great monologues have been written as voice-overs. The Coen Brothers often do this in their films. The problem with choosing a monologue that has been done as a voice-over is that the intention the writer had was probably to just give information, therefore, in terms of showing range or giving a performance that will move an audience, voice-over monologues are often not written with this in mind. Of course, there are exceptions to this but, for the most part, these monologues are usually just ways to give more details about the character or the story that the writer chose to not put in a scene.
There are literally hundreds of great monologues online – www.whysanity.net is a fantastic resource for monologues old and new. There is also a huge selection of monologue books to find good monologues.