Tag Archives: monologue

eight bars

Auditions: How to Behave in “The Room”

You’re here at last. You got up at 5:00 AM, showered, dressed, warmed up, annoyed your neighbors and tortured your roommates, stood in line for two hours in the freezing rain to get an early audition time, and it all went according to plan. You find yourself waiting to go into the famed audition room, where you will…what, exactly?

You can act, you can sing, maybe you can even dance, play an instrument, and eat fire, but can you AUDITION? Can you go into the room and present yourself in a professional manner, and not open the door to any unnecessary judgment or questions? I’ve heard many people say that this is a separate skill, and while I don’t know if I completely buy into that theory, I do know that there is one thing an actor will do if given the chance: shoot themselves in the foot. Here’s how not to do that.

Before we go too far, what is “the room?” Exactly what happens in there?

room

Let’s take a moment to assume some of you have yet to attend a professional audition. These auditions are most commonly held in empty studios with little more than a table and some chairs. Often there is a wall-length mirror in the space, which may or may not be covered. Be wary of this mirror, it’s so easy to disconnect with your audience and sing/act to yourself. It’s comfortable, but you aren’t likely to be doing the hiring, so…

Size matters, in the room that is. The auditor (and we’ll get to them in a minute or two) is most likely seated behind a table with stacks of paper and perhaps a computer nearby. Unless otherwise directed, position yourself directly in front of your auditors and a safe distance away from the closest edge of the table. This is a judgment call, and you should know what feels right, but aim for two to three times your height away. This lets the auditor see at least three-quarters of your body while you perform, and also puts some personal space between you both.

Entering the Room

Most of the time, it’s as simple as walking through the doorway. You enter the room, smile, and say hello. In a musical audition, you’ll proceed immediately to the accompanist, present your cleanly and clearly marked music and quickly point out any specific instructions (i.e., don’t double the melody here, please observe the railroad tracks, etc.—this is another article coming later), and finally, give your tempo. Tempo comes last so your accompanist can have it fresh in his or her head, if you give it at the beginning there is a greater chance for fluctuation, especially if you do something popular but in a non-traditional manner. Your entire conversation with the accompanist should take 10-15 seconds, if you can’t explain it in that time, your song might be too complicated. Thank the accompanist and take your place in the room.

eight bars

Often in college, students are taught some variation of this introduction: “Hi, my name is Rob Richardson, and I’ll be singing ‘Hey There‘ from The Pajama Game written by Adler and Ross.” This introduction has value and is often specifically requested at certain combined auditions like SETC, Strawhats, National Dinner Theatre Association (Does that still exist? This is also another article). But it’s NOT necessary in a professional audition. For starters, they have your resume directly in front of them, they should know your name. You CAN quickly tell the auditors what you are singing (or what monologue you are performing, don’t mean to ignore the straight theatre actors) if you desire, and often they will ask you and write it on your resume to help them remember more about you. But a simple, “Hi, this is ‘Hey There’ from the Pajama Game” is enough. Then smile at your accompanist (musical kids) to indicate you are ready to begin. Same goes for monologue auditions, a simple, “Hi this is Tom from The Glass Menagerie will do.  

There are times, maybe not many, when you may want to enter the room in character. It can be very effective, particularly if you are playing a darker, mysterious character, an over-the-top buffoon, or a villain. IT CAN ALSO BE WRONG, WRONG, WRONG. It is risky, for lots of reasons. One, if the casting team doesn’t realize what you are doing, they may be completely confused. Or they could roll their eyes with an “Oh, he’s one of THOSE actors” vibe. Or it may be simply off-putting. BUT! If the situation calls for something bold and dramatic, it might be worth the gamble. Casting directors are always encouraging actors to be brave and take risks, I believe that these are CALCULATED risks. Choose wisely.

Where Do I Look?

Most casting teams, though not all, don’t want direct eye contact while you are performing. They need to feel free to take notes, get a sense of your type and watch your performance without being obligated to be a scene partner. Unless otherwise directed, try to look at space slightly above or beside your audience, just enough to avoid eye contact. There are some directors who prefer you to deliver your work directly to them, I have found they will tell you this beforehand. (Martin Charnin, anyone?) If there is a reader in the room, and you have a scene to read, act with them, that’s what they are there for. For heaven’s sake, don’t give your monologue to an empty chair.

empty chair

In a Film/TV/Commercial audition, if they don’t tell you where to look, it is ALWAYS fair to ask, “Would you like me to deliver to camera or to you or another spot?” (Note:  it’s almost never DIRECTLY into the camera.) Don’t be afraid to ask a five-second question that could save an unnecessary extra take (and 60 seconds).  

I’m Done, Now What?

When you are finished, hold for a beat. Not Act III of Troilus and Cressida, just a beat. Then “drop” whatever character you have created, smile, and say thank you. Then wait for instruction. If the mysterious table people say, “Thanks, Rob, that was great,” then collect your things if you have any, and say goodbye. It’s not the kiss of death, they are just moving on and it should be NO indication of your performance, you may be first on their callback list or you may be headed to the circular file, who knows? But you’ve done your job, time to move on to the rest of your day.

If they ask you to perform something else, be prepared to offer NO MORE than two choices. For singers, if they ask for something specific like a rock-belt, try to give it to them. If they ask, “What else do you have?” then your response should be, “Well, I could either do THIS or I could do THAT, which do you prefer?” It gives the auditor a choice without overwhelming them and without you standing at the piano thumbing through your book saying, “Umm…how about…umm… .” You want to make the casting director’s life easier, not more complicated.  

If you are asked for a second monologue, first of all, have one. Second, unless otherwise requested, aim for a contrasting piece. Now that doesn’t necessarily mean “do the opposite of the first one.” You don’t have to do a tear-jerking cry fest after your Neil Simon comedy classic, just find something different in tone and shape, and generally shorter than your first piece. Being asked for a second piece is a big victory, even if a callback isn’t forthcoming.

When to Do the Opposite

This theatre game is funny—there seems to be a lot of rules we are expected to follow, and yet at the same time, rules are meant to be broken. This goes back to the earlier point of taking a risk. It seems to be the most ambiguous and frightening request of all. For most of my auditioning life, I have tried to present myself in the room as an intelligent, kind, capable actor who can deliver what is required for the job. And while that seems to make a lot of sense, and I guess it’s never hurt me, I can’t help but wonder how different my auditions would be if I were just a bit braver, more unpredictable. Don’t interpret that as license to throw tomatoes at the people behind the table, but every once in a while, mix it up. Don’t show what you’ve always shown, give them something they weren’t expecting. Something useful, of course, but surprising. A little risk could carry you a long, long way.

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Helen Benedict / CC BY

New Monologue and Song Recommendation Tool

The importance of choosing strong material

When it comes to casting, much is uncertain.  One thing, however, is guaranteed:  if you want to land your dream role, you need to come to an audition prepared. As the saying goes, you truly never get a second chance to make a first impression. This rule is never more true than during the audition process.  Learning about the show in advance and choosing an appropriate audition outfit help, but it’s in the selection and preparation of your song and monologue that you can truly shine.

Helen Benedict / CC BY
Helen Benedict / YouTube

What kind of monologue and song to prepare

In our earlier post on how to prepare for an audition, actor Danielle Frimer notes that it’s worthwhile to have at your disposal both dramatic and comedic contemporary monologues, dramatic and comedic classical monologues that show off different colors, and a few audition songs (uptempos and ballads) in various musical styles that show off your vocal range. In NY-based actor Becca Ballenger’s post on how to choose the perfect monologue, she points out that actors should constantly read new plays to discover monologues, because the most unique pieces are discovered by you, not a coach or a book.

Your monologue and song should be in a similar style and genre for the show you’re auditioning for — but not from the actual show for which you are auditioning.  The risk in doing material from the show itself is that your notion of the role will be at odds with the preconceived notion of the director.  Instead, you can help coax the director’s imagination in the right direction by finding material that showcases similar skills and traits to those demanded by your dream role.  Researching the characters for which you are auditioning ahead of time allows you to select appropriate audition pieces that make it easy for the casting director to envision you in your target role(s).

Actors are busy

Photo by Brittney Bush Bollay / CC BY
Photo by Brittney Bush Bollay / CC BY

We get it — actors are very busy people! You have voice lessons, dance classes, acting classes, rehearsals, and the number of auditions can pile up at a moment’s notice.  It’s not always possible to read every play in its entirety before a last-minute audition, — not to mention read hundreds of new plays to select and then learn a brand-new monologue perfectly suited to the role, and pour over thousands of scores to pick the perfect new 32-bar excerpt.  You should certainly build a repertoire of diverse material, but when it comes down to the wire and you need something perfectly suited to the character for which you’re auditioning, it’s easy to come up short.

Our new monologue & song recommendation tool

At StageAgent, we are on a quest to make actors’ lives easier. You already know that StageAgent is best place online to find quality theatre character breakdowns. Now, when you look at a breakdown, we take it a step further and display specific recommendations for audition monologues and songs based off of that character’s attributes.

For example, if you are auditioning for Seymour from Little Shop of Horrors you can now see recommended audition monologues and songs when you scroll down through Seymour’s character breakdown.

Seymour audition song

If you’re auditioning for Seymour, you might want to look into singing “I’m Not That Smart” from The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee for your audition!

Or similarly, if you have an audition for Amanda Wingfield from The Glass Menagerie, you now know by looking at StageAgent that you might want to consider Blanche’s monologue from A Streetcar Named Desire.

Conclusion

Of course, this recommendation tool is only a starting point.  Only you can know for certain whether an audition monologue or song is right for you — but this time-saving feature is a great place to start!  

Note that this recommendation feature is only accessible to StageAgent PRO members.

We hope you find our new recommendation tool useful. If you have any suggestions for improvement, please let us know!

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So many plays!

How to Find the Perfect Monologue

So many plays!Whether you’re just starting out in the biz or a longtime pro, the search for the perfect monologue never ends. Monologues are frequently used in auditions, coaching sessions, and classes, so it’s important to know how to look and where to begin your search.

First of all, you’re starting in the right place—StageAgent has a huge directory of monologues, all linked to play or musical study guides.  There, you can read the monologues themselves, but also information about the context in which they are spoken, and links to a character analysis and a guide to the play as a whole. Continue reading

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Becca Ballenger soliloquizing in A MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S DREAM

Soliloquy Compared to a Monologue

Young actors can often get confused about the differences between a soliloquy and monologue.  Soliloquies and monologues are widely used by one of my favorite playwrights, William Shakespeare.

Becca Ballenger soliloquizing in A MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S DREAM
Becca Ballenger soliloquizing in A MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DREAM

Approaching Shakespeare as an actor is both thrilling and intimidating. Most thrilling is that you can allow Shakespeare’s brilliant language to do a lot of the grunt work for you. Most intimidating is that before you can rely on the language, you have to identify and excavate the clues within it. I once had an acting teacher explain to me that a play by Shakespeare is like a bottle of premade marinara sauce– all the spices are already inside, so your job is to heat it all up and add your own spin (alphabet macaroni, anyone?). There are going to be future blogs here on Stage Agent about the many different “clues” Shakespeare provides in his plays (scansion, rhetoric, prose and verse, alliteration, etc.). With this post, I’m going to talk about just one: soliloquies.

Continue reading

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