Anthony J. Piccione
Picking a monologue can be one of the most critical elements of preparing for an upcoming audition. The monologue you pick – as well as how you deliver it – could very well make or break your audition. So with this in mind, it is probably best to do whatever you can to make sure that your audition monologue stands out, and it is something crucial to keep in mind as you are looking through at potential monologues. As you are looking through, it is important to make sure that you do a monologue that will be a good fit for you and your talents as an actor, but also won’t be the same as the tried and true monologues that much of your competition could end up going with.
With all that in mind, to help out some of you who might need help determining what NOT to go for, I’ve decided to take it upon myself to compile a short list of just a few of these monologues that you should avoid selecting for your audition.
For this week’s list – which is in no particular order – I’ve decided to focus on audition monologues for male performers. Here are just seven examples of male monologues used all too often in auditions that you should absolutely avoid if your goal is to stand out in an audition. I’ve also placed some links near the end of the column that will take you to websites that include even more examples of such overdone monologues, but here you can find a shorter list with more detailed samples.
"Lying in a box” monologue – From Tom Stoppard’s Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead
Do you ever think of yourself as actually dead, lying in a box with the lid on it? Nor do I really. Silly to be depressed by it. I mean, one thinks of it like being alive in a box. One keeps forgetting to take into account that one is dead. Which should make all the difference. Shouldn't it? I mean, you’d never know you were in a box would you? It would be just like you were asleep in a box. Not that I’d like to sleep in a box, mind you. Not without any air. You'd wake up dead for a start and then where would you be? In a box. That's the bit I don't like, frankly. That’s why I don’t think of it. Because you'd be helpless wouldn't you? Stuffed in a box like that. I mean, you'd be in there forever. Even taking into account the fact that you're dead. It isn't a pleasant thought. Especially if you're dead, really. Ask yourself: if I asked you straight off I'm going to stuff you in this box now – would you rather to be alive or dead?
Naturally you’d prefer to be alive. Life in a box is better than no life at all. I expect. You'd have a chance at least. You could lie there thinking, well, at least I’m not dead. In a minute, somebody’s going to bang on the lid and tell me to come out.
This first monologue is often considered to a popular choice among actors, given the play’s initial critical acclaim. However, it is also considered by quite a few to be considered one of the more overdone monologues since the play’s premiere. Some of the ones you will see next will likely be even more overdone examples, however, this one makes the list as it comes from a more absurdist play that is different from some of the others on this list.
“I was in the latrine…” - From Neil Simon’s Biloxi Blues
I was in the latrine alone cleaning it, on my hands and knees. Then these two guys come in, one was a three hundred pound cook and some other slob, Then they start to walk out and I say, "Hey, I just cleaned that. Please flush the johns." And the big one says "Up your’s, rookie," . And I block the doorway and I say, "There’s a printed order on the wall that all facilities must be flushed after using" . . . And the big one says to me, "Suppose you flush it, New York Jew Kike," They look at each other then rush me, turn me upside down, grab my ankles and — and — and they lowered me by my feet with my head in the toilet, in their filth, . . . then they pulled off my belt and tied my feet on to the ceiling pipes with my head still in their foul waste and tied my hands behind my back, and they left me there, hanging like a pig that was going to be slaughtered . Then the pipe broke and I fell to the ground.. . It took me twenty minutes to get myself untied. . . But it will take me the rest of my life to wash off my humiliation. If I stay, if they put a gun in my hands, one night, I swear to God, I’ll kill them both.
Among living playwrights in America, Neil Simon remains one of the most popular, and one of his most popular and well-known works today just so happens to be Biloxi Blues, so a monologue from a play such as this certainly belongs on the list. With all due respect to Mr. Simon, actors should consider avoiding monologues from well-known plays such as the works of playwrights such as him, and consider finding a monologue that is lesser known that might be better suited for his individual talents.
“Girl in the flak suit” speech – From David Mamet’s Sexual Perversity in Chicago
So I am over at the Commonwealth, in the pancake house off the lobby, and I am working on a stack of those raisin and nut jobs...and I ‘m reading the paper, and I’m reading, and I’m casing the pancake house, and the usual shot, am I right? So who walks in over to the cash register but this chick... nineteen, twenty year old chick and she wants a packet of Viceroys. Gets the smokes, and does this number about how she forgot her purse up in her room. Yeah, up in her room...was she a pro? Well, at this point we don’t know. So anyway, I go over and ask can I front her for the smokes, and she says she couldn’t, and then she says Well, alright, and would I like to join her in a cup of coffee...So down we sit and get to talking. This, That, blah, blah, blah, and ‘Come up to my room and I’ll pay you back for the cigarettes’...Was she a pro? So at this point we don’t know. Pro, semi- pro, Betty co-ed from College, anybody’s ballgame. So, anyway, up we go. Fifth floor on the alley and it’s ‘Sit down, you wanna drink?’ ‘What you got?’ ,’Bourbon’, ‘Fine’. And goddamn if she doesn’t lay half a rock on me for the cigarettes...But then what shot does she up and pull? The shot she is pulling is the following two things: A) She says ‘I think I want to take a shower’ and B) She says ‘And then let’s fuck’...nineteen, twenty...and was she a pro?...so at this point I don’t know. But I do say I‘ll join her in the shower, if she has no objections.’ So into the old shower. And does this broad have a body? Are you kidding me? The tits...the legs...the ass on this broad...young broad, young ass...And lathering her...and drop the soap...This, that and we get out. Towelling off, each of us in his or her full glory. So while we’re towelling off, I flick the towel at her, very playfully, and by accident it catches her a good one on the ass, and thwack, a big red mark...So I’m all sorry and so forth. But what does this broad do but let out a squeal of pleasure and relief that would fucking kill a horse. So what the hell I am liberal. So I look around figuring to follow in my footsteps, and what is handy but this little G.E. clock radio. So I pick the mother up and heave it at her. It catches her across the shoulder blades, and we’ve got this long welt...does it draw blood?... at this point, no. So what does she do? She says ‘Wait a Minute’ and she crawls under the bed. From under the bed she pulls this suitcase and from out of the suitcase comes this World War Two Flak suit.
Over the past century, few playwrights have done a better job at creating great dialogue than David Mamet, so it should not come as much of a surprise that his works tend to also be favorites among actors looking for audition monologues. Once again, however, the fact that these plays and the monologues from them are both so great and so popular also means that directors will likely be used to seeing them at auditions.
Tom Wingfield’s monologue – From Tennessee Williams’ The Glass Menagerie
What do you think I’m at? Aren’t I supposed to have any patience to reach the end of, Mother? You think I’m crazy about the warehouse? You think I’m in love with the Continental Shoemakers? You think I want to spend fifty-five years down there in that celotex interior? With flourescent tubes? Look! I’d rather somebody picked up a crowbar and battered out my brains than go back mornings. But I go. For sixty five dollars a month I give up all that I dream of doing and being ever! And you say self- self’s all I ever think of. Why listen, if self is what I thought of Mother, I’d be where he is, GONE!
I’m going to the movies! I’m going to opium dens, yes, opium dens, Mother. I’ve joined the Hogan Gang, I’m a hired assassin, I carry a tommy gun in a violin case. I run a string of cat houses in the Valley. They call me Killer, Killer Wingfield. I’m leading a double life: a simple, honest warehouse worker by day, by night, a dynamic czar of the underworld, Mother. On occasion they call me El Diablo.
Oh I could tell you many things to make you sleepless. My enemies plan to dynamite this place. They’re going to blow us all sky high some night. I’ll be glad, very happy, and so will you! You’ll go up, up on a broomstick, over Blue Mountain with seventeen gentleman callers. You ugly, babbling old witch....
Like the two playwrights mentioned above, Tennessee Williams is widely considered to be one of the all-time greatest playwrights. In his case, he considered by many (fairly or not) to be one of the greatest American playwrights of all time, and The Glass Menagerie is considered to be one of his greatest plays, if not his all-time greatest. That is why actors should stay away from picking a monologue from this play, as monologues from a well-known play such as this – including the one listed here – are bound to be common picks from your fellow actors whom you will be auditioning with.
”Speak the speech” – From William Shakespeare’s Hamlet
Speak the speech, I pray you, as I pronounced it to you, trippingly on the tongue. But if you mouth it, as many of our players do, I had as lief the town crier spoke my lines. Nor do not saw the air too much with your hand, thus, by use all gently, for in the very torrent, tempest, and (as I may say) whirlwind of your passion, you must acquire and beget a temperance that may give it smoothness. O, it offends me to the soul to hear a robustious periwig-pated fellow tear a passion to tatters, to very rags, to split the ears of the groundlings, who for the most part are capable of nothing but inexplicable dumb shows and noise. I would have such a fellow whipped for o'erdoing Termagant. It out-herods Herod. Pray you avoid it. Be not too tame neither, but let your own discretion be your tutor. Suit the action to the word, the word to the action, with this special observance, that you o'erstep not the modesty of nature. For anything so overdone is from the purpose of playing, whose end, both at the first and now, was and is, to hold, as 'twere, the mirror up to nature, to show virtue her own feature, scorn her own image, and the very age and body of the time his form and pressure. Now this overdone, or come tardy off, though it make the unskillful laugh, cannot but make the judicious grieve, the censure of the which one must in your allowance o'erweigh a whole theatre of others. O, there be players that I have seen play, and heard others praise, and that highly (not to speak profanely), that neither having th' accent of Christians, nor the gait of Christian, pagan, nor man, have so strutted and bellowed that I have thought some of Nature's journeymen had made men, and not made them well, they imitated humanity so abominably. Reform it altogether! And let those that play your clowns speak no more than is set down for them, for there be of them that will themselves laugh, to set on some quantity of barren spectators to laugh too, though in the mean time some necessary question of the play be then to be considered. That's villainous and shows a most pitiful ambition in the fool that uses it. Go make you ready.
Of course, Shakespeare remains a popular monologue choice for quite a few people today, and monologues from Hamlet – such as the one listed here – are among the most popular Shakespearean monologue. But with this in mind, it’s also worth remembering that many directors might be tired of seeing the same Shakespearean monologues again. If you’re gonna go with Shakespeare – even if it is for an audition for a Shakespearean play – don’t be afraid to try something lesser known, as long as it does an excellent job showing off your range as an actor.
Monologue from Christopher Durang’s The Actor’s Nightmare
Oh don’t go! (Pauses, smiles uncomfortably at the audience) Maybe someone else will come out in a minute. (Pause) Of course, sometimes people have soliloquies in Shakespeare. Let’s just wait a moment more and maybe someone will come. Oh dear. To be or not to be, that is the question. Oh maid! Line. Line! Ohhhh…..Oh, what a rogue and peasant slave am I. Whether tis nobler in the mind’s eye to kill oneself, or not killing oneself, to sleep a great deal. We are such stuff as dreams are made on; and our lives are rounded by a little sleep. Uh, thrift , thrift, Horatio. Neither a borrower or a lender be. There is a special providence in the fall of a sparrow. Extraordinary how potent cheap music can be. Out, out damn spot! I come to wive it wealthily in Padua- if wealthily then happily in Padua. (sings) Brush up your Shakespeare- start quoting him now! Da da da... I wonder whose yacht that is! How was China? Very large, China. How was Japan? Very small, Japan. I pledge allegience to the flag of the United States of America and to the republic for which is stands, one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all. Line. Line! Oh my God. Oh my God, I am heartily sorry for having offended thee and I detest the loss of heaven and the pains of hell. But most of all because they offend thee, my God, who art loving and deserving of all my love. I swear to confess my sins, do penance and amend my life, Amen. That's the act of contrition Catholic schoolchildren say in confession to be forgiven their sins. Catholic adults say it as well, I imagine... I don't know any Catholic adults. Line! When you call for a line, the stage manager normally gives you your next line to refresh your memory. Line! The quality of mercy is not strained. It droppeth like a gentle rain upon the place below when we have shuffled off this mortal coil. Alas, Poor Yorick- I knew him well. Get thee to a nunnery- Line!- Nunnery. As a child I was taught by nuns and then in high school by Benedictine priests. I really rather liked the nuns. They were sort of warm but they were also fairly crazy too. Line. I liked the priests also...the school was on the grounds of the monastery and my junior and senior years I spent a few weekends joining in the daily routine of the monastery: prayers then breakfast then prayers then lunch then prayers then supper then prayers then sleep. I found the predictability quite attractive. And the food was good. I was going to join the monastery after high school but they said I was too young and should wait. And then I just stopped believing in all those things, so I never did join the monastery. I became an accountant. I studied logarithms and cosine and tangent... Line! sorry. This is supposed to be Hamlet or Private Lives or something and I keep rattling on like a maniac- I really do apologize. I just don't recall attending a single rehearsal. I don't know what I was doing. And also you came here to see Edwin Booth and you get me. I really am very embarrassed. Sorry. Line! (Singing) A, b, c, d, e, f, g, h, i, j, k, l , m, n, o, p, q, r, s, t...It’s a far far better thing I do then I have ever done before... Its a far far better place I go to than I have ever been before.
This is a fun short play from playwright Christopher Durang that many actors tend to think makes good audition material. However, as entertaining as this play may be, there are others out there that could work better. While I personally would not rank this as overdone as some of the others I mentioned, it’s still worth remembering.
“All the world’s a stage” – From William Shakespeare’s As You Like It
All the world's a stage,
And all the men and women merely players;
They have their exits and their entrances,
And one man in his time plays many parts,
His acts being seven ages. At first, the infant,
Mewling and puking in the nurse's arms.
Then the whining schoolboy, with his satchel
And shining morning face, creeping like a snail
Unwillingly to school. And then the lover,
Sighing like a furnace, with a woeful ballad
Made to his mistress' eyebrow. Then a soldier,
Full of strange oaths and bearded like the pard,
Jealous in honor, sudden and quick in quarrel,
Seeking the bubble reputation
Even in the cannon's mouth. And then the justice,
In fair round belly with good capon lined,
With eyes severe and beard of formal cut,
Full of wise saws and modern instances;
And so he plays his part. The sixth age shifts
Into the lean and slippered pantaloon,
With spectacles on nose and pouch on side;
His youthful hose, well saved, a world too wide
For his shrunk shank, and his big manly voice,
Turning again toward childish treble, pipes
And whistles in his sound. Last scene of all,
That ends this strange eventful history,
Is second childishness and mere oblivion,
Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything.
Perhaps the most dull and dry of all the monologues I’ve placed on this list, this is still one that is surprising used all too often in auditions for shows. If you want to stand out in an audition, do not – under any circumstances – go with something like this.
For some other overdone monologues – if you can’t get enough – take a look at the links posted below. Both are good resources for knowing what not to pick, and helped me put together this more abbreviated list.
Link 1: http://www.monologueaudition.com/ma_overdone-men.htm
Link 2: http://www.backstage.com/interview/8-overdone-audition-monologues/