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 make a short list of just a few of these monologues that you should avoid selecting for your audition.
Last week, I released a similar list that was made specifically for male performers that are preparing for an audition. For this week’s list – which is in no particular order – here are just seven examples of female 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.
• “Do you know Charlotte Korman” – From Neil Simon’s Last of the Red Hot Lovers
You know what my proof is? He told me. Two o’clock in the morning, he leans over, taps me on the shoulder and says, “I’ve had an affair with Charlotte Korman.” Who asked him? When he tapped me on the shoulder in the middle of the night I thought he wanted me! You know what it is to wake up from a sound sleep with no eyelashes and a dry mouth and hear that your husband is getting it from a woman you’re not allowed to see for lunch? And you know why he told me, Barney? He explained it to me. We’re living in a new guiltless society. You can do anything you want as long as you’re honest about it. Aren’t we lucky to be living in such a civilized age? In the old days I would have gone to my grave ignorant of the wonderful and beautiful knowledge that my husband was humping Charlotte Korman! … When he told me, I didn’t say a word. I went down to the kitchen and made myself a cream cheese and jelly sandwich on date-nut bread. And that was the last time in eight months that I tasted food. … I estimate, going four times a week, I should be through with Doctor Margolies in another year. And then, when we both think I’m ready, I’m going to get in my car and drive off the Verrazano Bridge. In the meantime, I’m very depressed. I Excuse me, Barney. Nothing personal, but I don’t think we’re going to have our affair.
Among living playwrights in America, Neil Simon remains one of the most popular, and this particular monologue from this play is an especially popular choice among female performers that are preparing for an audition. With all due respect to Mr. Simon, actors should consider avoiding monologues – especially ones that are this commonly used – 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.
• Cass’s Monologue – From David Lindsay-Abaire’s Wonder of the World
The road signs go by so fast, don’t they? Four hundred and sixty-three. My old life is 463 road signs behind me. Don’t you love the smell of a bus? I’ve never been to Niagara Falls before. I almost went once. A family trip. But then Kip proposed, so I stayed behind to plan our wedding, and my parents went without me. They hit a beaver on the drive up, lost control of the car, and drove into a ditch. My mother was killed and my father’s legs were crushed. For a long time, I thought if he hadn’t proposed, I would’ve been in that car wreck, but now I think if he hadn’t proposed I would’ve gone with my parents and yelled “Dad, look out for that beaver!” And my mother would still be alive, and we wouldn’t gone on to see Niagara Falls, and maybe I would’ve met another man, the one I was meant to be with, instead of that two-faced deviant I married. I had this list of all the things I wanted to do in life, but for some reason I put it away when I married Kip. P.S. Big Mistake. Here it is. Number forty-eight: “Strike up a conversation with a stranger.” I’ve never done that before. My mother was always like “Don’t talk to strangers, Cass. Don’t talk to strangers.” So I never did and you know what? Now I have no friends.
When it comes to more modern playwrights, David Lindsay-Abaire ranks as both one of the most popular and critically acclaimed of his generation. As a result, it should be no surprise that monologues from his plays have also been picked by more and more actors for auditions in recent years, with pieces from Wonder of the World being especially likely to be chosen for an audition. Be careful when thinking about picking a monologue from one of his plays, such as this one.
• “You did it to me. Here.” – From David Mamet’s Oleanna
How can you deny it. You did it to me. Here. You did… You confess. You love the Power. To deviate. To invent, to transgress … to transgress whatever norms have been established for us. And you think it’s charming to “question” in yourself this taste to mock and destroy. But you should question it. Professor. And you pick those things which you feel advance you: publication, tenure, and the steps to get them you call “harmless rituals.” And you perform those steps. Although you say it is hypocrisy. But to the aspirations of your students. Of hardworking students, who come here, who slave to come here – you have no idea what it cost me to come to this school – you mock us. You call education “hazing,” and from your so-protected, so-elitist seat you hold our confusion as a joke, and our hopes and efforts with it. Then you sit there and say “what have I done?” And ask me to understand that you have aspirations too. But I tell you. I tell you. That you are vile. And that you are exploitative. And if you possess one ounce of that inner honesty you describe in your book, you can look in yourself and see those things that I see. And you can find revulsion equal to my own. Good day
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.
• Rose’s monologue – From August Wilson’s Fences
You can't be nobody but who you are, Cory. That shadow wasn't nothing but you growing into yourself. You either got to grow into it or cut it down to fit you. But that's all you got to make life with. That's all you got to measure yourself against that world out there. Your daddy wanted you to be everything he wasn't ... and at the same time he tried to make you into everything he was. I don't know if he was right or wrong ... but I do know he meant to do more good than he meant to do harm. He wasn't always right. Sometimes when he touched he bruised. And sometimes when he took me in his arms'. he cut. When I first met your daddy I thought ... Here is a man I can lay down with and make a baby. That's the first thing I thought when I seen him. I was thirty years old and had done seen my share of men. But when he walked up to me and said "I can dance a waltz that'll make you dizzy," I thought, Rose Lee, here is a man that you can open yourself up to and be filled to bursting. Here is a man that can fill all them empty spaces you been tipping around the edges of. One of them empty spaces was being some body's mother.
I married your daddy and settled down to cooking his supper; and keeping clean sheets on the bed. When your daddy walked through the house he was so big he filled it up. That was my first mistake. Not to make him leave some room for me. For my part in the matter. But at that time I wanted that. I wanted a house that I could sing in. And that's what your daddy gave me. I didn't know to keep up his strength I had to give up little pieces of mine. I did that. I took on his life as mine and mixed up the pieces so that you couldn't hardly tell which was which anymore. It was my choice. It was my life and I didn't have to live it like that. But that's what life offered me in the way of being a woman and. I took it. I grabbed hold of it with both hands. By the time Raynell came into the house, me and your daddy had done lost touch with one another. I didn't want to make my blessing off of nobody's misfortune ... but I took on to Raynell like she was all them babies I had wanted and never had. Like I'd been blessed to relive a part of my life. And if the Lord see fit to keep up my strength ... I'm gonna do her just like your daddy did you ... I'm gonna give her the best of what's in me.
The works of August Wilson – especially the play Fences – have been the topic of much debate within the theatre community for a long time. As a result of his work’s longevity, monologues written by him have been used more and more frequently in auditions, particularly this piece from Fences. While perhaps not as overused as some of the others on this list, it is still yet another to be careful about using.
• “Night flight to San Francisco…” – From Tony Kushner’s Angels in America
Night flight to San Francisco. Chase the moon across America. God! It’s been years since I was on a plane. When we hit 35,000 feet we’ll have reached the tropopause, the great belt of calm air. As close as I’ll ever get to the ozone. I dreamed we were there. The plane leapt the tropopause, the safe air and attained the outer rim, the ozone which was ragged and torn, patches of it threadbare as old cheesecloth, and that was frightening. But I saw something only I could see because of my astonishing ability to see such things. Souls were rising, from the earth far below, souls of the dead of people who’d perished from famine, from war, from the plague, and they floated up like skydivers in reverse, limbs all akimbo, wheeling and spinning. And the souls of these departed joined hands, clasped ankles and formed a web, a great net of souls. And the souls were three-atom oxygen molecules of the stuff of ozone, and the outer rim absorbed them, and was repaired. Nothing’s lost forever. In this world, there is a kind of painful progress. Longing for what we’ve left behind, and dreaming ahead. At least I think that’s so.
Personally, I would argue that Angels in America is one of the greatest – if not the greatest – full-length play of the past quarter-century, at least. There are certainly many people out there who would at least partially agree with that assessment, as reflected in the fact that it is also a popular choice among performers auditioning for a show. However, this monologue in particular has come to be one of the most overused of any monologue among female performers in recent years, so this might be one to avoid as you’re looking.
• Monologues from Sarah Kane’s 4:48 Psychosis
I am sad
I feel that the future is hopeless and that things cannot improve
I am bored and dissatisfied with everything
I am a complete failure as a person
I am guilty, I am being punished
I would like to kill myself
I used to be able to cry but now I am beyond tears
I have lost interest in other people
I can't make decisions
I can't eat
I can't sleep
I can't think
I cannot overcome my loneliness, my fear, my disgust
I am fat
I cannot write
I cannot love
My brother is dying, my lover is dying, I am killing them both
I am charging towards my death
I am terrified of medication
I cannot make love
I cannot fuck
I cannot be alone
I cannot be with others
My hips are too big
I dislike my genitals
when depression visits
I shall hang myself
to the sound of my lover's breathing
I do not want to die
I have become so depressed by the fact of my mortality that I have decided to commit suicide I do not want to live
I am jealous of my sleeping lover and cover his induced unconsciousness
When he wakes he will envy my sleepless night of thought and speech unslurred by medication
I have resigned myself to death this year
Some will call this self-indulgence
(they are lucky not to know its truth)
Some will know the simple fact of pain
This is becoming my normality
In recent years, despite being highly underrated in her lifetime, the controversial works of Sarah Kane have gotten more attention and appreciation in recent years. As a result, monologues from her plays – such as this one – are now more likely to be chosen by performers for an upcoming audition. However, because they are now becoming more and more popular, they might not be as unique of a pick for a monologue as some of the actors picking them might think. So be sure to keep this in mind when you think about the possibility of using a Sarah Kane monologue for an audition.
• “End of play monologue” – From Christopher Durang’s Betty’s Summer Vacation
Where am I going to sleep tonight? I don’t know why the people in the ceiling let me leave. I don’t think I could have saved Mrs. Siezmagraff. I don’t feel too guilty about it. I mean, they all seemed really terrible. I feel bad for Trudy, sort of…but well, I don’t know what to think. Now, actually, I think I’d like to become a hermit. Or I might become a nun if I could live in a convent in an isolated area with no other people around, and where no one in the convent is allowed to speak ever. I’d like that if it was quiet, and peaceful, and if they didn’t care if I believed in God or not. Or maybe I could start my own community where people don’t speak. And we’d plant our own food, and we’d watch the birds in the trees. And maybe I’m having a breakdown. Or is it a breakthrough? Maybe it’s a bad dream I had, and am still having. But I seem to be on the beach. And the house seems to be smoldering somewhere behind me in the distance. Isn’t the sound of the ocean wonderful? What is it about it that sounds so wonderful? But it does. It makes me feel good. It makes me feel connected. Well, maybe I don’t have to join a convent where they don’t speak. Maybe that’s over-reacting. But it is hard to be around civilization. I don’t like people. But there are nice people, though, aren’t there? Yes, I’m sure you’re very nice – although I’m just trying to ingratiate myself to you so you don’t try to cut any of my body parts off. Now I’m sad. Now I’m frightened. No, now I’m fine. Listen to the ocean. That’s why I wanted to come on this vacation, and have a summer share at the beach. I wanted to hear the ocean. But you know I forgot to listen to it the whole time I was with those people. But I’m going to listen to it now. Oh that’s lovely. Yes. Ocean, waves, sand. I’m starting to feel better.
Of the monologues I placed on this list, this would actually have to be my personal favorite, as it is quite well-written. Yet apparently, many others consider it to be very well-written as well, as it is BY FAR one of the most popular female monologues seen at auditions in recent years. Be especially careful if you’re thinking about using this monologue.
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/