I just returned from the 2013 Southeastern Theatre Conference where I had a chance to audition high school juniors with my colleagues as part of the recruiting process for next year. My colleagues and I made a bet about how many monologues and songs of certain topics we would see during the day. Sadly, we were dead on; in fact I think we underestimated. Here are a few of the most dreaded monologue topics that we continue to see year after year. I’m sure this material has been covered before, but the message is not getting through to many students and/or teachers, so I thought it was worth repeating.
#1 – Suicide. Sadly real people commit suicide; I’ve known two people in the last year. Its not a topic for entertaining people. Does it need to be addressed? In the context of a show, yes. But as a monologue, it should be off limits. It brings everyone in the room down and it deals with a topic some people may not want to think about.
#2 – My life sucks/Teenage angst. We all know that the teenage years are some of the worst. You could not pay me enough to go back to being a teenager. However, “my life sucks” is not the message you want to give in an audition. It does not sell your skills, it just tells us more of what we already know – you’re a teenager, this is really hard, and you’re really nervous/scared.
#3 – Sex. Sorry, you’re too young. I’m not here to preach abstinence, but if you are having sex, we don’t need to know about it. I specifically do not want to hear any type of monologue that tells me about a sex-capade and then asks me a rhetorical question about it. For example: “We were really going at then my mom walked in the door. I’m sure you remember what that feels like…..” NO! Inappropriate.
#3B – Abortion. I left this off the original list and then L.A. Casting Director Dea Vise added it in a comment and she is absolutely correct. I thought I’d add it here in case you didn’t catch her comments. Its too controversial, its inappropriate, and its too dramatic.
#4 – “Haha look how funny I am.” Ok, so that’s not really a specific monologue, but I think you know what I’m talking about. This year it was some monologue about doing a comedy skit with a fake head strapped to your back or something along those lines. Not really that funny. You’re trying too hard; just be you. If you’re funny, then a simple comedic monologue will read funny.
#5 – Monologues talking about dead animals. Self explanatory.
#6 – “F$%^ that S&@#, I mean #$!%” A monologue is not a contest to see how many times you can swear in one sentence. Does it happen in adult theatre? Yes. But you’re still in high school, sorry its just weird and it makes us feel awkward and embarrassed for you.
#7 – Anything from Les Miserables. Its great material, but its too fresh in everyone’s minds. And please if you sing it anyway, do not try to recreate Anne Hathaway’s performance. She was wonderful, but there is only one Anne Hathaway in this world.
#8 – Excessive Screaming. Its too much, we want to hear you talk, not scream.
#9 – Did I mention Suicide, Sex, and Swearing? Just making sure.
#10 – Anything that attempts to impress us. We watch thousands of auditions every year. There is no material out there that can impress us. The only thing that really impresses us is when a young person walks in the room, stays true to themselves, presents a simple but well thought out package, and then talks to us afterwards with confidence, intelligence, and maturity. THAT is what we want to see.
I am a casting director in Los Angeles. I just wanted to say how absolutely *brilliant* and *dead on correct* this advice is! This advice works not only for high school students but also applies to *all actors*. We don’t want to see the gimmick. Gypsy Rose Lee was wrong or at least she is wrong in 2013. We want to see you come in the room, give us a view into YOU as the character, talk nicely and intelligently, and then hit the road.
All of the “other stuff” takes away from you. Matt is absolutely correct in every thing he says in this post. This blog is so valuable that you should print it out and memorize it. Granted, usually in Hollywood, you are handed a script and the material is the material, but that is for film and television. For theatre, you’re still going to have to whip out a monologue or two. Do what Matt says and stay away from suicide and the other subjects on this list. I’m going to add abortion to that list. Please don’t do abortion monologues. Thank you. Also, don’t bring a gun – real or otherwise. Don’t bring your dog. Be careful bringing your “friends” – the other day, I booked someone’s “friend” who was… sure, I’m willing to audition… and he lost the job. This sounds really rude, but we don’t want to shake your hands. That’s an L.A. thing. I don’t know about N.Y. It’s a germ thing. Yep.
Again, this is brilliant stuff. I haven’t met Matt, but hope to one day.
Break a leg,
(B.A. Fine Arts Drama U.T. Austin, M.A. Clinical Psychology Antioch L.A.)
Thank you so much for the feedback Dea. I can’t believe I forgot abortion – absolutely inappropriate. I’ll edit that in with a special thanks to you. Hope to meet you as well some day!
Thank you for this site. I plan to recommend it to my students. I am also a casting director in the DC region and even professional actors make inappropriate choices for monologues. Shock value is not synonymous with canny acting choices.
Thanks for the feedback! ~ Matt
Oh no! My audition is Saturday and suicide is my topic for my dramatic monologue.I have it perfected and memorized. What should I do?
Chelsea: Your audition is really close so you may need to just do what you’ve prepared. But start looking for something else for the future. If you can learn it by Saturday – great. If not, just do what you have prepared and try not to make it too over the top. Break a leg! ~ Matt
My school is doing a production of The Bald Soprano by Eugene Ionesco and I’m the maid. I have some long speeches that my voice teacher said might be good monologues for an open audition. I was thinking about doing them but I’m nervous that Theatre of the Absurd might be too much for a 13 year old girl to audition with.
I am so happy right now. Thank you! I am going to print and post this for my students in the Theatre department at Harrison School for the Arts. I’d also like to add that there is beautiful meaty material out there that is age appropriate, compelling and challenging. Many thank you’s!
Glad you found it useful! There will be a video version coming soon 🙂 Should be fun. ~Matt