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.