One Minute Monologue

The One Minute

Monologue

and why I Love it

By David Bricquet

Camelot and the Not So Storybook Ending

At 17 I auditioned at Casa Manana, one of the more prestigious theatres in my hometown, Fort Worth, TX. I was ecstatic. I'd dreamed about performing there for years. Certainly this audition would be the springboard for a brilliant career full of accolades and acceptance and high profile parties with celebrities. Surely the girl from second period English would come, see me onstage and insist we spend the rest of our lives basking in each others awesomeness. I just knew everyone would love me. All I had to do was nail this audition.

In the past, Artistic Director Joel Ferrell asked for short monologues. But being a musical, the short monologue was replaced with a series of line readings. He was more interested in singing and how we moved. At the time, I was fair at both, but great at neither. After a brief line read and a few bars of prepared music I was cast as the Herald in their fall production of Camelot. The Herald was a small non-Equity singing role with just enough stage time to annoy everyone.

At the time I was still in high school and had little understanding of theatre culture. I had no knowledge of professionalism or how to comport myself. From time immemorable, my family stock produced laborers, farmers, accountants, business owners, and even an engineer or two. We never produced an actor or anyone from the creative class. The world of theatre was a mystery and it seduced me with all of its frightening beauty. But like every new world, it has it's own rules, outrageous stories and codes of conduct which to the outsider would seem absurd or strange.

It was this lack of understanding and experience that became a hard lesson learned. I showed up late regularly. I had two lines, but out of boredom, I found a way to change them nearly every performance. Place props? Nope. Find my lighting? Forget it. Joel had to remind me I was standing in the dark so often he wrote the note every night assuming it would happen again. I was a total nightmare.  My performance probably looked fine from the audience. But the cast hated me and the production suffered from my lack of experience and unprofessionalism. The girl from second period never came to the show. There were no roses or accolades or celebration. I was a puerile 17 year old pain in the ass. Had Joel conducted a monologue as normal, he would have filtered out my inexperience and never made the mistake of hiring me.

 

"Had Joel conducted a monologue as normal, he would have filtered out my inexperience and never made the mistake of hiring me."

Why I Love the One Minute Monologue

Cold Readings have their place but are not a very good gatekeeper. For me, the first round of auditions is the gatekeeper round. Yes, talent is important. However, it's more important  to weed out anyone who may be lazy, entitled, difficult or have a poor work ethic. Can I really tell this from one minute? Yes! And I can do it almost every time. Very little of this can be gleaned from a cold reading, movement exercise or personal interview.
What does your one minute monologue tell me?

 

 

A) Your General Level of Preparation, Training and Professionalism

 
-Are you memorized and ready to go?
-Did you find your light?
-Do you know how to slate?
-If asked, do you have at least one more monologue prepared?
-Are you respectful of time?
-Shows me if you know how to project, breath, speak from your diaphragm
-Are you comfortable on stage?
-Do you understand your stage, space and audience?
-If directed, do you know basic stage directions and terminology?

B) Your Work Ethic, Adaptability and Commitment to your Craft

 
-Do you understand the text, subtext and motivations?
-Did your character transform? Did you take us on a journey?
-If given new direction and tactics, how willing and well can you perform your monologue? (This tells me a lot about an actor's ability to adapt and take direction)
-Do you understand the wide scope of the piece?
-Did you research and study your piece/character?

C) Self Awareness as an Artist

-Did you pick a piece that is age, gender, ethnicity etc appropriate?
-Did you pick an outfit that allows you to move and express your piece easily.
-Are you passionate about your monologue? Are you connected to the subject and lines?
-Did you choose a piece that is pertenant to the role you are after.
 

Selecting a Monologue for Working Actors

Here is a short list I have gathered over the years. In most cases these will help you find a monologue right for you. They also tell me most everything I need to know in that gatekeeper round of auditions:

1.) Always! Always! Always have more than one monologue committed to memory.  I don't mean you stumble through it. I mean you can say it backwards and forward in your sleep, complete with an understanding of subtext and guidelines for movement. If you are a regularly working stage actor, you should have 3 to 5 ready to go at any time . A typical breakdown might be:
 
 ~1 Contemporary Comedy
 ~1 Contemporary Serious
 
If you audition for the classics you should also know:
 
 ~1 Classical (Shakespeare, Greek or Restoration etc) comedy
 ~1 Classical serious
 
As a bonus you might know:
~1 performance piece or stand up routine
 
2.) Choose a monologue that evokes your passion. Select something you feel important or touches you in some way. Simply put, If it isn't important to you it won't be important to anyone else.
 
 3.) Select a monologue reasonably within your age range.
 
 4.) If a monologue is explicitly intended for a particular gender or ethnicity it would be wise to be a member of that gender and ethnicity. If you are a 25 year old white woman, don't audition with the Troy Maxson monologue from Fences. However, most monologues are ethnicity and often gender neutral, allowing them to be performed by almost anyone. If you are unsure, it's probably not right for you.
 
 5.) You must have an emotional transition within the writing and interpretation of your monologue. A character should experience a change in him/herself by the end of the piece. Good stories take the listener on a journey. Good monologues do the same.
 
 6.) Do not use a piece that is overly popular. Research. There are hundreds of thousands of monologues waiting to be found. Look for them.
 
 7.) If you are performing a piece with a notable performance associated, do not under any circumstances mimic the actor's performance. While this can be entertaining in some circles, this does not show critical understanding of the character and it is not good acting.
 
 8.) Select a monologue that is pertenant to the audition and the part you want. It's not necessary to select a piece that requires an in depth understanding of Elizabethan tragedy if you are auditioning for Carrie, the Musical. Your interpretation of Lady MacBeth will probably not impress the Director.
 
 9.) If you do not have experience cutting a script then do not take words or lines out of your monologue. There are certain elements many directors look for. Cutting lines may remove them. Find an experienced person to cut your lines.
 
 10.) An accent is a high risk, low reward technique. It is not considered wise to choose a monologue that requires an accent unless it is required in the part.
 
 11.)If you are set on performing a character that is edgy, moody, or an altogether despicable human being, be certain that you can empathize with them in some way. If you cannot find the humanity in a character, your audience won't want to watch.
 
 12.) Stay away from characters that are overly sarcastic. This is a major pitfall for many young actors. While sarcasm may be fun, it shows virtually nothing of your acting ability. This is because sarcasm invests very little emotionally. Sarcasm removes the emotion from yourself and places the focus on who you are speaking to or about. Not to mention sarcasm becomes stale very quickly.
 
 13.) Look up words you don't understand.
 
 14.) Be mindful of the time restrictions on your monologue.
 
 15.) Learn to slate properly
 
 16.) Find your light (if applicable)
 
 17.)Find organic levels either vocally or physically. Preferably both.
 
 18.) Within reason, use the space allowed. Explore
 
 19.) Come slightly early, sober and ready to go.
 
 20.) Drink plenty of water throughout the day before your audition. Your nerves may cause you to have dry mouth. Also avoid dairy. It tends to do the same thing.
 

I hope this helps you understand what many directors may look for in a monologue audition and why it truly is one of the best ways to ensure a hard working and cohesive production.

-David Bricquet

Managing Director OKCTC