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Careers Clinic: What audition monologue should I use?

John Byrne. Photo: Catherine Usher John Byrne. Photo: Catherine Usher
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After representing myself for a few years, I recently got an agent. Since then, I have definitely seen an uplift in the number of opportunities coming in, at least on the higher end of the pay scale.

Mostly, I either get sides to prepare or am asked to self-tape. My agent now tells me I have a meeting with a very well-regarded producer for an exciting regional tour. They have asked me to “bring my best monologue”. Of course, I said “no problem”, but I haven’t done a monologue since I was in drama school. I had a really good speech I worked up back then, but it was very much written for somebody in their late teens.

My playing age has gone up quite a bit since then. With only a few days left till the meeting, do you think I should try to make it work, or find a new one and start cramming?

JOHN BYRNE’S ADVICE It’s good business sense to keep up to date with the innovations in the industry, though personal taste and preferred ways of working also play a part. For example, most casting submissions are done online these days, but quite a few theatrical casting directors still prefer to receive hard-copy headshots and CVs, even if the casting call goes out electronically.

Not reading a brief properly and missing this stipulation can lead to a frantic gallop to the printers the day before the submission deadline. In the past, this wouldn’t have been necessary because every actor and agent had a supply of glossy headshots and printed CVs ready to go. It would be wise for any actor who is interested in the type of castings that still ask for hard copies to invest in a small supply ahead of time, rather than having to go through that last-minute dash scenario.

The same applies to monologues. They are probably requested less often than they used to be, but if they are needed for the kind of work you are seeking as an actor, they need to be in your toolbox ahead of time. When it comes to monologues, advance prep is probably even more essential. A hardcopy headshot printed out the night before has as much chance of getting you in the room as one you have had waiting there for ages (assuming the headshot still looks like you).

On the other hand, a monologue is designed to show you at your best and most castable right now. One that has been hastily learned the night before or that used to work for you when you were a drama student may not achieve the same effect. In general, the rapid physical changes and maturing that often occur between late teens and early adulthood can quickly render many graduate casting tools obsolete.

Taking into account the limited time you have for this particular meeting, if you can adapt it to suit an older character, do. But if that can’t be done without severe stretching of credibility, it is best to find a more suitable one as quickly as you can.

Once this specific emergency is over, get busy with what every actor should be doing during downtime anyway: making sure all their essential tools are in place before the next casting rolls around.

Something you should certainly investigate to become ‘monologue ready’ are showcases and scratch events where you can refine your chosen pieces in front of a live audience. This can greatly increase your confidence for the next time you are in the casting room.

Contact careers adviser John Byrne at dearjohn@thestage.co.uk or @dearjohnbyrne

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