How do I Choose a Monologue for an Audition?

Jessica Ellis

Most auditions for plays, musicals or theatrical companies involve a performance of a monologue to evaluate skill level. These are generally one or two minute speeches from a play. Which speech an actor chooses can have an enormous impact on their ability to get a part, or earn a place in a company.

Monologues for an audition are generally one or two minutes speeches.
Monologues for an audition are generally one or two minutes speeches.

In choosing a monologue, many experts believe the most important factor is knowing what the genre of the play you are auditioning for. Is it a comedy or tragedy? Shakespeare or Rogers and Hammerstein? In choosing an audition piece, you should ideally look for a speech that is of the same style, time period, or author as the play you are trying out for. It is not recommended that you choose a piece from the actual play you are auditioning for, and some auditioners expressly forbid doing this.

Choosing a famous monologue, such as "To be or not to be" from "Hamlet," might be unwise for an audition.
Choosing a famous monologue, such as "To be or not to be" from "Hamlet," might be unwise for an audition.

Get started

Want to automatically save money while you shop online?

Join 3 million Wikibuy users who have found 
$70 million in savings over the last year.

Wikibuy compensates us when you install Wikibuy using the links we provided.

It is also helpful to know the specific characters of the play. If the lead character in the play is a 50 year-old, depressed woman, you do not want to audition with a monologue from a 20 year-old, happy-go-lucky cowgirl. One goal of an audition is to get the auditioners to imagine you in your desired role. By choosing a speech that might be given by a similar character, you can give them a picture of how you would do in the part.

In auditioning for a theater company or repertory, auditioners may ask for contrasting monologues. Generally, this means two monologues contrasting in tone and time period. For example, you could perform a dramatic Shakespeare piece, and a farcical modern one. Alternatively, you could do a comedic speech from one of Oscar Wilde’s 19th century dramas, and a gritty dramatic monologue from a modern work. With contrasting monologues, auditioners are looking for at how wide your range of performance is, so be sure to choose pieces as different from each other as possible.

When you are choosing your monologue, it is tempting to do a rendition of a famous speech from a play. This is not recommended by most auditioners. With a famous piece, such as the “To Be Or Not To Be” speech in Hamlet, experienced theatrical professionals are likely to have heard it dozens or hundreds of times, and may be bored. If you love a famous character and wish to use one of their monologues, choose one that is not well known.

Many people use monologue books to help them find material. Many are available at bookstores, and they can be very useful tools. These books are particularly helpful if you are in a hurry to find a piece, as they are often indexed by subject, time period, or style. You may not want to rely on them totally however, as many people use them and it can lead to repetition of pieces.

Some theater experts recommend that you have a portfolio of four or five monologues memorized at all times, so that you are ready for any audition. The portfolio should consist of at least two comedic and two dramatic pieces, and one “wild card” monologue that can be used for an unusual situation. Two of your portfolio pieces should be pre-20th century, and two should be contemporary. Having a portfolio memorized allows you to prepare for an audition at leisure, rather than rushing to memorize a new monologue on short notice.

Choose a monologue from a similar character when auditioning.
Choose a monologue from a similar character when auditioning.

You might also Like

Discussion Comments


One of my acting professors in college warned against giving a monologue that you wrote yourself. While most people would probably never consider this, a woman came in to audition for him- he was a well known regional director as well as a professor- and said that she had written her own piece. He said, "okay," and she proceeded to get within about six inches of his face and start shouting expletives at him. He never forgot her, but he also never cast her.


It helps to have at least five monologues memorized at any given time because you never know when, at an audition, directors will ask you, "So, do you have another piece as well?" If you are trying to get the part, this is a question you absolutely have to be able to answer "Yes." to. If you audition with an excellent piece from a Greek Tragedy like Oedipus, for example, and they ask you if you have something postmodern and you don't, they will turn to someone who seems more flexible, because that flexibility will be seen as a form of experience.


The other problem with monologue books is that they do not provide the entire play that the work comes from, which makes it hard for an actor to find the text within its entire context- something that is impotrant for an actor to be able to do. Directors do not just want you to be able to do a funny or dramatic monologue, they want to be able to see you play Hamlet after 5 acts of trying to catch Claudius, or A Midsummer Night's Dream's Nick Bottom after having gone to the fairyland and then come back; not just a clip of the character with no regard to what happened before.

Post your comments
Forgot password?