Don’t Do These 7 Things When Choosing a Monologue
Here are some things you should absolutely avoid when choosing your next monologue
(by Jim Webb)
Are you looking for a new monologue? Don’t know which one you should choose?
Well, I’ve got some bad news for you: I don’t know which monologue you should choose either. Can’t help you with that. Sorry!
The good news is, I can offer you some sage advice on the 7 things you should absolutely, positively, 100% avoid when choosing your monologue.
1. Don’t Choose a Random Monologue
There are a jillion monologues in the world for you to choose from. There are monologues from plays, monologues from movies, monologues from television shows, free-standing monologues, comedic monologues, dramatic monologues, Shakespearean monologues, monologues for men, monologues for women…
Ok, I’m beginning to sound like Bubba from Forest Gump, listing the different kinds of shrimp.
You get the point, though, right? There’s a lot to choose from. It would be a mistake to randomly choose one.
Start with an objective. What are you trying to accomplish? Which types of roles are you hoping your monologue will help you win? Who will see you perform your monologue? Which type of monologue is most likely to impress them?
2. Don’t Choose a Crude Monologue
You might think it’s funny to choose a monologue that has your character making sexually-suggestive noises, but this is a risk that you should avoid. Everyone has different tastes and different comfort levels. What might be funny to you could be downright offensive to your audience.
More crude or uncomfortable content you should avoid can include:
*contemporary political material
*content with extremely foul language
3. Don’t Choose a Super-Heavy Monologue
It may sound like a good idea to choose a monologue that features your character crying about your boyfriend who is dying of cancer, who is then shot by a stray bullet and then is runover by a passing vehicle and dies in the street.
But think of how your audience will process this monologue.
A monologue like this would be information-overload. The viewer would become so lost in all the extraordinary information your character is presenting that they would lose sight of what’s really important: your performance!
So, don’t choose a piece that is super-heavy in nature.
4. Don’t Choose a Very Long Monologue
Human beings have always had short attention spans. These days, with the advent of the internet, social media and instant-everything, we are all borderline ADD.
Pro tip: Try not to choose a monologue that goes more than 90 seconds or so.
Choosing a lengthy monologue is toxic to your performance. Midway through your performance, your viewer will begin to wonder when will it all end. The last thing you want is for them to wonder when it’ll be over. You, instead, want them to hope it never ends.
Keep it short and sweet!
5. Don’t Choose an Incomplete Monologue
Keep it short and sweet…and complete!
Just because you choose a monologue that is short and sweet doesn’t mean it should be incomplete. It must be complete.
By “complete” I mean, there should be an arc to the story. It should have something that resembles a beginning, middle and ending. Tell a full story. Take your viewer on a very brief journey that quickly arrives at a destination. You shouldn’t already be at your destination as soon as your monologue begins.
6. Don’t Choose a One-Emotion Monologue
Anger, for example, is an interesting emotion to watch. But it is only interesting in a theatrical performance when you don’t begin by being extremely angry. It’s only interesting when you allow the audience to see the anger grow and build.
Pro tip: Don’t begin your monologue at level 10. If you begin at level 10, there’s nowhere else for it to go.
The audience begins to wonder:
“How angry will this character become?”
“What will this character do once their anger boils over?”
“What will they say next? What will they do next? Will there be violence?”
Choose a monologue that allows you to a range of emotion, not just one level.
7. Don’t Choose a Famous Monologue
Do you think you’re a better actor than Tom Cruise?
You want the truth? YOU CAN’T HANDLE THE TRUTH!
And the truth is, it doesn’t matter if you are a better actor than Tom Cruise. Because, you’ll never perform a famous Tom Cruise monologue better than he can (or any other famous actor). They’ve already made that monologue famous. Anyone else who performs it will inevitably be seen as giving a cheap impersonation of the original.
Choose an obscure, lesser-known monologue; one that most people wouldn’t recognize. That way, you can make it your own!
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