Real talk, ladies - picking an audition monologue can be a nightmare. This is a choice that has so much weight behind it that it can often induce as much anxiety as the audition itself. But never fear. While it may take some time and effort, finding the right audition monologue is all a matter of knowing where, and how, to look.
Here's a list of tips to get you started, followed by some key pointers on specific topics.
1. Choose Within Your Type - This is your basic starting point. Ask close friends, actors, and acting coaches or teachers to give you a list of adjectives that fit your personality. Based on this information, find characters who displays these traits. Then hunt for longer speeches.
2. Choose Outside Your Type, Sometimes - You don't want to be pigeonholed, and no monologue is going to be perfect for EVERY character you audition for. Avoid going far outside your age, gender, or ethnicity, particularly in well-known plays. You can bend these rules, but avoid anything that would reveal the changes in the text of the actual monologue itself.
3. Action! - Find a monologue where the character is DOING something rather than telling a story. Unless you are auditioning for a narrator, this will always be the right choice. You want to showcase your talents, not the playwright's.
4. Find the Arc - Make sure the monologue has clear beats. Does it escalate? Does it shift? Does it surprise? A good monologue is a journey, not a pit-stop. Also, everyone likes a success story, so make sure your character is fighting.
5. Avoid Emotional Extremes - This seems counter-intuitive. Don't you want to blow their socks off? Well, yes and no. Picking something extreme can create too great a challenge in the audition room. You want to make clear, bold choices, but you also want to avoid overacting or forcing your performance, so something smaller but honest will be much more memorable - and more easily achieved. Remember: callbacks get you jobs, not auditions. The audition is only the first step, so don't try to do everything in one go.
6. Personal Connection - Found the perfect monologue based on everything above but it doesn't make you feel anything? Trust your gut and don't use it. Furthermore, keep yourself attuned so that if an old favorite goes stale, you can acknowledge it and search for something new that affects you more. In time, you may rediscover your connection to the old piece, but don't try to force or ignore any disconnect.
There are plenty of monologue books that advertise themselves as having the best audition monologues for young women. Most of these books are gobbled up by eager students and seen by casting directors far too often to have any effect.
These can be useful resources, just don't treat them as holy texts. Furthermore, all actors are on a budget, so rather than buying them, consider renting them out of a library or browse them in the bookstore to find the one or two that work for you, then commit them to memory.
Common knowledge tells us that Shakespeare is always great for monologues, but frankly Shakespeare's dramatis personae skew overwhelmingly male. Female characters are in short supply, so finding a female-friendly monologue can be difficult, particularly if you don't want one that the casting director has seen a billion times ("The quality of mercy is not strained...")
If you want something original, a good place to start is http://www.shakespeare-monologues.org. This is a free site that isolates longer speeches in each play, and the best part is that you can filter through the plays based on gender. However, it does not include The Two Noble Kinsmen; when it comes to audition monologues for young women, the Gaoler's Daughter is a treasure trove waiting to be discovered by any young actress - seriously, check her out. Whatever method you use to hunt, be sure to keep in mind the tips listed above.
Any acting or audition class will tell you not to pull monologues from movies for various different reasons that I won't repeat here. 99% of the time, if you think you have a good reason to ignore this advice, you are wrong. The common wisdom is on point here. Just don't.
Regardless of what you decide, remember that the monologue you learned was chosen for a reason. Second guessing yourself right before an audition will get you nowhere. Eventually, you have to walk into that audition room with pride and certainty. At the end of the day, a monologue is only words on a page. What you bring to it is the real key to a great audition.