Welcome to our free monologue class. Whether you are preparing an audition monologue or just preparing a monologue for acting class, this step by step guide should help. When you feel ready, you can upload your acting monologue to get feedback.
1) Read the play or screenplay your monologue is from
For monologues from plays, read the play… once, twice, three times.
Just read the play for fun the first time.
The second time, read the play trying to find the theme (what the playwright is trying to say).
The third time, read the play looking for character clues. Write down anything the play tells you about the character in your acting monologue: who they are, what they are doing, where they are, who they interact with, what they want, who stands in their way, etc.
If your monologue is from a movie, try to read the original screenplay when you can (the one with character descriptions) rather than watch the movie, so you will not be influenced by what another actor did.
If you are working on an acting monologue that is not from a play or movie or that is from unpublished work, then you can skip this step. Later, you can fill all the blanks with your imagination.
The first step, of course, is to choose your acting monologue. Click here for a selection of good audition monologues from plays and movies, as well as monologue book suggestions. You can also purchase one of our original dramatic monologues or comedic monologues.
2) Really Understand your Acting Monologue
The worst thing you can do when you start working on a monologue is jump into trying to learn lines and performing it, because that’s the easiest way to get stuck in a pattern, a specific way of saying the lines. Even if you naturally connect to the piece, delivering your monologue the same way every time is a sure way of ending up with a stale performance where you’ll eventually have to indicate and “fake it”.
The first thing to do when you get your acting monologue is to understand it. It seems obvious but a lot of actors never take the time to fully understand what is going on in a monologue.
There are many ways to “mine your monologue”.
- Ask yourself of every line, “what does this mean”, “why am I saying this”, “what am I trying to communicate here”.
- Paraphrase every line. Say it in your own words. Write the subtext.
- Partner up with a friend or other actor and say your lines to them one by one, concentrating only on communicating the meaning of each line to them and making sure you get your point across. This is a great little exercise to start experiencing your lines and understanding what your character wants.
- Look for the objective of your monologue. What does your character want in this monologue? What stands in his/her way?
Not sure what the overall objective of your acting monologue is?
Monologues from plays and movies are rarely put in as a showpiece for an actor. Usually, like every acting scene in the plot, the writer has a very good reason for including it. Actually, acting monologues often reflect pivotal plot or character moments.
Ask yourself what would be different if your monologue was not in the play or film and you’ll usually have the answer to what your monologue accomplishes.
Now you know your objective, break your monologue down into single actions you take to achieve your objective. You can write down one action verb for each action you take.
3) From understanding to experiencing the lines
Truly understanding your acting monologue doesn’t mean you connect with it. For example, you can understand that Macbeth feels guilt after killing the king and not feel guilt yourself.
So how do you make that leap?
That’s the fun part of acting, the place where you get to use your creative imagination!
A good place to start is the magic if. Ask yourself, “What if this was really happening to me?” In the example of Macbeth, you could ask, “What if I had let myself be convinced to kill another?”; “What would I do?”, “How would I feel?” Start letting your imagination go.
You can use substitutions. For example, you could recall a time when you did something you weren’t proud of because of peer pressure, or you could remember a situation where you didn’t want to be found out. Nothing will be as serious as the murder in Macbeth, of course, but it doesn’t matter. Going through this “as if” process gets the ball rolling and helps you start to emphasize with your character more and more (see the character development page for more).
Monologue Class Tip – Creating a Partner
What makes acting monologues particularly hard is you’re on your own. Most of us don’t talk to ourselves so monologues can feel weird and unnatural.
But they don’t have to be.
All you have to do is create the person you’re talking to, again using your imagination. Take the time to understand the relationship between your character and who you are talking to and imagine you are talking to someone you have a similar relationship with.
What if your character isn’t talking to anyone like in many Shakespeare monologues?
Actually, your character is talking to someone… themselves! If you think about it, we have inner monologues all the time, just not aloud. Study your own inner monologues and you’ll see you’re usually trying to figure something out or convince yourself of something, so see if that will work for your monologue.
And don’t forget the audience. Don’t make eye contact with anyone in particular, but remember that the audience can be a character in itself.
4) Learn your Lines
The last step is to learn your lines very well so they become something you never have to worry about and don’t stand in the way of your acting.
Click here if you find learning lines a challenge.
Hope this monologue class on how to work on a monologue was helpful.
How do you know your audition monologues are ready?
Whether you’re going after Hollywood acting jobs or stage plays, if you don’t remember exactly what you did by the time you finish your acting monologue, that’s a good sign. It means you were in the moment and therefore not faking!