Ready, Set, Monologue!

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If you’re preparing for a Wolf Trap Opera Studio audition, you are probably thinking about what monologue to offer. (And – inside your head – you’re probably cursing us for requiring one.) Don’t despair. Read on for some advice and resources (including some links that caused me to fall down a most enjoyable monologue internet rabbit hole…)

But before we go on, permit me a few words about why we do this.

7.5 minutes (the length of a SA audition) is a very short amount of time, and we are keen to learn as much as possible about you as an artist, a singer, an actor, and a person. Because many performers in their early 20’s (average age for a Studio Artist applicant) are still in a period of intensive technical skill building, a disproportionate amount of audition energy and focus can go into marshaling their vocal toolbox. It doesn’t necessarily mean that their performances aren’t compelling, but it often doesn’t really tap into the strength and nuance that will come as communication skills become integrated with musical ones. And we find that when we briefly remove the vocal component, we sometimes have a chance to learn a bit more about the actor in front of us.

OK, now a few practical considerations:

  • It’s only one minute. Time yourself. It’s likely that you have waaaay more material than you actually can fit in the time slot.
  • We’re looking for contemporary language: no Shakespeare or Oscar Wilde please. (If Tommy proposes to us ONE MORE TIME we will lose our minds). And we don’t need accent work unless it’s truly a strong/unique/well-developed skill.
  • Give us as much emotional range as the teeny time frame will allow. No one likes to be yelled at for a full minute…
  • Know your audience. If you can’t deliver the piece in front of a panel with women your mom’s age behind the table, choose something else. (For the record, we’re not against swearing or adult content! But we are against an actor misjudging his comfort level and flubbing it out of embarrassment or lack of confidence.)
  • Skip the anthologies. Either do your due diligence and read the play or see a good TV show/movie and transcribe something.
  • If you go with a play, you can’t go wrong with the modern master playwrights: Mamet, O’Neill, Labute, Miller, Williams, Shepard, Albee, Wilson, Kushner…
  • Some folks in the past have done dramatic readings of song lyrics. The results have been mixed, mostly because we have less traction with gangsta rap and top 40 than you might expect. The novelty aspect doesn’t land if we don’t know the tune you’re performing, and song lyrics typically don’t have the same punch without the musical underpinnings.
  • In most cases you’re not singing pieces that you auditioned with in high school: in that same vein, consider whether that speech from your high school production of The Fantasticks or Guys & Dolls shows you in the best young-professional dramatic light.
  • Pick something you like! A scene from a favorite movie or TV show, from a character that you identify with will always be a stronger bet than something that you dutifully phone in.

Ready to do some surfing? Click away.

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