actor's monologue

Business Basics: The Actor’s Monologue

The monologue. I remember the first time I was asked if I had one. My booker in San Francisco called me to say that an L.A. casting agent was in town, hunting for new talent for the pilot season, and could I come down to meet her and perform my piece. Up until then, I’d really only done print and had minimal acting training. I didn’t have a monologue- it didn’t even occur to me that I should have one. My booker sighed and said, “Okay, no problem. Next time.” Heartbreak. I missed a real opportunity. Scores of actors flock to L.A. during pilot season, looking for their moments in front of the networks. And here, a casting agent was ten minutes from my apartment, and I wasn’t ready for it.

Be prepared. Do the work. Let’s talk about different types of monologues and what they’re used for.

Corporate/Spokesperson: This is a professional piece designed to give information to the viewer. These types of monologues are used a lot in San Francisco because of the tech industry. Mine is about a minute long. Type of work: Industrials, B2B, online tutorials

Here’s a corporate piece I did for IBM as reference. (In my serious voice).

Dramatic: This one is used for television, film, and theatre. There are loads of monologues online to choose from, but choose one that fits your type and that resonates with you. I chose Maggie Fitzgerald’s speech in Million Dollar Baby because it’s heartfelt, vulnerable, and delivers two contrasting emotions at the same time: she’s being bold and defiant in trying to convince Frankie Dunn to train her, and she’s mired in fear at the thought of missing her chance. This one is between 1-2 minutes long. This link can’t be embedded but it’s worth watching her performance. I memorized up until about 1:10.

Note: I purposefully didn’t watch this performance or look in the mirror when I memorized the lines. I wanted it to be me, not a poor parroting of Swank’s performance, and watching myself in the mirror removes authenticity and makes it feel contrived. Dramatic acting is about listening and responding, not posing in either action or word.

Comedic: If you’re a comedy actor, you should have a witty piece to show your range, timing, and delivery. Comedy is so so tough—I haven’t even come close to nailing this one. It takes a special soul to make others laugh. I have one about a psychotic woman trying to conquer online dating, but it needs a LOT of work. It’s about two minutes long.

Theatrical: If you’re a stage actor, you usually work on these during your training. Shakespearian, modern theatre, whatever you bag is, usually the theatre actor selects a piece (or pieces) that show depth of character and the ability to project well in front of a live audience. This is pure performance, and the delivery and voice of the theatre monologue is distinctly different than an on-camera delivery.

Personally, I don’t try to be something I’m not. Investing effort into an area where I’m unlikely to get work doesn’t make a ton of sense for me, so I spend most of my time polishing my corporate and dramatic pieces. Check out my post on script memorization to prepare.

Like anything else in this business, it really depends on you, what you’re into, what you’re good at, and what you love.

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