Monologues are the main way that drama schools test if you are a suitable potential student. One of the big problems is that they are testing your acting through a skill which you perhaps have not had time, or opportunity to develop. At Acting Coach Scotland, we believe that monologues are a discrete skill of their own, related to but different from acting ordinary scenes.
Here are the 3 biggest mistakes that people make when they are preparing their drama school audition monologues.
1) Treating the monologue like one big lump of text
This is probably the most frequent mistake that people make with their drama school audition monologues. They see a large lump of text and treat it like it’s just one person having a big rant.
A monologue is not a big lump of text, that's just how it's presented on the page. A monologue is a series of chunks of dialogue, presented in a big lump. When acting the monologue, the text of the script needs to be broken down into smaller thought chunks, and these should be treated like dialogue where the other character doesn't speak.
2) Picking one emotion and just escalating it
This is definitely the second most frequent mistake that people make with monologues. If you check YouTube for monologues you can see this happening every day of the week.
People end up getting stuck with their first initial thoughts, and they paint the entire monologue in one general colour, one strong emotion.
But since you can't really act a large amount of text in one way, they then tend to understand things probably need to be more intense as they get towards the end of the monologue (the climax) and therefore they become just more of that one thing.
So if they started off as angry, they will go 1) Angry 2) Angrier 3) Much Angrier 4) A good impression of a lot angrier and that's where they finish.
But no one wants to watch that monologue. they understood what you doing in the first 10 seconds and the rest of the monologue was wasted because their brain turned off.
3) Failing to make the words your own.
Most people doing an audition for drama school are not experienced enough to have an audition preparation technique of their own. We find that even those with several years of drama school audition experience, do not have a process that they use to successfully burrow beneath the surface of the text to the intention of the character - in a line by line chunk by chunk way.
Inevitably that means that they try to act out the surface or literal meaning of the text and very few people are good enough of that to be accepted by drama school on the basis of it.
It's our opinion that to get into drama school you need to have a process that encourages you to look subtextually from the intention of the character to the individual lines. So that when you make that subtextual connection, the words of the monologue come to life. It's like when you come to life under the monologue, the words come to life with you. That's quite a different way from you trying to act out the lines.
Need help with drama school audition monologues? We have a phenomenal success rate. Get in touch, we can with you in person, or via Skype.
Mark Westbrook is an audition success coach at Acting Coach Scotland.