As performers on Broadway, we usually know and love many of the scenes and monologs from all the greatest plays and musicals. Theater is in our blood and it’s our privilege to be able to rub shoulders with some of the most well known performers, producers and show people who ever performed on Broadway, on a day-to-day basis.
I know scenes from my favorite musicals off by heart. I’m talking about Velma Kelly’s monolog from Chicago … “It wasn’t until later when I was washing the blood off my hands, I even knew they were dead.” I play that so cool and toned down; Velma’s not hysterical in that scene – she’s hardly even serious.
Then there’s the character of Sally Bowles in Cabaret. I just really try to imitate Liza Minelli if I’m singing that song as an audition piece – an imitation is a form of flattery, right? The way she belts it out but keeps the melancholy just below the surface. It’s a fantastic audition piece that you can really pour your heart into.
Still finding a killer monolog is not always easy, because you want to be seen to respect the theater, but you also want to stand out and really let the people who are auditioning you know that they’ve found a special talent.
So searching for a great monolog is something that Broadway performers do in their spare time that is when we’re not performing rehearsing or auditioning. Looking for a great monolog is not really a chore. I love reading plays and scripts from movies, as well as word-for-word transcripts of musical theater productions. Reading makes me feel passionate about the theater again; it’s one of the ways I renew my spark and love for my life in the crazy world of the theater.
My parents were theater people, as I’ve mentioned before and I have asked them both about great monologs. They both told me about reading great American plays and even TV scripts if I can get my hands on them. A good audition monolog has got to really resonate with me. It doesn’t have to be a monolog from a part I would love to play, but it must be a monolog from a character that moves me, whether in a good or a bad way.
Another way of finding a great monolog is talking to writers if you know any. Writers are usually tuned in and aware of the best plays, speeches, and novels. I’ve found out that reading novels is a good way to find potential monologs.
For instance, the novel Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov is full of intense soliloquies spoken by Humbert, the man who loves his teenage nymphet Lolita so humbly and agonizingly. I would need to change my gender to play the role of Humbert, but as audition monologs, Humbert’s soliloquies are opportunities to demonstrate the depth and the varying characterizations I can bring to a role. The novel Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen, an English novelist, also contains many passages that can be transformed into monologues. To turn a speech from a novel into a monologue for an audition on Broadway, I may need to cut out some lines from other characters, or some descriptive writing and then merge the bits that I have chosen into a fantastic monologue that gets me the part I want.