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Handbook Appendices Forms Theatre Scholarships For Theatre Majors, Minors, and Intendeds University Theatre Handbook Table of Contents Theatre Home

C.6.c  Selecting your material. 

At the beginning of this brief discussion, it’s important to underline the assertion that you are not creating a story-driven experience of theatre in your audition.  So the material you choose should relate strongly to character or theme rather than plot.  Story details can be sacrificed, cut from the material in favor of character details or expression of ideas.

You want to discover materials to develop which will showcase your own particular abilities and not something you wish you could be or plan to be with more expe­rience.  You and your assessment of what you have to offer are the focus of auditions.

If you create a genuine experience of theatre in an audition, so much the better.  But it must come from an interesting character “turn” or from the casting director encountering new material or a distinctive reading of familiar material.  But it’s always better to settle for “showing your wares” than attempting to entertain or move your audience in such a short amount of time.

Also, remember that most auditions are for solitary performers, meaning that you are limited to monologues or sections of a script where other character responses are insignificant. 

A few other specifics:

  • The material you do must be of your own choosing, and something which has a per­sonal attraction for you.  It is not a good idea to ask a theatre teacher to hand you something.  Much better to find it on your own.
  • As a general rule, avoid being overly dependent on monologue books or popular plays.  These things are really overworked, and casting directors get tired of them really quickly.  And imagine going to an audition and finding other auditioners doing your mate­rial!  These materials may be helpful for the classroom and even practice auditions, but can be compromised in real situations.  
  • Avoid using a speech you have performed in a production.  Try as you might, you won’t be able to separate your delivery from the nuances, rhythms, and block­ing of that production, and lifting it out of context reduces your chances for honesty in your delivery of it.
  • Go to the library or other play script source and scan a number of plays for large speeches.  When you see one, read it and if it does not appeal to you in terms of the way it reveals character and employs language and allows for movement, leave it in.  If you like it, file it away for further thought.  You don’t even have to read the entire play until after you run several speeches through the large sieve on your way to a final choice.  Be careful, however, that while the monologues appeals to you it should also be universal enough to touch emotions in others.
  • Of course, there are other sources for audition materials other than plays:  novels, short stories, journals, essays, you name it.  You just need to be sure that they can be per­formed adequately, that they can have an external life as well as an inner one.  This usu­ally means that they need to be descriptive rather than overly introspective or philosophi­cal.  They should be rooted in situation to be most effective.
  • Wherever you find the material, it must be appropriate to you. 

1)     Choose it for your age.  In academic theatre you may be cast as some character well out of your actual age range, but his won’t likely happen in a professional setting. 

2)     Choose it for your vocal range.  Don’t try Shakespeare or the classics if you aren’t vocally prepared. 

3)     Choose it for your own interpretative ability.  Don’t attempt high-minded philosophical materials if you aren’t comfortable with them.  Nothing worse than a false attempt to sound high-minded.

The monologue material must also make sense on its own, without the need for elaborate explanation of story or character background.  You’ll be surprised at how many delightful possibilities this eliminates. 

The material must also fit within the time limit or be capable of being cut to fit.  Your introductions always count as part of your total time restriction.


And, finally, your audition piece needs to go somewhere.  Don’t settle for materials which are only descriptions of a place, a person, or a time.  They’re beautiful, oftentimes, but they won’t allow you to show your capabilities apart from a kind of wistfulness.  You need dramatic action.  More specifically, some form of conflict which can drive your piece—something to be solved, or a series of responses to something, or an internal problem to be wrestled to the ground.  It should build to some form of crisis which can be reached in the available amount of time.

You are advised to be constantly on the lookout for possible audition material.  Do not wait until the final moments to make important decisions.

So far, we have talked principally of prepared auditions.  These are the best kind, of course, but even in such a format you are bound to encounter some “cold reading.” 

You need to develop a knack for these things, but frequent reading of plays out loud with an actors delivery is excellent practice.  You learn, then, to focus on in-progress character development, on the nature of the sounded language, on the desirability of following punc­tuation, and on the development of your own wits.  Practice to focus in the moment, even when you haven’t prepared the material.  It’s not as difficult as it sounds.

You might try some of the above suggestions for your University Theatre auditions, and not just wait for the big time.  “Oh, these guys already know me,” you say.  Surprise them.  Surprise yourself.

Next Section: C7: Looking at Grad Work

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