If you live or audition in Seattle, you probably see the occasional casting call asking you to audition with a monologue. So, you had better have a few at the ready, in case they are asked for.
A while back, I checked in with our community about film casting and monologues, and it sparked quite a conversation. Read about it now!
Reading From Sides vs. Monologues.
Directors/Producers: What do you prefer to see?“Sides. Always.” – Douglas Willott“Sides. No question.” – John Ulman“I always prefer to read sides.” – Sarah J. Eagan“Mono for theatre, and sides for film is usually the way to go. However, I would love to start seeing sides in theatre as well. That would be awesome. I mean, seriously, will Shakespeare really get me a film gig? If it’s not a Shakepeare movie? No, no it won’t.” – Scott C. Brown
“As an actor, and sometimes director/producer, I prefer sides, but I like actors to know monologues because it shows you know how to handle dialogue. But if somebody asks me to do a monologue in a film audition, I usually think they’re not really professional. I feel like in film, casting is looking for 1) your look and 2) if how you deliver the lines is believable (i.e. if you what do what the role is interesting) and sides are more appropriate. In theater, I think they’re (also) looking at your range and emotional life and how you would move physically and emotionally with a piece and your choice of that piece informs them of what kind of person you are and characters you play.” – Ashley Cozine
“I like to see monologues. That way I can see how someone compliments the roll rather than trying to fit into a character that we haven’t discussed yet.” – Jerry Nash
“Jerry, how on earth is that statement possible? I can’t pick a monologue to do for you based on complimenting a role I know nothing about. I am intrigued by that statement.” – Scott C. Brown
“I want an actor to bring a monologue to the table that fits them. The last thing I want is someone who is trying too hard to be something or someone they aren’t. Example; outspoken vs. contained.” – Jerry Nash
“Ah, a monologue that is suited to the actor, not the character. THAT makes total sense.” – Scott C. Brown
“I totally get that Scott. We actually had one actor change our minds about the character because of the choice he made. We did “direct” those struggling with the idea as well. It sadly became comical with one or two because for some reason they could just not do it. One insisted on “telling” us how his character felt and after asking him to “show” us, “be” it three times we just had to thank him and call it good. I hope as a producer I give the opportunity to actors to bring all they can bring to an audition. This has been awesome dialogue.” – Tonya Skoog Yorke
“I prefer sides to monologues anyday. I have no problem doing monologues, but in accord with Ashley, a monologue for a film…Hello?” – Thomas Brophy
“My point is more broad. From a monologue I should be able to tell right away how genuine the actor is. I like to decide what roll an actor is to be in, not them. Plus, I don’t think I’ve ever met an actor that didn’t know what sort of movie/play they were auditioning for.” – Jerry Nash
“Jerry, I almost always know what I am auditioning for, but that means nothing. I could see something one way, in my mind, at an audition, but that isn’t meaning that I can’t do it 180 degrees from that, and still be convincing. That is the job of an actor. Unless I have a full script, which almost never happens, I don’t know the character arc, I don’t know the tone, the themes. Hell, getting a side for Lenny and George from Mice and Men, I could play that a bunch of different ways, if I don’t know the story. And most movies these days, aren’t being remakes of well known literature, unless they are comics.” – Scott C. Brown
“Interesting. I love seeing an actor’s true meat by stopping them half way through their monologue and telling them to start over differently. Usually the next few moments are truthful. If I do provide sides, it’s in a moments notice. I like to catch them off guard and seeing what they can really do.” – Jerry Nash
“Sides. Definitely sides. Being on the other side of the table I would rather watch sides too because a lot of times people come in with monologues that have NOTHING to do with any of the characters or plot line in the film. As a casting director I want to see a relationship between your monologue and the film or character you are auditioning for. As for me as an actor I like sides as well. However, if I am asked to read a monologue typically I write my own. It’s easier to relate to a film or character, for me anyway, by writing a monologue that I think the character I am auditioning for would say.” – Alison Monda
“That is the hard part as an actor, that you can’t come in and audition for a role in a number of different ways. I had an audition once for a commercial, for the Microsoft Bing Baby, of all things. Bearded guy in a diaper and a cigar. I am physically that guy. I came in to read, and asked the director how he saw the character. He said, in a nutshell, isn’t there only one way? I said I had at least 5 right now, based on the sides I got in the waiting area. He gave me his thoughts and I did that. Then he asked me to do something different. I ended up giving him 7 unique interpretations, and there were a myriad of others that through exploration we could have found. But I wasn’t afforded that opportunity, because the client already had an inside guy they wanted to use. So be it. But that was, in my experience, a very rare opportunity, and one I am glad to have had. And, frankly so was the director, because they told me before I left. That, I believe, sides or monologue, is the only true way that we as actors can show our capabilities, unless someone has done their research on the breadth and depth of our prior work. And honestly, that ain’t gonna happen.” – Scott C. Brown
“I’ll gladly tell an actor whatever they want to know about the story or character well in advance if they care to ask. I agree with you Alison Monda in that I would much rather see something I’ve never seen or heard before that is true to the nature of the actor knowing what they know prior to an audition.” – Jerry Nash
“Very rarely do Casting directors in studios for television and major motion pictures ask you to read a monologue. They don’t have the time and it’s not what they’re looking for.” – Ashley Cozine
“I must clarify as well…we communicated to all what we wanted in that situation and gave everyone as much time as they gave us (late submissions obviously got less prep time) so “improv” was for those coming in at the last minute. We saw a range of talent and actor etiquette…no headshot? No effort to prepare at all? Or better yet, tell us you chose not to prepare what we asked but you want to do a scene from a show you watched the night before?!?!?! BUT the ones we cast made us cry, smile, creeped us out…they were/are exactly what we wanted whether we knew it or not. Thank you for your kind words Scott!!! Yes! Would love to work with you! Love this kind of conversation!” – Tonya Skoog Yorke
“In the words of Kate Godman (paraphrased): Auditions are a terrible way to cast a show, but it’s all we’ve got.” – Carter Rodriguez
“Love that idea, Jerry…asking the actor to do their monologue differently. Holy moly…I want someone to ask me to do that next time I audition!! Crap, I’ll never sleep after this conversation.” – Tonya Skoog Yorke
“Here’s my humble opinion as a director. I want both. First, I believe an actor coming to an audition should read the whole script – and we always give it (I don’t understand productions who don’t). How else are you to know about your character’s arch? I will give instructions on two scenes to be prepared for and will have another actor (preferably one cast in the role they will play) read opposite of you. Then, I want to see a monologue. A monologue gives the actor the chance to play to me as the camera. For me to see your eyes, your subtext, and to see you really comfortable in something you feel is your strong suit – and hopefully get rid of some of the nerves that come with auditioning. I really appreciate actors who find monologues that are relevant to the character they’re auditioning for but I also appreciate actors who chose something completely opposite – to show me range. We’ve done it both ways. With our first feature we only gave the actors the script and read a couple of scenes, with the second feature we added a monologue. It was a million times better. Also, sometimes during the monologue, I will see something I like that I didn’t see in the sides or I will get an idea to use you in a way I didn’t think before or use you in a different role. I think the bottom line though is this, be prepared for what is asked of you in the audition notice and have a secret weapon or two just in case – including knowing a little something about the people you’re auditioning for. Being over prepared never hurt anyone!” – Lindy Boustedt
“For film, I prefer sides… maybe it’s what I am used to… but all of us put on the same face for a few minutes with sides…. like lights through a colored gel… you have such little info about the character you are reading for, it would be hard to have that many monologues ready to slip on for what you perceive to be appropriate with such limited information…. and limited time in the the room…” – Barbara Deering
“As a Producer/Director – I like both. Like what Lindy stated above, sometimes I see something in the monologue that I really like and I makes notes of every actor that I encounter and keep in a database. I then can call up an actor in the future like I have on my next project based on a monologue he did in December for me. It allows me to see their strength – which then I can work with while doing the sides after the monologue….and by the way – for film, a monologue doesn’t need to be five minutes long.” – Gina Lockhart
“One of the problems I’ve had with monologues for film is a lack of understanding on the part of the casting director that my monologue is a piece from an established text (that the filmmaker may not be familiar with) and shows something different about me as an actor than on-the-fly decision-making about their film or characters. I’m okay with being asked to prepare something so that they can see everything a monologue reveals and then being asked to make choices with something else (like their sides).
Once, a director was asked me to adapt my monologue to the character they were casting for in their film, which was not in any way applicable to the character work or textual analysis or preparation I had done with my monologue from a play. Now, I was able to adapt and incorporate their feedback to their liking (performing a classic theatre monologue again as though I was something totally not relevant to the words or character of the monologue or the entire play and its themes and meaning ((I’ll share what in a more private setting)) and I’ll admit, it threw me because I ended up feeling as though I was just using the monologue as a string of words without any meaning or subtext…it was like a cold read but where I had to forget previous work and create meaning in places rather than find it) but it felt disingenuous and…almost a sacrilege…to the playwright and to my own preparation. It made me feel like the director didn’t really understand the weight of text (and that later proved true with the way they treated their own script during production). Now, some might think it was a brilliant casting technique and it certainly did reveal adaptability, but it reduced the monologue and choices I had made to mad libs, basically.
I don’t know how I’d respond to ‘Could you please try that Ophelia soliloquy again but this time, you’re an independent punk rocker in 1970 about to hit it big with your band!’ Maybe the fact that I also write makes this an especially confounding issue for me.” – Josephine Hoy
“@ Josephine, It sounds like you ran into some inexperienced casting personnel and you’ll be running into them far more often as I keep hearing of more and more people trying to do their own casting rather than hiring an experienced, apprenticed professional who understands how to prepare both their clients and also the actors for their auditions. The far easier access to both equipment and software to make films has spawned legions of film-makers who haven’t apprenticed in the business and they’re redefining how the business is done. However, the use of a monologue for film and television work is a complete non sequitur for me. When I see a monologue, I don’t know whether I’m seeing the acting choices of the actor or their drama coach from college or some other influence who won’t be on the set if that actor is hired. Film and television isn’t rehearsed over and over again in tech so you can really dissect what’s ultimately going to be presented to the audience. You finish a scene, go to your trailer, go over the next scene’s lines, step out of the trailer, block it and shoot it. It’s a fairly barbaric way for an actor to work especially in light of the fact that you may end of having to start the shoot with a scene that appears far into the picture. But it’s the nature of the beast. As for the audition process, I’m at the stage in my career when I feel a director isn’t giving the actor the proper perspective to do their best work where I interrupt the director and give direction I feel is missing so the actor can understand the part better. I’m ultimately the one who’s got a problem on their hands if I bring in actors I feel are right for the parts and they’re getting bum steers from my clients so I step in to help solve my own problem, the actor’s and ultimately, my client’s. That’s not always going to happen for actors and you’re going to frequently walk in and the blind will be leading the blind which I find happening with increasing frequency. It’s understandable that actors are seeking the maximum control over a situation that is actually far beyond it and a monologue is usually a well worn, comfortable path for an actor to showcase what they think is their best work. But I can tell you after watching a full day of LOFT auditions back in the late 80s (it’s what they now call the TPS auditions) I had numerous people in for parts who impressed me only to find out that they didn’t know how to cold read even after having the script the night before. I have a responsibility to my clients to help actors be as good as they can be but not deliver a high-maintenance actor to the set who requires far more time to prepare than the medium allows. I need actors who can think on their feet. Actually, the best training I ever found for film and television acting is working on soaps! We frequently found them to be the most flexible and creative on cold reads. I hope that helps.” – Stephen Salamunovich
“I appreciate your perspective Stephen. Just please don’t assume all directors/producers who don’t use a casting director are idiots. We’re not. We just continuously have to find ways to stretch hard earned dollars (most times from our own bank accounts) and sometimes we choose to pay our actors and our crew on set rather than spend the money for a casting director and leaving nothing for the rest. We too are always looking for actors that are multi-talented and we use many methods in the audition room to figure that out. We just also enjoy seeing a good monologue every once in awhile, even if it only means to watch an actor feel comfortable giving a good monologue. Their choice and how they approach it tells me a lot of how they are as a person and potential collaborator.” – Lindy Boustedt
“I completely agree. I actually may be in a minority of actors that really, really strongly prefer cold reads even without having the script at all in advance. I’ve also worked with a lot of super independent productions that knew what they were doing or were doing their best with extremely limited funds. I think the particular example I gave was just someone with no real idea of what they wanted to see or how to put the actor in a place to make that happen.” – Josephine Hoy
“Sides” – Ty Huffer
“Definitely sides.” – Luck Schuck
“I love cold readings. Cold readings just amp up the adrenaline and creativity. I love them. Also like to write my own monologues. Haven’t had to do many of them but I’ve always felt I could show more of “me” if I write them.” – Tonya Skoog Yorke
“Sides. I am baffled by directors (theater or film) who make my audition an exercise in trying to guess what they want to see. I prefer to work with people who want me to do good work, and set me up for success by telling me what they want to see. Its my job to give them what they want, but its much easier to do that when they tell me what that is. Its enough of a challenge to make strong choices for sides for a script you’ve read (with the knowledge that the direction you’re going may be opposite what the director wants) – when directors add selecting your own text on top of that, it is confusing and (in my opinion) results in a lot of wasted time. If an audition asks for a monologue so that a director can just see you do something you’re comfortable with, or to see your eyes in a close-up (or what have you) then at least make that clear in the breakdown, so I don’t waste time trying to find the “perfect” monologue in the vast universe of monologues to represent the character I’m auditioning for.” – Rebecca Olson