acting career

Tips on Finding the Perfect Monologue

by NYFA Instructor Denis McCourt, MFA

So you’re taking an acting class, have a general audition, or just want to hone your craft, and are looking for the perfect monologue. The search is really a three pronged approach:

What type of monologue are you looking for?

As you begin your quest for the words you will spend a large amount of time and energy working on, first, it is best to consider what you are trying to accomplish.

In the world of monologues, you have many broad categories — contemporary-comedy, contemporary-dramatic, classical-comedy, classical-dramatic … and even more broadly, plays versus film/television/online-content (web series).

If you are intending to work on a monologue in an acting class, you should select one from a play. These words have been written to be performed live by an actor on stage. That idea might sound obvious, yet many actors use film and television for their source material. That great dramatic monologue you saw in the latest blockbuster film has music, sound, camera angles, lighting, reaction shots and editing (just to name a few elements) to help make that overall dramatic or funny impact for the audience — plus, you will be perpetually compared to that Oscar-winning performance.  

When you find material written to be performed on the stage, it will fare better in your acting class and/or general audition. So, if you have now bought into the idea of plays, you have narrowed your content down from hundreds of thousands to only a few thousand possibilities.

How do you find your connection or hear your voice in the monologue?

This next step is very important in your quest for the perfect monologue.

Let’s say you want to expand the work you are doing in your acting class. You are very funny, which everyone around you reinforces in your work, so now you want to explore your more dramatic skills. One of the hardest concepts about acting that everyone struggles with is the idea of “connection,” or “your voice.” The best way to define this for you is to look back over your lifetime and ask questions.

In the years that you have been on this earth, what has mattered to you? Where did you grow up? Are you a member of the LGBTQ+ community? What cultural and gender identity speaks to you? Are you involved in any social issues or causes? Do you feel drawn to victims’ rights, or religious beliefs? Are you an animal rights advocate? Were you raised on a farm or in the city? In sharing these questions, and by you answering them, you begin to feel a connection and find your voice.

The next step would be for you to find a playwright that shares your connection and voice. If, as in our example, you have already decided that you want to work on a dramatic monologue, the exclusion of comedic writers has narrowed your search from thousands down to hundreds. And if you know you’d like to focus on a woman’s point of view, you have now narrowed that down even further.

The good news is that you are now looking for writers that share your voice and perspective, and once you find them there will be a body of work for you to tap into for source material.

I would strongly encourage you to become an avid reader of plays. In your quest for the perfect monologue, you can also develop your skills as a cold reader by reading the plays out loud –honing yet another skill you will need as an actor!

Where do I begin to look to find the perfect monologue?

Let’s face it: acting is already hard enough as it is to do the work well, and in your career you will sometimes be asked to work on material that is not that great if not bad. If you are paid to do it and are at that stage of your career, you will do it. But when developing your craft, the suggestion is to ride a thoroughbred.

What do I mean by that? If you find the best material, it will help you develop the skills you are working on developing. So, how do I find the best material that matches my voice? Although many are looking for that “golden monologue book written just for you,” you need to know that such a thing does not exist.

Most published monologue books are not good source material, because they are not attached to any story or character development — they are random words written for the purpose of actors, like you, in search of the perfect monologue. And, like you, there are thousands of actors buying that book and working on that same monologue which every casting professional and acting coach has heard over and over and over again. So, all of your efforts are thrown out the window as soon as they hear the first sentence because their inner monologue is; oh, no, not this one again.

So, if you get anything from this article, don’t buy the monologue book.

If you put a little more effort into the quest, it will pay off for you in spades. So, where should you look to find this thoroughbred? There is another three pronged approach: check out theatre awards, the Pulitzer Prize for Drama, and go see live theatre.

  • Theatre Awards:

If a writer has won or been nominated for a Tony Award or an Olivier Award, the material is a thoroughbred. When an actor has been nominated for or won a Tony Award or an Olivier Award the material is a thoroughbred. Here is the link to the Tony Award past winners.

If you go to that site, it lists not only the winners but the nominees as well, since the inception of the awards. All of this is great source material. You then can even target playwrights that write about content you are searching for in your perfect monologue. You can even target famous actors that you have been following that are “your type.”

You will find this a very rich resource of great material. Plus, you have narrowed down your material from thousands to hundreds or less.

  • Pulitzer Prize for Drama:

This award is a very high benchmark for playwrights, and exploring the winners will provide you with an international selection of original voices of today and years past.

The site not only shares the winners, but also provides you with all of the finalists in any given year. You will see that this list will share some great thoroughbred possibilities in your quest, though you will most likely see some duplicates between the Tony Awards and the Pulitzer Prize sites.

  • Live Theatre:

As you can probably guess, live theatrical plays are the best source material for finding the perfect monologue.

If you go see lots of plays, you will find material you will want to work on. The great thing about plays is that they are done all over the place.

You can spend big money and go see major New York and/or Los Angeles productions. You can go to great regional theatres in Chicago, Minneapolis or Atlanta. Or you can go to the many local professional and/or community theatres in cities and towns around the world. Other great resources are colleges and universities.

By seeing actors working on the craft you are developing, you will learn. Even if it is the worst performance you have ever seen, you will be hearing the words of the monologues spoken out loud in the context of the story and character arc.

If you see many plays, especially stories that appeal to you, your chances of finding that monologue increases. You have now narrowed the search from hundreds of thousands down to a few hundred or less and you have some practical steps to make in your quest to find the perfect monologue.

Ready to learn more about acting and deepen your craft? Check out the New York Film Academy’s Acting School offerings.

 

Why Do So Many Actors Turn to Producing?

Citizen-Kane-Welles-Podium

In this article about the benefits of self-producing as an actor, we considered Orson Wells, who wrote, produced, directed, and starred in Citizen Kane, the 1941 film often hailed as the greatest ever made. While not every actor excels at so many aspects of filmmaking, many actors turn to producing in order to have more control over their careers, as well as the projects in which they’re involved.

The joys of wearing many hats

Taking a look at George Clooney’s Smoke House Pictures, you see that he and the other well-known actors jump from acting to directing to both. Clooney starred in the Jodie Foster directed “Money Monster,” while he will direct the upcoming “Suburbicon” starring Matt Damon. Smoke House also produced The Academy Award winning “Argo,” directed and starring Ben Affleck. Wear many hats and you will have many more opportunities to work.

Keep the Jobs Coming

Drew Barrymore started her production company Flower Films with Nancy Juvonen in 1995, which produced many films in which she has starred including “Never Been Kissed,” “Charlie’s Angels,” and the cult hit “Donnie Darko,” which she stepped in and saved when it was struggling to find backers. Longevity is not easy for any actor, and can be particularly tough for women in the biz. Having your own production company certainly helps mitigate the age factor. Barrymore stars in the new Netflix series “The Santa Clarita Diet,” for which she also serves as one of its executive producers, as does her co-star and on-screen husband Timothy Olyphant.

Producing Diversity

Diversity behind the scenes helps ensure traditionally neglected stories get told, which in turn creates more nuanced roles for diverse actors. Salma Hayek formed her production company Ventanarosa in 1999, which produced the Oscar-winning Frida, as well as the Emmy-winning Ugly Betty. Viola Davis (JuVee), Kerry Washington (Simpson Street), and Will Smith (Overbrook) are just a few of the actors of color who work behind as well as in front of the camera to create diverse and dynamic images.

Busting Out of Type

Actors can be constrained by their looks, their gender, their body type and the roles that made them famous. Clint Eastwood might have spent the rest of his life doing westerns if he hadn’t started his production company Malpaso Productions. According to Wikipedia, “Play Misty for Me” was the first film “to give Eastwood the artistic control he desired.” Named the most successful actor/producer by TheRichest, Eastwood has produced such diverse films as “Hang ’em High,” “Mystic River,” and “Million Dollar Baby.”

Making a Difference

Although many actors begin producing in order to take control of their career destinies in front of and behind the camera, others are simply interested in expanding the quality and scope of the industry. A good example of this is Brad Pitt and his production company Plan B, which he founded with Jennifer Anniston, and now runs with Dede Gardner and Jeremy Kleiner. IndieWire’s Eric Kohn writes that Plan B “has gained traction in recent years as one of the most significant entities supporting auteur-driven work in the United States.” From the academy-award winning “12 Years a Slave,” to this year’s underdog Oscar winner “Moonlight,” Pitt proves himself a star who is more than willing to step out of the picture to produce great films.

There are so many great actor producers. Let us know your favorite in the comments below, and contact New York Film Academy to learn more about producing and acting for film.

Is Social Media Success the New Way to Get an Acting Gig?

SONY DSC

Actors, like everyone else, have found their lives and careers changed by social media. Few could have predicted the impact social media would have on the world. Whether it’s to stay in touch with friends and family or read up on the latest news, the average person uses one or more social media pages each day. But who could have imagined that social media might influence how you pursue acting jobs?

If you’re reading this, you’re probably an aspiring actor. You’re probably eager to use all the tools available to you in the pursuit of professional work. And you’re probably wondering if the power of social media can help you build recognition or bankability in an industry full of actors and actresses competing for the same roles. The short answer is: it depends.

The role that social media plays in a professional actors career is complex. When used carefully and well, social media can certainly help connect you to your network, to potential audiences, to opportunities. But like every tool in a professional actor’s toolkit, social media comes with no guarantees save one: social media alone will not book you work as an actor. However, used wisely, social media can become a very powerful tool for an actor indeed.

Having A Professional Online Presence Doesn’t Hurt…

twitter-head

You may have noticed that just about every actor who is serious about their career owns a social media page on the major platforms: Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Pinterest. Since the internet can be accessed by anyone at any time, having a page where people can see your bio, major credits, and relevant experience, is a must-have. Many casting directors and agents will give young actors in workshops the advice to invest in a high quality website, and to spend time cultivating a real social media presence and following, so that potential collaborators can “get to know you.” It’s an opportunity to create and showcase your personal brand. And it’s important to be mindful about how you do this.

You’ll notice that actors who use social media wisely have more than words on their pages. After all, acting is one of the most visual and physical arts of all! That’s why you’ll also find short videos, photos, and other media that demonstrates an actor’s abilities. Of course, the question still on your mind is if doing all this actually helps develop an acting career in a significant way.

The answer? Perhaps no.

…But It Won’t Get You There Alone.

21910887703_eef220a4dd_b

The fact is, you shouldn’t expect your acting career to skyrocket just based on our social media presence alone. Sure, there have been instances where a famous YouTube personality was given the chance to act in an actual film, or where an unknown actors personal social media followings helped encourage a casting director to take a risk and give them a chance.

But rarely will a top agent use social media alone to find their next client. A casting director may check out your stuff online, but most likely only after you’ve already won consideration or established a promising connection.

To reiterate, contracts and starring roles are hardly ever cast through communication done via social media. And word to the wise: the last thing you want to do is pester anyone about an acting gig online by sending numerous tweets and emails, especially if they’re someone you’ve never met in person.

Social Media Pages: Still A Must-Have In Our Industry

640px-HollywoodSignJAN09

Just because social media isn’t necessarily going to lead directly to an acting gig, again, it is an important tool in your toolkit. Social media can have great purpose and effect in the hands of a savvy professional actor. Treat your pages like a resume, tailor your online presence to reflect the type of professional image you’d like to project both to those you know, and those you don’t know. Social media is one of many tools you can use to pursue for a specific role, but again, nothing is ever guaranteed. And it is important to remember that your professional online presence is visible to everyone.

In the end, social media sites are best used to stay in touch with people you’ve worked with. Developing relationships with others, including other actors, can increase your chance of finding out about a new opportunity. Be wise, be genuine, and good luck.

Actors, what are your social media tips for each other? Do you have any success stories about how your social media presence has served your acting pursuits in a positive way? Let us know in the comments below!