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Overdone Audition?

Actor8Actor8 Registered User Posts: 2 New Member
edited December 2012 in Theater/Drama Majors
Hey everyone!

I'm a senior in high school and I am about 80% done with my 2 contrasting college audition monologues. One of the monologue that my director chose for me back in the summer was the Queen Mab speech. I'm having secodn thoughts about it because I hear it is widely overdone.

Will performing this monologue, even if done well, hurt my chances of acceptance?

Is it worth it to look for another classical monologue?

PS: I'm auditioning for Purchase, Mason Gross, Marymount Manhattan, Ithaca, and Emerson.
Post edited by Actor8 on

Replies to: Overdone Audition?

  • prodesseprodesse Registered User Posts: 957 Member
    I do not think any of those schools specifically request Shakespeare. I have been told it is better to avoid Shakespeare unless a classical monologue is required. I'll be interested to see what other people think though!

    Perhaps Queen Mab can be your "back pocket" monologue if they request an additional selection.
  • Times3Times3 Registered User Posts: 1,373 Senior Member
    ^^ Mason Gross does require a classical monologue...I haven't double-checked but am pretty sure the others don't, as prodesse says.
  • EmmyBetEmmyBet Registered User Posts: 2,934 Senior Member
    Just an FYI for girls looking for monologues: My D's school is putting on Good Person of Szechwan, by Bertolt Brecht. I saw it, and found it fascinating. There are some really terrific monologues by the lead character (a down on her luck ex-prostitute who is probably in her 20s).
  • TheRealKEVPTheRealKEVP - Posts: 986 Member
    Do the Queen Mab speech, if, and ONLY IF, you are certain that your performance of the Queen Mab speech will be the best performance of that speech that the auditors have ever heard.

    If you can really do it that well, it will not hurt your chances of acceptance.

    Otherwise, you should probably find a different monologue.

    Unfortunately, pretty much EVERY monologue by Shakespeare written for actors under about 35 years old has been overdone.

    So I suggest to folks that for a classical monologue they find a monologue from a playwright other than Shakespeare. Choose a monologue from any English playwright (other than Shakespeare) writing before about 1800. I say "English playwright" because sometimes when foreign classical plays get translated into English, they get translated into contemporary language, not classical.

    Okay, it doesn't really "hurt" you to choose a Shakespearean monologue for your classical. Because most of the auditioners will be doing Shakespeare. There may even be one or two doing the Queen Mab speech. But auditions are so competitive you need a bit of an "edge", and finding a classical playwright other than Shakespeare may give you that "edge" and help you stand out from the crowd.

    But always follow the instructions and recommendations of the school. If they require or prefer Shakespeare, then Shakespeare it is. You may have to prepare more than two monologues to meet the different requirements of the different schools. Make sure that each school really does want one classical and one contemporary, some may want two contemporaries.
  • Gwen FairfaxGwen Fairfax Registered User Posts: 2,435 Senior Member
    I'm going to go against conventional wisdom here-- the pressure to give the "the best ever" performance of a monologue is counterproductive, to my mind. No 18 year old is in the position to give an audition performance that rivals the greats, and auditors are not expecting that. What they want is to see a true understanding of the text, honest feeling, and the spark of creative energy that marks 'talent'. They're almost certainly going to have seen your monologue before. Don't try too hard, don't set up unrealistic standards for yourself. Pick something you love and feel comfortable with.

    An aside-- we ended up riding home on the train with an auditor for one of D's schools last year. (He hadn't been her auditor, that would have been awkward!) But he said that somehow, every year, there are monologues that seem off the beaten track and so get chosen by tons of people....so they always end up hearing the same thing over and over. He just laughed about it.
  • connectionsconnections Registered User Posts: 1,327 Senior Member
    Gwen Fairfax, I completely agree with you. I have to add that my own kids have done what in retrospect were very overdone monologues. We didn't have a coach and their advisors were extremely wonderful directors who were not plugged into the college audition circuit. Probably if they'd delivered an equally good rendition of a not-overdone monologue, that would have been a plus. That said, my kids delivered well felt renditions of the overdone monologues. I think the way the monologue is delivered is key. I think it really depends on YOU. My own kids LOVE Shakespeare and do it well (for teens) and so they play to their strengths and will do Shakespeare monologues as first choice.

    I think what the auditors protest are reams of ridiculously misinterpreted monologues. Overacted, bombastic, not well felt, too easily shouted or cried--And the fact is that some monologues, if not done well, lend themselves more easily to misinterpretation, particularly by a young person. For some reason, these monologues can also be 'overdone.'

    Personally, I"d avoid the Queen Mab monologue because it is that sort of monologue. I personally think it has no real meaning at all. I think it's one of Shakespeare's more poorly written speeches and one of the few times he subverts meaning to sound. What exactly is the emotion? What is the progression of feeling? What is the purpose? Usually, even by professionals, the Queen Mab speech is played poorly--I've seen it shouted in a sort of insane anger; wept; delivered as drunk. However it's delivered, it leaves me unmoved and eager to get to the meat of the play.

    The last thing you'd want is a poorly performed rendition of a speech that already is clunky. So I'd avoid it because of that reason. But that's my personal opinion. If you can extract a subtle, well felt, meaningful progression of feeling from that speech, hey, my hat's off to you.
  • EmmyBetEmmyBet Registered User Posts: 2,934 Senior Member
    Well put, Gwen and connections. We had an experience a bit like Gwen's, at one of my D's on-campus auditions. We arrived to find out that the play with one of her monologues was being put on the following week. Yikes! Good thing she had a couple of extras. You really never know if your monologue will be the "wrong" one - you just have to figure it'll be OK and do your best.

    My D had two contemporary (one comedic and one dramatic) and a Shakespeare. She did a bit of Ariel (Tempest) to avoid the usual young girls, but I'm sure the auditors had heard it plenty of times. She related to it, and she liked it.

    connections' point that you have to find the feeling and be meaningful, whatever the monologue, is absolutely crucial. I am a Forensics judge and coach, and I have heard way too many of the whining/screaming/bombastic performances she alludes to. They are not showing real feeling. I just re-read the Queen Mab speech, and I agree: Where's the feeling in it? It's poetic, but what are you going to find inside you to show who you are, that will help the auditors want to work with you for four years?

    I am an amateur, but I think a monologue has to be something that is happening to the character, not just something they are talking about. That's one reason why they are so hard to find - the longest speeches in plays tend to be exposition, not feeling.
  • TheRealKEVPTheRealKEVP - Posts: 986 Member
    The Queen Mab speech makes perfect sense in the context of the play, and the particular scene it is in. Romeo is worried about a dream he has had (we never get to find out what it was, because Mercutio butts in immediately), so Mercutio is trying to convince him it is silly to pay attention to dreams. Maybe Mercutio does at some point in the speech just starts liking the sound of his own voice, but that's the sort of character he is. Later in the play it looks like he is about to launch into another such speech, but Benvolio immediately says "Stop there!"

    Finally, Romeo interrupts Mercutio's queen Mab speech by saying "Hush, thou talk'st of nothing!" And Mercutio replies "True, Romeo, I talk of dreams . . ."

    Now I can say all that about the Queen Mab speech, without even looking at the script. This is just off the top of my head. And this is why it may be a bad idea to do the Queen Mab speech. Because the auditor has a very clear idea of what the speech is about, its context, and how to deliver it. If you choose instead a lesser known playwright (other than Shakespeare!), the auditor won't have a clear idea of "how the speech should be done".

    connections is correct in saying "Probably if they'd delivered an equally good rendition of a not-overdone monologue, that would have been a plus". I agree that--everything else being equal--it is usually better to do a monologue that isn't overdone. These auditions can get so competitive that you may need every little "plus" or "advantage" you can find.

    If you are auditioning for the competitive programs that attract LOTS of auditioners, SOMEBODY is going the deliver SOME monologue so well that the auditors will say "that's the best I have ever heard that monologue delivered." And that is who they will be offering a place to. And that is who you are competing with. If you manage to perform a monologue that they have never heard before, then obviously, that will be the best they have ever heard it.

    I have a hard time with someone who says "I am really good at Shakespeare." Such a person, it seems to me, would be equally good at, say, the playwrights who were writing in London at the same time as Shakespeare, using the same Elizabethan/Jacobean language, and the same verse form, having their plays performed in the very same theatres by the very same actors that performed Shakespeare's plays (including Shakespeare himself, who was an actor!). Some of these guys were even Shakespeare's drinking buddies! If you can do Shakespeare well, you can also do these guys well. The skills transfer. The person who seems to have never heard of ANY classical playwright except Shakespeare really does not know much about theatre history. Everybody has heard of Shakspeare, so choosing a different classical playwright, in addition to the other reasons I have said, lets the auditors know that you know more about theatre history than the typical applicant.

    And yes, everything I have been saying is just "guidelines". Any one of them can be broken by the right person. But you need to be sure you are that person.

  • connectionsconnections Registered User Posts: 1,327 Senior Member
    realKEVP, I never said the monologue had NO context or meaning. I said it subverted meaning to sound. That means that unlike many of Shakespeare's brilliant monologues, it is more concerned with how it sounds than what it says; and it has very little subtle emotion to work with. You say you're remembering it off the top of your head, but at the same time you are confident you know what it's about. Take a close look at it. There is very little emotional progression, it has almost no movement; most of it is simply an exercise in poetry. Mercutio briefly consoles Romeo not to worry about dreams, but this is a philosophical point; the emotional point is that he is drunk and has been betrayed in love. He rants about it in poetic language, soon conflating "Queen Mab" with the woman who betrays him, with all women. It is especially susceptible to over acting, because the emotional range is narrow and so much is overlaid with drunken exuberance. It is unclear which words convey what. There is a minor shift in emotion, but most of the speech is empty poetic words. I mean, of course, if you're cast as Mercutio, you'd have to figure out a way to deliver this speech with as much resonance as possible, but why on earth would you CHOOSE this speech? It is very risky. I'd personally encourage the young actor to stay clear of this monologue unless they are invested in it emotionally in a real way *and* know what every word means and why it's there.

    As for Shakespeare, who has said "I am really good at Shakespeare"? If you're referring to my own comment, I said my kids LOVE Shakespeare, which is quite different. That means they're INVESTED in Shakespeare and feel an emotional connection to many of his characters. That is the number one most important thing. Of course it's cool if you find an Elizabethan or Jacobean playwright you love--that's great. But while it's a good idea to be familiar with more than Shakespeare, I think it would be a mistake to seek out a non-Shakespeare monologue simply because you think it'll make you look more educated. Shakespeare is Shakespeare for a reason--his monologues are mostly wonderful.And many students have quite successfully auditioned for top BFA programs using any number of SHakespearian monologues. The key is to feel the emotional resonance and progression. That is mostly a personal thing. If you find it with Marlowe, great. But that should be the primary basis of your decision rather than how you think you'll appear to auditors. Even in the Queen Mab speech, if you *can* find the emotional progression here and understand every word, as I said, my hat's off to you. My point is that for the majority of people, it's incredibly difficult to do that and there are easier speeches to connect with.
  • TheRealKEVPTheRealKEVP - Posts: 986 Member
    At least we agree that the Queen Mab speech is NOT a good choice of monologue!

    I have seen the Queen Mab speech performed in professional productions of R&J with emotional progression, movement, and resonance. But it probably does take a professional actor to pull that off. How drunk Mercutio is (remember they still haven't got to the party!) and whether he has been betrayed in love would be up to the individual actor's and director's own interpretation.

    Your comment "I'd personally encourage the young actor to stay clear of this monologue unless they are invested in it emotionally in a real way *and* know what every word means and why it's there" really applies to EVERY monologue.

    Of course Shakespeare's monologue are wonderful, but what happens to ALL of those "wonderful" monologues, by ANY playwright, is that they get overused at auditions.

    And as I keep saying, all of my advice is just "guidelines". And all of them have been successfully broken.

  • TheRealKEVPTheRealKEVP - Posts: 986 Member
    Here's my advice.

    Read those Dunmore books, and then DON'T choose any of those monologues. Because everyone else is choosing their monologues from those books. So very quickly these will become the new overdone monologues.
  • gibbygibby Registered User Posts: 10,173 Senior Member
    LOL. I guess you are just one of those director types that an actor cannot please no matter what material they choose.
  • TheRealKEVPTheRealKEVP - Posts: 986 Member
    I hope that is meant as a joke, because it certainly isn't true.

    People need to find their own monologues, not have someone tell them which monologue to do. Which is why I have to end up saying "don't do X, Y, Z" because I can't say "DO choose this monologue" (although people come here asking for that).

    To find a good monologue, look places that the other auditioners are not looking. People have written here saying they have read 100 plays looking for the right monologue. That's a good idea.

    The only hard and fast rule is to ALWAYS follow the instructions and advice of the folks you are auditioning for.


    If asked for a classical monologue, and it doesn't require Shakespeare or prefer Shakespeare, then look at ANY classical playwright other than Shakespeare. My advice is ANY ANY ANY English playwright writing before about 1800. There are LOTS and LOTS and LOTS of them. And none of the other auditioners are reading any of these playwrights, as you can see from the constant discussion of Shakespeare that goes on on this list. (The people who ask this question are always people who have already decided to do Shakespeare, and are going to do so no matter what any of us say, so I really don't know why they even bother asking).

    Otherwise, read lesser-known plays by the best contemporary playwrights. Again, none of the other auditioners are looking at these plays.

    So it IS possible for an actor to choose material that will please me!
  • cptofthehousecptofthehouse Registered User Posts: 26,432 Senior Member
    You should have a number of monologues ready to do. Your mood and the mood of the audition can be a clue as to what to perform. My son asked some auditoners which one of three they wanted to hear, and at one audtion, one of the sitting "judges" said, "oh, God, not the XYZ, please". At which, the other said to him, "I love that piece". So who knows. But do have a number of choices. You don't know when you'll be asked to do another. One of DS's friends got interrupted and asked to do a different monologue.
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