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Monologues? There’s no such thing!


I just received a couple questions about monologues today in private messages, so I thought I should share about this interesting form of acting. Monologues can be an important tool for auditioning. They show up embedded in various lengths within every kind of script. But in reality they really don’t exist.

You may think that a monologue is just one person talking. In fact, there is no such thing as a monologue. It is always a dialogue. You are speaking to someone for a reason. You are having a conversation. They have the opposite opinion of you. You want them to change their mind. Otherwise you wouldn’t be talking so much.

But even when they are not speaking, they are giving you feedback. You never memorize speeches to give to people in real life (I hope). You speak to someone in reaction to something that has happened or has been said. You reply. You will then see a response in their face and body language. They nod or shake their head. You can almost guess what they are about to say and you respond before they do. Then, before they have a chance to say what you know they are going to say next, you have another reply. You may be dominating the conversation, but it is, nevertheless, a conversation.

The other person is making you say what you are saying. When you see that a certain tactic isn’t working on them, you change to another one. The other person causes it all. The scene is really not about you. It’s about trying to get them to change.

So monologue acting is just like acting anything else, with this big difference. You actually need to create two characters…the one you are playing and the one you are imagining is reacting to you…who you are, in turn, responding back to. Acting is always a tennis game. You are volleying back and forth your attempts to score with the person you are speaking to.

In fact, there are no statements in acting…EVER. At least there shouldn’t be. You should always be responding. Acting is reacting. Statements isolate you from the action of the scene. If your monologue lacks life…passion…involvement…it is probably because you are acting alone and that is never interesting. You must never be stating your case. You must be persuading another person as they are opposing you.

Even if you are doing a soliloquy, alone on stage, you must also create another person to speak to. It is often another part of yourself, or God or an imaginary friend. Occasionally you will change points of view with them…going back and forth between perspectives, playing devils advocate in a discussion. But there is alway an argument…a focus for your intent.

When you are preparing a monologue, always imagine the conversation leading up to your first line. Then continue to imagine it as a conversation. If the other person was speaking, what would they be saying? You can tell by what you answer in the next line. All of your lines are answers. ALL of them.

When I see videos of monologues here, this is almost always the missing factor. Unless you are creating the impression of purpose and relationship in your performance, it will be ineffective. And that is what most agents are looking for when they watch you act alone, whether they know it or not. It is that connection that creates the impression of true interaction. It’s what you must strive for, no matter what you are acting…alone or not.

Winnie Hiller