Cowan Palace: Please Don’t Make Me Prepare A Monologue

Ashley Cowan just really doesn’t want to prepare a monologue.

It’s possible I’ve become one of those actors that gives other actors a bad name. Sorry (/#sorrynotsorry, #IStillLoveHashtags). Then again, I haven’t really lived up to my “actor” title over the past year so maybe I’m just stupidly giving myself a bad name and pushing myself further away from the casting pool. The Greek tragedy of my acting career.

However, I’ll be reclaiming my actor status later this year with the San Francisco Fringe Festival. As a result, I’ve slowly started to dip a curious toe into the audition notice waters and I realized this week that as soon as I see something regarding a prepared monologue I abandon my interest.

That’s terrible! And maybe you’re thinking, anyone who doesn’t have a few monologues ready/isn’t willing to workshop some doesn’t deserve an audition spot. And that’s cool, I guess. But we’re in Cowan Palace today so I’m keeping my handmade crown (consisting of double chocolate chip cookie dough and dreams) and maintaining my reign! In my opinion, monologues suck! I just hate them! They’re the absolute worst!

This is the headshot I’ll be bringing to all future auditions asking me for a monologue.

This is the headshot I’ll be bringing to all future auditions asking me for a monologue.

Sure, I could be a lazy brat with this mindset. Honestly, these days, I really don’t want to spend my free time memorizing new material that I can cut into two minutes, 90 seconds, or 60 seconds depending on the need. I’m still trying to balance a full plate. Also, I believe pretty strongly that it’s not going to prove to you whether I deserve the part or not.

See, I almost never feel like I’ve found the perfect piece to showcase my goods. And then on the rare occurrence that I have a monologue that I feel great about, I have to trade it in when I’m auditioning for someone who has already seen it. Plus, even if I have great material ready, how in the world is it going to be the best piece for every part I’m going for? That’d be like writing one generic cover letter and expecting to land your dream job without really ever catering to the company.

C’mon, Tina. Hear me out.

C’mon, Tina. Hear me out.

I can feel you rolling your eyes. Go for it. How is this lazy brat even blogging, right?! Well, I still hate having to prepare a monologue. I get that part of the process is the chance to showcase your own personality and give the casting director a little taste of your skill set. Fine, fine, fine. But why not just jump right into some material from the actual play? Or ask me to cold read something with a certain direction (holla, San Francisco Olympians Festival!) to test my instincts. Make me read with other people. Make me move around the space in a certain way, heck – in several ways! Make me do anything but recite some memorized material from a play we’re not doing that I’m already regretting as a the wrong selection.

I know there are plenty of actors who can rock a monologue enough to show that they’re capable of more. I’ve seen it while on the other side of the table. But for the majority of us who are working non-actor jobs so we can support our dreams, finding the time to prepare for an audition isn’t always easy. At least that’s how I feel. I want to spend that time getting to know the play I’m auditioning for or memorizing lines for your show!

Maybe what it comes down to for me is that I don’t think I’m great at many things but acting has always been an area that I feel slightly more confident about; perhaps because I’m very passionate about it. But I also know that it’s hard for me to leave an audition room feeling confident in my monologue and if I do a less than awesome job with it, I’d hate that to get in the way of whether I’m right or wrong for the role.

Serious headshot picture from almost ten (!) years ago. This gal could handle some monologues.

Serious headshot picture from almost ten (!) years ago. This gal could handle some monologues.

I’d love to get some additional thoughts on this idea. What’s the best way to cast a play? Am I sabotaging myself? And if you’re a casting director, what kind of monologues tend to have the best success and what’s the stuff that usually fails? Granted there are like a bazillion actors out there that may be more talented and deserving than I am (they’re probably working on a new monologue right now!) but I’d still love to open the discussion and find a way to be a part of that theatre magic!

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4 comments on “Cowan Palace: Please Don’t Make Me Prepare A Monologue

  1. I loved this piece, Ashley! Just the other day, I had a conversation with a friend about how I have a “philosophical objection to audition monologues.” I felt really pretentious saying that, but I’m glad I’m not the only one! For me, acting is about INTERACTING, so it feels very weird that the first “filter” in the audition process typically asks the actor to be alone onstage, speaking to the empty air. And I also think it’s a major problem that good actors can sabotage themselves by choosing bad material, or just choosing a monologue that the director happens to be sick of hearing. Now that I’m in my first play in SF, people have asked me if I’m going to continue acting after this, and I’m like “Only if I don’t have to prepare audition monologues.”

  2. Speaking for myself: I’m the sort of auditioning actor who’s been blessed to know quite a few writers. As such, I always use material they’ve written (and which has actually been performed publicly) in auditions, unless specifically asked otherwise (eg. “prepare a Shakespeare monologue”). In fact, I’d say almost every full production I’ve done over the past few years – including the one I’m rehearsing now – has come from using a monologue by a playwright I know personally.

    I’ve always found this advantageous because 1 – I know that both the piece I’m performing and the name of the author will NOT be things the auditors have heard 1,000 times that day (thus exposing the author’s work to someone who might otherwise have never come across it); 2 – having seen – or perhaps even performed in – the piece in its original production, I know exactly what the context; 3 – if I’m unclear about either of the above two, I can often speak directly with the author to clarify.

    I wrote a blog ’bout it. Wanna read it? Here it go: https://thethinkingmansidiot.wordpress.com/2012/08/08/til-youre-blue-in-the-face/

  3. […] on Saturday afternoon. As you may remember my feelings regarding having to prepare a monologue from my past blog I was delighted to be in the company of printed sides and fellow cold […]

  4. […] are more talented 20-something female actors in the Bay Area than there are roles for them, and, as I wrote in a comment to Ashley Cowan’s post on the same subject, I am philosophically opposed to audition […]

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