Audition monologues are an efficient way for casting directors to quickly become acquainted with actors, observe their type, assess their present level of skill, and learn what kinds of roles they most relate to. However, some monologue practices interfere with casting’s ability to view actors in their best light and are in fact distracting and confusing. Here are seven practices to dodge during audition monologues to keep the focus right where it belongs—on your performance. 

1. Avoid Shock Monologues

Sometimes actors resort to using shock value in hopes of standing out amongst the competition or to seem edgy. Unfortunately, using hot political topics of the day, religious material, or iffy sexual subjects can make casting feel uncomfortable or even offended. When making a first impression, it’s better to avoid pushing people’s buttons. Similarly, acting out a murder on an invisible character or miming a death scene can come off as confusing, if not humorous. An authentic performance centered on subject matter you genuinely care about is a lot more powerful to watch.

2. Ditch the Props

It’s best to avoid monologues that involve a lot of prop work. Casting directors want to immerse themselves in the performance, so when a nail file, cigarette, or love letter suddenly make an appearance, it can be surprisingly distracting. Various casting directors, however, have different levels of tolerance when it comes to the use of props, but one rule always stands firm: no weapons allowed. They don’t want to see nunchucks whirling or pocket knives brandished for obvious reasons. While some casting directors are okay with cell phones, perhaps a coat or pen, most agree that a prop should only be used if it’s absolutely essential to the content of the scene. Regarding chairs, sitting during a monologue can work out quite well, but certain performances seem stifled while seated, so consider whether you’ll sit or stand beforehand. 

3. Sidestep the Miming

Unless casting requests talent to do so, miming is best avoided. Talking on an invisible phone or taking a slug of pretend beer has a comical effect and appears amateur. Miming during a monologue has the potential of turning into a game of charades: Did she slam a door or swat a fly? It’s too confusing to the viewer. But if the material absolutely requires a little prop work, mime it as briefly as possible and keep the piece moving forward. 

4. Avoid Using an Accent or Dialect

Unless specifically requested to speak with an accent or dialect, actors should use their own natural voice to prevent any confusion about their identity. Casting needs to know who exactly they’re dealing with when they select talent. Any mastered accents or dialects should be listed on the actor’s resume. 

5. Don’t Talk to the Air

During the monologue, pick a focal point to represent the character with whom you’re speaking. Imagine how this person is reacting to the speech as it unfolds and act accordingly. Also, unless asked to do so, avoid looking at casting directors while performing a monologue. Doing so can bring them out of the role of the observer and suddenly put them on the spot as if they’re part of the scene. And it can make casting feel uncomfortable. However, do make sure to look in a direction where it’s easy for casting directors to see your face as you speak.

6. Don’t Rush Your Delivery

Take your time to demonstrate you understand the true essence and artistry of the material. Casting is drawn in by your subtle emotion and the clarity of your words. It’s easy to miss the opportunity to fully connect with the material and the audience if you’re rushing.

7. Avoid Picking Popular Monologues

Casting directors see the same audition monologues delivered repeatedly. After all, the same monologue books and resources are available to everyone. Selecting an often-used monologue makes actors blend in with the crowd, and it conveys they didn’t put much thought into choosing material tailored to themselves. It’s better to find something more obscure to distinguish yourself. Be creative. You could perform a monologue using the lyrics to a poignant song, a passage from a favorite book, or from a character in a lesser-known Netflix series.

Focus on a truthful, authentic performance, and the rest will fall right into place.