I’m planning on auditioning for summer theatre programs in the US, but have no idea how to choose audition material. Where do I even begin to look? Is it bad to pick something from a book of monologues?
Picking audition material, whether it be for summer theatre programs or college auditions, can be a daunting task. My advice, and what has worked best for me and most others I know who have pursued a career in acting, is taking the time to read a bunch of plays. Yes, this can take a long time. Yes, it’s a bit tedious, but it will also help you to amass a cannon of pieces you can use and work on for years to come. Do a little research and find plays (or musicals) with characters you think you could reasonably play right now. This is important. One of the biggest mistakes you can make in choosing pieces is selecting something where the character is significantly older/younger than you or is not a role you could ever conceivably play (ex. picking a monologue from a character who is supposed to be tall and Hispanic when you are short, blonde, and caucasian). Read through these plays and search for a section of text where the character has a clear action. Don’t be afraid to piece lines together or eliminate another character’s lines in order to make your monologue coherent.
In terms of choosing something from a book, I wouldn’t say it’s categorically good or bad. However, if you decide to use a book, I’ve personally found that those which pull pieces from plays work best. That way, if you find a monologue you like, you can go out, find the play, and read it. Picking a stand-alone monologue from a monologue book that is not from a play can be tricky. It gives you very little as an actor to go off of: no context, no clue who you are, and no idea who the character you’re talking to is, let alone your relationship with them. In general, monologues found in compilation books or online can often be overused as well; so do some googling, check out youtube, and try and get a sense of what is done frequently. Reading a play and picking a monologue that way makes the chances of you having the same piece (or same cut of a piece) as someone else a lot slimmer. Best of luck!