The task of selecting excellent monologues and songs is daunting to most parents and young actors. If you follow these tips, your child should be able to leave each audition feeling happy and successful!
1-Choose age appropriate material!
This seems obvious, yet I cannot tell you how often people either disregard this or just use poor judgement. Nothing makes an auditor more uncomfortable than a young child acting older or more mature than their age. Also, since “acting” is about authentic connection to material, children need to have something in their own lives to draw from when making character choices. For example, if the monologue or song is about the loss of a grandparent but your child has never lost a close relative, they could still perhaps draw from the grief of having lost a family pet. On the other hand, they cannot connect to romantic love and heartbreak when they have never experienced those types of relationships.
Remember, when a child is auditioning for a part, they are auditioning for the part of a CHILD. So, the material should match that. Directors want to see kids be kids!
2-FInd Monologues From an Actual Play and Read that Play.
A great place to start looking for monologues is by asking for suggestions from your child’s acting teachers and doing internet searches such as, monologues for kids, monologues for teens etc…Once you have found some monologues you like, I highly recommend reading the entire play that it is from. First of all, it will give you MUCH more insight to the character you are portraying and even more importantly, the relationships your character has with other people in the play. This will allow your child to make very strong acting choices and a deeper connection to the words they are speaking. Often times a director will ask if you have read the play, and again this is an opportunity for you to show how well you prepared for the audition and how seriously you take your acting career. If you can’t read the play for some reason, at least try to watch the play if it is available online.
Try to stay away from books that write stand alone monologues for children. Directors strongly prefer pieces from published plays.
3-Prepare Two Contrasting Songs and Monologues
This is your chance to show range. For songs, you need one uptempo and a ballad. Selecting one that is contemporary and another that is classical is also a good idea. Your songs should be selected from musicals. With your monologues you may want to find one that is dramatic and another that is comic. Your child needs to LOVE their pieces, so even though they need to be contrasting they also need to be able to connect personally to all of their choices.
Most auditions will ask for one song and one monologue, so choose your piece that best matches the style of the play and character your child is interested in portraying. Bring BOTH songs and monologues with you, fully prepared, just in case they ask to hear more. This is a great sign-don’t worry that this means you didn’t perform your first pieces well. It means they like you and wonder what else you can do.
4-Select Songs and Monologues that Demonstrate What You Do Best
You will not get “extra credit” for presenting material that is really challenging in an audition, so don’t do it. Auditioning is a time to show off what you can do really well. You only have between 2-5 minutes most of the time to show your auditors what you are capable of and who you are, so use that time to show them your very best stuff. Remember, the goal of this initial audition is to make them like you so much that they want to see more, which will lead to receiving a call back audition.
5-Slate with Confidence and Friendliness
Most directors will say that 85% of their impression about you is made up BEFORE you begin your monologue or song. The way you enter the room and greet people and how you slate your pieces are extremely important, yet most young actors do not spend enough time practicing this. This is such an easy way to improve your audition! The most important things to remember when slating are to stand with your feet planted firmly on the floor, to not wiggle or fiddle with clothing or hair etc…, to make eye contact, to clearly state your name, the title or your songs and or monologues, and to seem open, friendly and confident. This is when they decide if they WANT to work with you for 3 months or more. Are you likable? Do you present a positive energy? Do you enunciate and project well?
6-Be Memorized! Be overly Memorized!!
For many young actors, auditioning can be nerve wracking, and when you are nervous it is easier to forget lines and lyrics that are not fully ingrained into memory.
Perhaps even more important, showing full confidence in your performance rather than stumbling on words will demonstrate to your auditors that you really want the job and were willing to prepare for it. You also don’t want to give your director reason to wonder about your ability to memorize material and whether you will be able to meet “off book” deadlines.
Plus-it is very difficult to be free in your movement and character choices if you are holding a piece of paper in your hands during an audition. Many auditors will not allow you to present material that is not memorized-it is just not professional.
7-Stay Away from Iconic or overly popular Songs and Monologues
Anytime someone hears the song “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” they will undoubtedly compare it to Judy Garland. Most young people cannot sing it better that she did, so don’t put your auditors in the position of having to compare you to a legend. Also, try to choose material that isn’t overly popular or overly done. I was once at an audition in which two little girls walked in and were wearing the same dress, but in reverse colors, asked each other what the other was singing and it was the SAME SONG. Yikes! Auditors will get bored hearing the same thing over and over again. They will remember and appreciate you for choosing something different. You can find lists of overly sung musical theatre songs by googling just that.
There are many excellent song books available for children and teens that include a practice cd. Hal Leonard has a whole collection of them. This way if you or your child does not play piano, they can still practice their song with accompaniment tracks at home!
8-Hire an Acting Coach and Leave the Coaching to Them
Most parents are not themselves actors and are best advised to hiring a coach to help their child prepare for auditions. This will definitely boost your child’s confidence before an audition. Often times parents will tell me that their child refuses to practice their audition pieces at home for them. This is pretty common. Parents, please remember that acting is a very vulnerable experience in which others are being invited to pass judgement on one’s performance. Your child may not feel ready to share their process with you or they might feel conflicted if you make a suggestion that is counter to what their acting teacher or coach is suggesting. It is also a process of discovery, and we as parents tend to want to give the answers to our children rather than allow them to discover it for themselves. We do this because we want our children to be successful, however the greater success will come when they discover these things for themselves.
If you follow these 8 tips your child has a very good chance of leaving each audition with a spring in their step and a decent number of call backs and bookings. Every director, whether they cast you in a particular production or not, will enjoy your audition if you are friendly, memorized, confident and present material that you love and connect with, and is appropriate for your age, and the production. They will likely even remember you when you audition for them again in the future. Break Legs!
This is part two in a series of blogs about children auditioning for community and professional theatre. Next up in this series I will discuss what to expect when you attend auditions. Stay tuned for more helpful hints!