Auditioning for drama school: choosing your Shakespeare speech

It’s that time of year again! Whether you’re a seasoned pro or a first-time auditionee, choosing the right classical speech for a drama school audition is essential.

Most drama schools will ask for a classical monologue, either Shakespearean or Jacobean, as part of an audition for a standard acting course along with a contemporary monologue.

In this post, I’ll cover some top tips for choosing a speech, how to stand out from the crowd and some of the most overdone Shakespearean monologues at drama school auditions.

TIPS: CHOOSING A SPEECH

  • When selecting a monologue, try to think about about the character’s age. If you’re aged 17 – 24, don’t go for a character that’s obviously over 30. During my time at auditions I’ve seen 17 year olds do King Lear, Iago (Othello), Richard III, Queen Margaret (Richard III)… the same rule applies to Shakespeare as to other plays: choose a character you could play on stage tomorrow, and one you like at that!
  • Your chosen Shakespeare speech needs to suit you. Think about what characters you could play – are you adept at comedy or drama?
  • Unless stated otherwise, don’t go in for large movement-based pieces or one with props. The panel wants to see you, stripped back, doing what you’ll do at their school: acting.
  • Try not to go for an overdone monologue. Thousands apply for drama school every year and while the audition panel will have almost certainly heard every Shakespeare speech at some point, there will be those that they hear up to 50 times a day. That being said, if you can do it better than the rest, then go for it!

TIPS: STANDING OUT FROM THE CROWD

Photo by San Fermin Pamplona
  • Ironically, the best way to stand out from the crowd is to concentrate on just being yourself ; the panel want to see you being your most authentic!
  • Don’t go for speeches you think will surprise or shock the panel; so many other people will do the exact same thing.
  • Be open and engaged; if you’re given direction when in the audition, go with what they are asking you. It doesn’t mean your interpretation was bad, it just means they want to see what else you can do.

TIPS: AVOIDING OVERDONE SPEECHES

When it comes to choosing a monologue, here are some that the audition panel sees again and again, year after year:

Photo by Pixabay

WOMEN:

  1. As You Like It, Phoebe – “Think not I love him…”
  2. Twelfth Night, Viola – “I left no ring with her…”
  3. Macbeth, Lady M – “Out damned spot…”
  4. Romeo & Juliet, Juliet – “Gallop a pace…”
  5. A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Helena – “How happy some o’er other some can be!”
  6. The Winter’s Tale, Hermione – “Sir, spare your threats”
  7. The Merchant of Venice, Portia – “The quality of mercy is not strained”

MEN:

  1. A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Puck – “If we shadows have offended…”
  2. As You Like It, Jacques – “All the world’s a stage”
  3. Hamlet – “O, that this too too solid flesh would melt”
  4. Macbeth – “Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow”/ “Is this a dagger”/ “If it were done when tis’ done…”
  5. Romeo & Juliet, Romeo – “Tis torture, and not mercy…”
  6. King Lear, Edmund –  “Thou, nature, art my goddess”
  7. Romeo & Juliet, Romeo – “But, soft! what light through yonder window breaks”
  8. Julius Caesar, Marc Antony -“Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears”

I’ve not included the famous “To be or not to be”, “Now is the winter of our discontent” or “Romeo, Romeo, Wherefore art thou…” as these are to be avoided at almost all costs. Every brilliant Shakespearean actor has done them and, at the end of the day, they’re just too well known.

Kxx

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