A Step-by-Step Guide to Creating Your Devised Monologue

devised monologue working with stimuli

If you’re an actor, you may be looking at our audition requirements and thinking: “What in the name of Stephen Sondheim is a devised monologue?” While devised theatre is incredibly popular in the United Kingdom, it hasn’t quite caught on in the United States the same way. So we’re here to give you a step-by-step process for how to create your devised monologue from the stimulus provided by NTSA.

1. Understand the Stimulus.

A stimulus can be anything that sparks ideas — a photograph, a newspaper article, a quote, a song, a film, even a pre-existing script. NTSA provides you with a stimulus for your audition monologue to help get you started. This year, you’ll be working with a quote from Wendell Willkie: “I believe in America because we have great dreams, and because we have the opportunity to make those dreams come true.” Make sure that you’ve read and understood the stimulus before you start working on your devised monologue.

2. Free Write!

Grab a sheet of paper and a pen! Free write for twenty minutes about the stimulus. Free writing means that you need to write non-stop for the entire time. Don’t judge whatever you’re writing; just jot down anything that comes to mind, even if you’re just writing “I don’t know what to write." (There will be time for editing later!) Here are some questions about this year’s stimulus that might help you get started:

- What dreams do you have for the future?

- How does living in America help move you towards reaching those dreams? OR How does living in America hold you back from reaching those dreams?

- How do you think your dreams for the future might be different if you lived somewhere else

- What change would you make in the American government, so that they could better help you reach your dreams?

REMEMBER: We’re not looking for a specific kind of thinking. You’re free to be as optimistic or as cynical about this quote as you’d like! You’re also free to tackle controversial issues or use profanity in your monologue. We think it’s most important that your monologue be honest.

3. Isolate Your Best Work.

After you’ve finished your free-write, grab a highlighter. Read through your writing and then go back and highlight the four most important sentences. These can be sentences that capture the central idea of your writing, that resonate emotionally, that provide an “a-ha!” moment for you or for your audience, or that you’d like to explore in greater depth. Make sure that you only highlight FOUR sentences. (We know that it can be tempting to make an exception for a fifth . . . and a sixth . . . and a seventh . . . You get our drift here.)

4. Move Move Move!

Take those four sentences and pick out one word or phrase in each that would lend itself well to movement. These can be small movements — something as simple as extending a hand, picking up a coffee cup, taking one step forward. If you have a dance background, feel free to integrate larger and more complicated movements. (But know that a series of small and simple movements can be just as effective in theatre as the most challenging choreography!) Keep in mind that your movements don’t have to be literal. If you’re talking about flying around the world, for instance, you don’t have to mime flying an airplane. You could walk slowly in a circle, extend a hand (towards another culture), create a globe with your arms that transforms into something else, etc. Try stringing those movements together in a sequence.

5. Revise Your Writing.

Great! Now take your free-write, crumple it up into a ball, and throw it to the side. (Yay for crumpling!) Take another sheet of paper and your pen. Think about the movement sequence that you just created. Now, you’re going to write the first draft of a monologue that goes along with those movements and focuses on just the four most important sentences from your free-write. You don’t have to use any of those sentences in your script; just use the ideas in them to guide you. You can use dialogue, poetry, music, soundscapes, comedy, etc. Think about how you could incorporate your movements with the words in your monologue. If you’re a bit ho-hum about the first draft of your monologue, step away from it for a while. Go for a walk. Bake some cookies. Binge-watch your favorite show on Netflix. Come back an hour (or a day or a week) later and take out a new sheet of paper. Try writing the monologue again when your ideas are fresh, and you’re feeling revitalized.

6. Put It Together.

When you have a monologue that you’re satisfied with (which might take one or two or three or more attempts!), add in your movements. Create transitions (movements, sounds, moments of silence) that help your material to fit together. You may want to share your work with trusted friends. Ask them only to share the following feedback:

- What was your monologue about?

- How did it make them feel?

- What did they want to see more of?

- What confused them? OR What questions do they have?

NOTE: If you’ve only done scripted work (i.e. published plays and musicals) before, then there’s a good chance that you’ll feel like a crazy person working on your first devised monologue. That’s totally normal! Most high schools don’t have devised work as a major part of their curriculum, so this might be completely new to you. Just know that devised theatre isn’t the art-form for worrying about what you look like to anyone else. It’s an art-form for taking big bold risks. So don’t play it safe! Take risks and, above all else, BE HONEST!

Once you've created your devised monologue, CLICK HERE to apply to NTSA! Looking for more audition resources for actors?

* Creating a Chair Duet

* Integrating Other Arts into Devised Monologues

Writing Your Resume

Choosing Your Headshot

Filming Your Video Audition

Posted on Nov 21, 2017 in Auditions  

Share this post

Back to Posts