Which Monologue is Right for You?
Take this quick quiz to see what monologue might be right for you! Try it a couple of times and read at least 5 monologues – remember that you don’t have to choose a monologue written for a character that is your same gender – what’s important is that you connect with it. If you find that you like a lot of monologues from one particular play, download the compendium for that play (see below) and read all the monologues, or, better yet, get that play from the library, or Powell’s, and read the whole thing!
The AWMC American Century Cycle Compendium is broken up into 10 sections, one for each of his plays, and contains a synopsis of each play, descriptions of the characters, and all the monologues from that script. Click on any of the 10 plays below to download the compendium for that script:
- Gem of the Ocean: August Wilson’s Century Cycle begins in 1904, where we meet Citizen Barlow, a bewildered newcomer to Pittsburgh from the agrarian deep South. Citizen Barlow arrives at Aunt Ester’s house seeking her help and a safe place from Caesar, the local constable. Aunt Ester, now 285 years old, takes him on a journey of self-discovery to the City of Bones, a city in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. Here he makes startling discoveries and his sense of duty leads to his redemption.
- Joe Turner’s Come and Gone: Set in 1917. The story of Harold Loomis, who returns to Pittsburgh in search of his wife. He is haunted by the memory of bounty hunter Joe Turner, the man who had illegally enslaved him. Loomis is unable to fully embrace or release the past. His search brings him to Seth and Bertha’s boarding house with his young daughter, Zonia, where “conjure man” Bynum shows him that he really is searching for himself.
- Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom: Set in a Chicago recording studio in early March 1927. Female blues singer Ma Rainey lives and works under the pressure of a music business that abuses and victimizes its black artists.
- The Piano Lesson: Set in Pittsburgh in 1936. Boy Willie has come to his uncle’s house to retrieve a piano that holds significant historical and sentimental value to the family. A battle ensues over the possession of the piano, which carries the legacy and opportunities of the characters and determines the choices they must make.
- Seven Guitars: Set in post-war Pittsburgh in the 1940s. We sort through the plight of Black American men who fought and died in WWII, who now return home to find they must confront the same inequities they’d faced before they left. Blues singer Floyd “Schoolboy” Barton returns from a 90-day stretch in the county jail with a recording contract in his pocket and a plan to take his woman and his band to Chicago, but the backyard that serves as his office, social club and romantic getaway seems haunted; and his eccentric neighbor, Hedley, who teeters between wisdom and madness, is destined to bring Floyd’s dreams of success to an end.
- Fences: Troy Maxson is a garbage collector who prides himself on his ability to provide for his family and keep it together. He is the patriarch and central character in Fences, (1950-1965), he continually places barriers between himself and the very people he loves the most. Troy’s rebellion and frustration set the tone for this play as he struggles for a sense of fairness in a society that offers none. He and his son clash over their conflicting views of what it means to be a black man in mid-century America.
- Two Trains Running: Two Trains Running examines the possibilities of securing the American dream in a 1960s northern urban ghetto. Memphis Lee, his neighbors, and his restaurant’s patrons stand on the precipice of urban renewal. They consider the prospects for surviving this change with their history and cultural identity intact as the existence of their community is in jeopardy. Sterling – a young, politicized ex-con – has just been released from prison and insists on righting an injustice committed years earlier.
- Jitney: The 1970s are the background for Jitney. In this story, Pittsburgh’s gypsy cab drivers fight to save their business and retain their livelihood and are pitted against a world that wants to tear down the inner city for redevelopment. Becker, a well-respected man in his sixties is reunited with his son Booster, after Booster’s release from jail. A difficult relationship between father and son again points out how each generation confronts the world in his own way rather than building on the struggles of those who came before him.
- King Hedley II: Set in the Hill District of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania in 1985. In the backyard of a neighborhood now completely blasted by decay and urban blight, King Hedley II, with a warrior spirit but no education or prospects, daydreams with his friend Mister about opening a Kung Fu video rental store using the money they make selling stolen refrigerators. Aunt Ester has died, the Hill District is without commercial or spiritual resources, and King’s dreams are doomed to a violent end in Wilson’s darkest and most symbolic play.
- Radio Golf: August Wilson’s last play is also the last play chronologically in the American Century Cycle. The play centers on Harmond Wilks, a man who discovers both himself and the place that birthed him at a crossroads. On the verge of an almost-guaranteed win as a mayoral candidate, Wilks finds his identity shaken when his morals and ideals are questioned by those around him. Ultimately, he must recognize the price of his success and decide whether he is willing to pay it.
- Selection: Participants must select an August Wilson monologue to use in the competition (no original monologues are allowed). There are ten wonderfully diverse plays in the August Wilson American Century Cycle Compendium. Choose a couple that pique your interest and invest in reading the plays, so that you have a full understanding of the characters and the story. It is important for an actor to play to his or her strengths, so explore and find a monologue that really speaks to you, connects to your heart, your experiences, and/or imagination in some way. Then decide which one is for you, and have fun creating and portraying the character’s story.
- Edits: Participants may NOT make edits to the monologue they select, it must be performed as it appears in the compendium. If you aren’t comfortable with the language used in your monologue please choose another rather than editing the words.
- Clothing: Dress comfortably but neatly so as not to distract the judges. The focus should be on your performance.
- Memorization: All participants should have their monologues memorized for Auditions on January 6th. This means you can recite your monologue from memory without looking at the play.
- Time: The performance of your monologue should last between 1-3 minutes.
- Props: Props will not be allowed at Preliminaries or Regionals. However, you may request to use a chair.
AWMC Judges Criteria
You will be scored on a 1-5 scale in each of the following categories:
- Energy/Physical Presentation: Performance is energetic and enthusiastic, has natural and sensible movements and grabs the audience’s attention.
- Characterization/Emotional Connectedness: The character is fully developed and defined: personality, emotion, body language and vocal expression have all been honed to create the objective of the piece.
- Lines/Memorization/Focus: Monologue is memorized completely. Adequate and sufficient rehearsal time is evident. The given circumstances of the monologue are clear, and the student is not distracted by peers, judges or other unrelated things.
- Vocal Presentation/Projection: The art of projection is fully mastered, with clear pronunciation, articulation, confidence and assertiveness. Vocal quality, levels of projection and dialects are also considered.
- Monologue Choice/Understanding of Text: The student chose and fully mastered the monologue with sensitivity and balance. There is a thorough understanding of the text, with enough information to intellectually discuss/write about the monologue and or play. This category will be scored by a technical judge who will compare your spoken monologue to the monologue as written, taking off points for reversed phrases, and omitted words or sentences.