Free monologues can be accessed by any aspiring actor. But the source you choose could impact the quality of your performance. Find out how monologues are protected by copyright, and what your search options are.
- Monologue Definition
- Monologue Versus A Soliloquy
- Why Monologues Aren’t All Free
- Monologues And Copyright
- Copyright In The USA
- Copyright In The UK
- Monologues For Auditions
- Visit Your Local Library
- Borrow From Where You Act
- Approach Your Local Theatre
- Use Facebook Groups
- Download From Booksellers
- TV And Movie Monologues
- Read The Whole Play!
- Free Monologues On YouTube
- Free Monologues On Websites
The Greek words for ‘single’, monos, and ‘to speak’, legein, combine together to make monologos. It has wound its way into the English language as the word monologue.
The word has several meanings in English. In everyday life the word monologue is used to describe someone who just keeps talking to the detriment of everyone else in the group. Don’t be that person!
The theatrical use of monologue is to describe an actor talking out loud for a period of time. That can be as little as a minute or two, or as long as an entire play.
If you’re auditioning for drama school or the National Youth Theatre, your monologue must usually last no more than two minutes. Allan Bennett’s Talking Heads monologues last roughly 30 minutes. Phoebe Waller-Bridge, in the stage version of Fleabag, delivers a 65-minute monologue that holds the audience’s attention throughout.
Monologue Versus A Soliloquy
A monologue can be a character knowingly talking to an audience, as though in discussion with them. It can also be a one-sided conversation to another character who is listening silently. Sometimes the other character is unseen on the other end of a phone line, or is on stage but asleep – or even dead!
The word soliloquy describes a character who is talking only to themselves. Often this is a dramatic device so we hear the reason for action that’s about to happen. Or we learn about the emotions that the character is experiencing at that point in the plot.
If you’re asked to perform a monologue, don’t worry, you will always be fine to deliver a soliloquy. (Unless you were specifically told not to, which is rare).
A poem can be classed as a monologue, as long as the character delivering it is known to be aware of the audience or another character. Once the plot takes them alone into an unobserved room, the poem too becomes a soliloquy.
Why Monologues Aren’t All Free
In almost all situations where you are asked to perform a monologue, it must come from a published play or, less commonly, a widely distributed movie or TV programme.
The chance to perform something written by yourself or your friends is rare and only for specific circumstances, such as a monologue writing competition.
Unfortunately for aspiring actors with little money, all published materials are subject to copyright laws.
But for many writers, it’s difficult to earn a living from their craft. They deserve to be rewarded for the time and skill that went into their material.
Monologues And Copyright
The copyright laws you are subject to depends on where you currently are, though international agreements also cover creative works overseas.
An important point to note – all information on this page is not, nor is intended as legal advice. If you’re about to photocopy a monologue, copy it onto a website, adapt it, or perform it for the general public, you must check with the copyright owners first.
Copyright In The USA
- When calculating the years expired, the date falls on 31 December of that year;
- All works published more than 95 years ago are out of copyright and you can use them;
- Works published before 1964 are subject to copyright only if the owner filed a renewal with the Copyright Office;
- All works published between 1964 and 1977 have automatic copyright for 95 years;
- Works published from 1st January 1978 are automatically covered by copyright for the rest of the author’s life, plus a further 70 years after their death.
Copyright In The UK
- Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 and Copyright (Computer Programs) Regulations 1992;
- Automatically covers all projects where labour, skill or judgement resulted in an original creation;
- Copyright for written work lasts for the life of the author and then a further 70 years;
- When calculating the years expired, the date falls on the 31 December of that year;
- For unknown authorship, the copyright ends 70 years after the work is created or the work was made available to the public, whichever is later;
- There are different rules for sound recordings, films, documents produced by government bodies, etc.
Monologues For Auditions
Audition monologues for drama school, the National Youth Theatre, school productions, and youth theatre plays won’t need the author’s permission for use. That’s because it’s for educational purposes without any money to be made from the performance.
But you still must use a legal source to obtain the monologue in the first place.
Unfortunately for those looking for free items on the internet, copyright laws still apply! Which can be difficult, because you are most likely to need a monologue when you’re right at the start of your acting career. By the time casting directors ask to see you for paid TV and theatre work, you’ll normally be provided with the lines (called ‘sides’) to learn.
So here are a few places that can help keep your costs down.
Visit Your Local Library
The Central Libraries in cities and major towns usually have an extensive collection of published plays. They might be for reference purposes only. But you can always write out the monologues for private educational purposes into a notebook and learn them at home. If you take a photograph, be careful not to share it on social media.
What if they don’t have the play or published work you are looking for? Order it – just ask the librarian for instructions. The libraries run extensive network systems and there’s usually a way to get hold of even the most obscure titles. You might have to pay a small fee to cover postage, but it’s less than buying the book yourself.
If you want to borrow the scripts and you don’t live in the same area as the Central Library, you can still request membership. It sometimes costs a very small amount of money. That’s normally just to cover the admin and IT costs of adding you to the library lending system. Just remember to bring your proof of identity and address when you register.
Borrow From Where You Act
Whether you are at school, university or are a mature adult, if you want to be an actor you should be learning and developing acting skills somewhere. Youth theatres and local drama groups are the usual starting places for most people.
Putting on plays is a normal activity for these organisations, for which performance rights are obtained and play scripts are purchased. So unless the scripts are all lost or given away, there should be copies of various plays for you to borrow, whether or not you were in that play.
Approach Your Local Theatre
Hopefully, you visit your local theatre to see professional actors perform. Watching helps you learn a lot about plays, acting, costumes, sets, props, lights, music, and sound. You can see what other people do well (or sometimes do badly).
If you get in touch with a local theatre to discuss the type of monologue you need, you’ll normally find people more than willing to help. Even if they have no physical copies you can borrow, you’ll end the call with lots of valuable information about the local theatre scene you didn’t know before.
Use Facebook Groups
Filmmaking and theatre groups on Facebook aren’t likely to contain people with lots of scripts willing to lend them out to strangers for free. But you might find one.
At the very least you’ll hear lots of advice and suggestions about the types of plays to track down. And that alone could really help.
Download From Booksellers
Kindle on Amazon has an entire section dedicated to Drama & Plays. You can choose the ‘free’ or ‘paid’ options when looking at the catalogue. From there, you can peruse the top 100 plays. (‘Top’ is according to the Amazon algorithm, which usually translates to most downloaded rather than inherent quality). Or, examine the different categories of plays.
Waterstones doesn’t have free downloads in its catalogue of plays. But their play titles start from just a few pence. It’s an affordable option if you know which play you’re looking for.
TV And Movie Monologues
This is the age of the boxset. It’s possible to stream television and film content direct to your TV, phone, laptop and many other devices. You can stop and start the action at will.
So if there’s a character that resonates with your casting type, and the monologue has enough in it to both sustain an audience’s attention and allow you to show your acting skill, you can use it for your audition.
Just remember that screen projects and theatre productions require different styles and acting skills. So if you’re auditioning to become part of a theatre company or a drama course which centres heavily around the theatre, choosing your monologue from the latest Netflix hot ticket probably won’t be your best choice.
Read The Whole Play!
The next two suggestions for finding free monologues are the ones you should choose if you have no other option, for example, if you are suddenly told about a school audition the next morning.
- Watch free monologues on YouTube
- Find free monologues on websites
Unfortunately, because they are both accessed online most people will head to them first even where they have plenty of time to source play scripts.
A one or two-minute monologue is only one small part of a carefully structured story. All the plot, characterisation, setting and issues built into the play should affect how a monologue is delivered.
You are very likely to be asked a series of questions about that moment of the play, set in the context of the whole piece.
So you NEED to know who the character is, where they are physically and emotionally, and why. If your character is speaking to someone else, what are the actions and reactions of the non-verbal character, and how does that make your character feel?
Remember too that you have just a minute or two to grab and hold the viewer’s attention. Reading through the whole play might reveal a more interesting opportunity for your casting type than the lines you were thinking of.
Free Monologues On YouTube
There are hundreds of videos on YouTube showing people delivering a monologue. Some are competition finalists, One Minute Monologue Competition participants, and others are Edinburgh Fringe performers.
There are more than a few poor performances available too. If you watch them, work out the flaws and how you could do it better. Just don’t pick up other people’s bad habits!
The range of videos gives you a good idea of the types of monologues available. It should give you a clearer idea about the type of play and character to target, according to your own casting type.
Once you know which monologue you want to deliver, listen to the words and learn them. Then work on your own interpretation of that character.
Free Monologues On Websites
There are a number of websites that have pulled together good monologues from a variety of sources. You should find one that fits your casting type – the type of role a person of your age and look would be cast for.
The danger of performing monologues from YouTube or from a website is that you’ll learn and perform them in a vacuum. So if you go down this route, find out as much as you can about the play it came from, and the context of the scene. It adds to your performance and allows you to give sensible answers when questioned about it.
Finally, Enjoy Your Performance
If you are bored by a play or just didn’t connect with it, you won’t be inspired to deliver an amazing performance. When you understand and empathise with your character and where they are in their journey, your performance is more believable. So try to find the right play for you.
And remember to enjoy your performance. After all, why else choose to act?
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