ALL ABOUT AUDITIONS
This section is all about unified auditions, held on the first Monday of each camp session. Get answers to your audition questions, fill out your audition form, and use our tools & tips to prep for your audition by learning about cutting longer monologues and using the same tools our actors use during table work: scansion, rhetoric, and word-for-word paraphrasing
I felt a lot better about the audition than I was expecting to — I thought I would be terrible, and then I wasn’t! Part of it was probably the collaborative, more personal nature, rather than just “stand in a line, say your piece, and shut up.” – 2016 Camper
All campers must complete the appropriate audition form before arriving for Orientation.
Get a good night’s sleep after arrival and orientation day, because first thing in the morning of your first full day of camp, we have auditions! You will strut your stuff for the audition committee in the morning, and cast lists should be posted before dinner that same day. We will also use the information from these forms and in the audition room to begin making casting decisions for the mid-session Showcase performance.
Not sure where to start? Check out Shakespeare’s Monologues, an excellent resource for finding the perfect Shakespearean monologue for you.
Choosing and Preparing your Monologue – Tools & Tips
Guidelines for choosing your monologue:
Monologues must be from an Early Modern play.
Here, the term “Early Modern” refers to plays written during the period roughly defined as being between 1580-1642. While that period includes Shakespeare and all of his plays, he wasn’t the only playwright of any value producing work during that time. Campers are welcome to choose audition monologues from plays written by any of Shakespeare’s contemporaries, like Christopher Marlowe, Ben Johnson, Thomas Middleton, Francis Beaumont, John Fletcher, Thomas Kyd, and Philip Massinger (just to name a few).
Monologues may be in either verse or prose, and must be between 10-15 lines long.
The line limit is non-negotiable.
Is your verse piece 8 lines long? Find a new one.
Is it 20 lines long? Cut it down, or find a new one.
Having a hard time figuring out if your prose monologue meets the length requirements? Try setting it as “verse” by inserting line breaks every 10 syllables to get a general idea of the length.
The first step of preparing your monologue for performance is to scan the text. Scansion is the process by which we mark the stressed and unstressed syllables in a line of verse. You will have an opportunity to work with one of our camp counselors to review your scansion before the audition. Scansion is simply a tool to help you get to know your text better.
Verse is a form of writing that transforms words into dramatic poetry. Shakespeare’s verse has a special rhythm called iambic pentameter. An iamb consists of an unstressed syllable followed by a stressed syllable. These two beats complete one foot in a line of verse. There are five feet in a regular iambic pentameter line, or ten total syllables.
How to Mark Scansion:
Foot: a vertical line between the feet: |
Unstressed syllable: a curved u-like shape above the unstressed syllable: ˘
Stressed syllable: a small vertical or slanted line above the stressed syllable: /
Caesura: two vertical lines: ||
Caesuras are mid-line breaks which mark the end of a sentence or thought before the end of the line.
˘ / ˘ / ˘ / ˘ / ˘ /
He is | a dream|er; || let | us leave | him: || pass.
˘ / ˘ / ˘ / ˘ / ˘ /
Shall we| be sun|der’d? || Shall | we part,| sweet girl?
You may find that some lines scan irregularly. Here are some variations that you might discover:
Trochees: A trochee is a foot composed of a stressed syllable followed by an unstressed syllable. Words like beauty, error, vanish, and even Shakespeare are trochaic because we emphasize the first syllable in those words; BEAUty, ERRor, VANish, SHAKEspeare.
Spondees: A spondee is a foot composed of two stressed syllables. This line from Julius Caesar starts with a spondee: “Hence! Home, you idle creatures get you home.”
Feminine Endings: Lines with feminine endings contain 11 syllables. Hamlet’s famous line, “To be or not to be, that is the question,” has a feminine ending.
Shared lines: Shared lines occur when two or more characters share one line of iambic pentameter. In the following example, Lady Macbeth starts a line, “The sleepy grooms with blood,” and Macbeth completes the line by saying the last four syllables:
Lady Macbeth: They must lie there; go carry them, and smear
The sleepy grooms with blood.
Macbeth: I’ll go no more.
Say it out loud:
Practice saying your lines out loud. Read the examples below while over-emphasizing the syllables in capital letters to indicate their “stressed” position.
ToMORrow AND toMORrow AND toMORrow
With LOVE’S light WINGS did I o’erPERCH these WALLS
–Romeo and Juliet
To BE or NOT to BE that IS the QUESTion
You BLOCKS, you STONES, you WORSE than SENSEless THINGS
Fun with syllables:
Shakespeare gives us clues to the meaning of lines by placing important syllables in stressed positions. Read the lines above again, but this time only say the stressed syllables. For example, Hamlet’s line would sound like this:
BE NOT BE IS QUEST.
These important syllables not only convey the meaning of Hamlet’s monologue, but they also capture the essence of the whole play: Hamlet’s questions about existence drive his quest for revenge.
If your character speaks in prose, or without a specific meter, then your first step should be to look for rhetorical devices in your character’s speech. Characters generally speak in prose if they are of a lower status or are in casual situations. You can easily distinguish verse from prose by looking at the beginning of each line; All lines in a verse speech begin with capital letters. Prose speeches continue across the line breaks without capitalizing the first word of each line. Below is an example from Much Ado About Nothing of a prose monologue:
The god of love,
That sits above,
And knows me, and knows me,
How pitiful I deserve,–
I mean in singing; but in loving, Leander the good
swimmer, Troilus the first employer of panders, and
a whole bookful of these quondam carpet-mangers,
whose names yet run smoothly in the even road of a
blank verse, why, they were never so truly turned
over and over as my poor self in love. Marry, I
cannot show it in rhyme; I have tried: I can find
out no rhyme to ‘lady’ but ‘baby,’ an innocent
rhyme; for ‘scorn,’ ‘horn,’ a hard rhyme; for,
‘school,’ ‘fool,’ a babbling rhyme; very ominous
endings: no, I was not born under a rhyming planet,
nor I cannot woo in festival terms.
R.O.A.D.S. to Rhetoric
While you are working on your audition monologue and on your plays, notice the following rhetorical devices: Repetition, Omission, Addition, Direction, and Substitution. These devices can provide you with character clues, telling you more about the speaker, and they can provide acting cues, indicating how to behave physically or vocally when delivering the lines.
Rhetoric is the art of using language effectively. Shakespeare uses the tools of rhetoric to shape his characters’ thoughts and actions. Some characters are eloquent speakers and can easily win arguments or display their dexterity with words, like King Henry V. Other characters mix up their words or use words inappropriately, such as Dogberry, the clown in Much Ado About Nothing. Shakespeare intentionally uses rhetoric to create characters’ unique ways of speaking.
Repetition gives speech a cadence, a rhythm to follow. Our brains, which are tuned to appreciate harmony, naturally pick up on these patterns, assisting us in synthesizing ideas. Shakespeare frequently uses devices of repetition within the structure of iambic pentameter, which already has a distinct rhythm; layering the rhetorical device on top of the scansion augments the brain’s ability to hear patterns.
Omission interrupts the normal flow of speech or ideas in some way, by leaving out a component of a sentence or a layer of meaning. This omission requires the brain to try to fill in the gap. You should also consider what omission implies about the listener. Either Shakespeare or the character thinks that his audience (within the play or in the theatre) can fill in the blanks, crediting them with enough intelligence and reasoning to follow along – or, if the gaps are not easily filled, that may be significant; a character may be counting on poor comprehension.
These rhetorical devices focus on words which are either extraneous or explanatory – they either elaborate unnecessarily on something which is already clear, or they make clear what was previously vague. Many of these devices slow down a speech, drawing out the tempo. They may overlap with devices of repetition.
Devices of direction change the order in which the words come; they are devices of arrangement and rearrangement, and they can either illuminate or confuse meaning. A device which arranges words more neatly, by highlighting contrast or building to a climactic point, illuminates meaning. A device which rearranges words into a less sensible order, altering normal English syntax, may obfuscate meaning. These devices may also more literally change the direction of the speech – that is, change to whom a character directs a speech.
Devices of substitution are when, in one way or another, one word or phrase stands in for something else. This may be purely grammatical, or it may be more conceptual and abstract. Metaphors, malapropisms, and puns all fall into this category.
Notice that these five types of forms are not mutually exclusive. They may overlap and intertwine. A figure of direction may also have repetition within it. You may find omission nested within addition. Some devices straddle the line between one type and another, and there isn’t always a “right answer.” Look to rhetoric for suggestions and clues as a way of opening up the text, not to try and pin it down to any one interpretation or another.
When examining rhetoric within a character’s speech, it’s important to consider both what the author (Shakespeare) is doing and what the character is doing. Examining Shakespeare’s craft is important for appreciation of his skill as a writer, and examining the character is important for performance purposes.
How to find R.O.A.D.S in your monologue:
Look for Repetition, Omission, Addition, Direction, and Substitution in the text of your monologue. Circle, underline, and highlight your findings.
- Notice when your character repeats words or sentence structures. What point are they trying to get across?
- Notice when your character leaves out words or important information. Is the character trying to hide something? Are they forgetful?
- Notice when your character adds extra words to their message. Why are they using flowery language? Who are they trying to impress?
- Notice when your character alters or rearranges the order of their words. Does this arrangement make their speech more clear or muddy? Why might this character re-arrange their word order?
- Notice when your character replaces simple words for complex words, metaphors, or puns. What about this character and their situation might explain their choice to replace simple words for more complex or abstract phrases?
At the American Shakespeare Center, one of the first things the actors do when they receive their scripts is paraphrase their lines word for word. While 98.5% of the words Shakespeare writes into his plays are still in common usage, English is a highly versatile and inventive language, with its multiplicity of word choices for a single meaning, as well as its multiplicity of meanings for a single word. As such, word definitions may have changed over the last 400 years, leaving room for exploration and discovery within each one. Moreover, since Shakespeare used over 30,000 words in his plays, and the average English speaker only uses a vocabulary of about 5,000 – 8,000 words on a regular basis, paraphrasing can help ensure that our campers have made the strongest playing choice when it comes to the meanings of various words.
The benefits of a word for word paraphrase extend beyond word meaning. Syntax and word order inform actors about character options and choices. If a character always chooses a 3 syllable word where a 1 syllable word will do, or mis-orders her words, or never comes to the end of a sentence, paraphrasing can help actors to recognize those traits, providing them with more playing choices.
Following the example below, try to create your own word-for-word paraphrase of your monologue text. Be creative and use words that you think are both fun to say and fit the meaning and moment of the story you are telling. Try different words if you feel stuck. Use a dictionary or thesaurus to help you.
How to paraphrase:
- Replace all verbs, nouns, adjectives, and adverbs even if the words are familiar.
- Try not to change the order of the words.
- You do not need to replace prepositions (in, before, above), pronouns (she, he, we, them), conjunctions (and, so, but), or proper nouns (characters’ names and geographical places).
Romeo and Juliet – Act III, ii JULIET PARAPHRASE Gallop apace, you fiery-footed steeds, Sprint, swiftly, you blazing-hoofed horses Towards Phoebus’ lodging: such a wagoner Approaching Phoebus’ house: such a driver As Phaeton would whip you to the west, As Phaeton will lash you to the setting sun, And bring in cloudy night immediately, And usher in dark evening urgently, That runaways’ eyes may wink and Romeo That truants’ peepers will sleep and Romeo Leap to these arms, untalk’d of and unseen. Jump to these limbs, not spoken of and unnoticed.