Shakespeare Monologue Competition
for Students Grades 6-9

March 12 , 2007
1:00 Arrive at Imagination Stage
1:15 Warm-Up for All Contestants
1:30 Monologue Competition

Imagination Stage, Bethesda, MD
(click here for directions and parking information)

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Guidelines for Students

This competition is designed to help you understand a passage from Shakespeare. As you learn your monologue, you will be both director and actor. You need to learn all about this character. Once you do, the words you speak and the actions you use will show what this person wants in this moment.

Choose a monologue
You should choose a piece that is 20 to 25 lines (or one that can be cut to 25 lines and still maintain the sense and the action of the piece). We offer some choices here. Choose a character that speaks to you; you should have a compelling reason to inhabit the character. Is it the character's situation? Is it attributes of the character's persona? Would you be comfortable playing this person? You might wish to discuss different plays and character options with your teacher.

Work on the text
You must read the entire play. You need to understand the journey of the character from the beginning of the play to the end. The monologue is one point on that journey, and you want to know where the character is on the way to the end. Then, analyze your character, and use specifics. Who is this person? What is s/he trying to get throughout the play? What does s/he want in the moment of this monologue? What gets in the way? Is it an external conflict or an internal conflict? The text will provide you with the answers; be a detective and search for the clues that will illuminate the character!

Prepare for performance
You will need to memorize the piece, but it is not a good idea to memorize the piece until you know what the text means. Make sure you know what each word means. Use the dictionary and the Shakespeare Lexicon for text that is not clear. “Translate” your piece into modern speech; this process will help you to connect to the text. Create your “moment before.” What happens to the character right before s/he starts speaking? How can you create that moment? You must know why you are speaking before you start. Who are you talking to? What do you want from that person? What will you do—with both text and physical action—to get what you want? Just as there is a moment before you start speaking, there is a “moment after.” What happens when you stop speaking? How does that moment resonate?

Take risks! As actors, our bodies and our voices are our main tools. Don't be afraid to experiment with physical and vocal action. Our voices can be wonderfully expressive; we can use pitch, pace, tone color and imagery. However, please your own voice—stay away from dialects (just because Shakespeare was a British playwright does not mean you need to pull out your British accent).

Before you begin your piece, you should introduce yourself, the character and the title of the play. Then begin! You may use one hand prop, if needed (for example, the ring in Viola's speech or the letter in Julia's speech). Most importantly, enjoy yourself and embrace the moment.

It sounds like a big job! To help you polish your monologue, Imagination Stage will hold a workshop on Saturday, February 3, 2007 from 12:00 p.m. to 2:00 p.m.

You may not wear a costume. You should think, though, about the sorts of clothing your character would wear. It might be difficult to be Helena in slacks; Caliban probably wouldn't wear a blazer and khakis. Choose clothing that will help you move freely and will allow you to inhabit the part. Don't wear anything that will make you or others feel uncomfortable.

You must be a permanent resident of the United States, and you must be enrolled in the 6th, 7th, 8th or 9th grade in a public, private, or parochial school. You must not be a professional or semi-professional actor (here defined as a person who has received, or is scheduled to receive, payment for a professional or semi-professional acting performance during the school year in which the competition occurs").

If you are in 10th, 11th, or 12th grade, you should consider the competition sponsored by the English-Speaking Union.

Sponsored by the Center for Renaissance & Baroque Studies, Imagination Stage, the English-Speaking Union, and the Washington Episcopal School.

Become a sponsor