Updated: Nov 5, 2020
As an actor, being familiar with great playwrights is important. It’s even MORE important when you’re looking for an audition monologue that you connect deeply with.
Interestingly enough, I found ZERO of my monologues for drama school auditions from monologue lists.
I found ALL of my monologues from playwrights I loved and their work.
I found playwrights who’s writing I really liked, and then I looked through their canon of work for monologues.
And I got into all 7 BFA programs I auditioned for.
I often say, it’s not the piece itself that matters as much as it is YOUR RELATIONSHIP to the piece.
You’ve got to connect deeply with your pieces.
I don’t discourage monologue lists, but looking through playwrights can be more beneficial in many ways...
I got to read through and get more familiar with awesome works from great playwrights.
The monologues I was finding were more likely to be ones that really resonated with me.
I discovered new playwrights who were similar in some way to playwrights I already liked.
SOME IMPORTANT DISCLAIMERS TO BE CLEAR...
The list below is NOT a list of the 45 best playwrights of all time. This list is specific to looking for monologues to do for drama school auditions in America.
And needless to say, this list is my list and does not reflect the opinion or experience of anyone else.
It comes from my knowledge of plays, my experience of getting accepted into Juilliard, my years coaching young actors who got accepted, and my relationships with faculty at various schools who are the ones accepting students.
For example, great playwrights like Elmer Rice, Horton Foote, Chekhov, Shaw, Ibsen, and Inge are not listed here because they’re text does not sound modern, and that’s what schools want in contemporary monologues. More on this another time. Bottom line, your contemporary monologue should sound “of today”.
Also, I did not include British playwrights like Stoppard, Beckett, Prebble, Churchill etc because I do not encourage young actors to use accents for college auditions. The main reason for this is because they want to see YOU, and doing an accent for industry experts like some of these faculty are is only going to distract and lessen your chances of getting accepted into drama school.
As always, this list should serve as a resource for you to help you find great monologues you’re passionate about. If you’re dead set on doing a Chekhov or a Shaw piece, you have a complete right to do that and your choice is valid. I definitely wouldn’t though.
Lastly, this is a list of great playwrights and these texts span the gamut of race/age/gender/circumstance etc. While some are more ethnic-centric than others, it’s worth going through ALL these works to find characters and monologues you are interested in. By doing so, you will become more well-rounded as a theatre artist and person.
So without further ado, here are 45 playwrights whose work you can read through to find monologues you resonate with and ultimately help you deliver your a GREAT drama school audition!!
John Patrick Shanley
Grapes of Wrath (not a playwright but the play adapted from the book is great)
Anna Deavere Smith
David Marshall Grant
Jackie Sibblies Drury
Stephen Adly Guirgis
By Anthony Wofford
Anthony is a graduate of the Juilliard School Drama Division and Founder of How To Get Into Drama School. @anthonywofford