With the sounds of shuffling headshots in the background, actors stretched and conducted vocal exercises outside of an Arena Stage rehearsal hall Sunday. It was a standard scene for an open call audition. But these actors weren’t auditioning for the usual DC play or musical: they were gunning for a spot in this year’s Monologue Madness.
The DC competition, now in its sixth year, is a tournament of theatrical talent. Thirty-two of the actors at the open call audition have been selected (see below) to compete in a five-round melee March 22, of which only one competitor will be taking home a $1,000 cash prize. Monologue Madness will challenge the selected 32 to perform their best comedic, dramatic, and classical monologues in front of a panel of judges and a live audience.
Actor, producer, and DJ, Edward Daniels created the competition in 2011 as a way for actors to showcase their skills and as a response to the fanfare of March Madness.
“I’m a tennis player, so sports are in my background, tournaments in particular. Like the March Madness basketball tournament, I thought it would be great to put actors in a tournament of acting,” says Daniels. “It’s fun, but it’s also a bit nutty: competing and not knowing if you’re going to advance through the rounds or be eliminated. So it’s a really unique thing, a very random idea that came to fruition and lasted.”
But the competitors won’t just be performing prepared pieces. Once they’re down to the final four, they’ll take on an extra challenge: the cold read round. That’s when they’ll be handed an unseen monologue to look over quickly and perform.
And what of the final round? That’s up to the judges to decide.
“Once we get to the final round, the judges determine what they want to see from those last two actors that are standing. There’s always something crazy that they pull out of a hat. That’s the mystery of the evening, where you never know what they’re going to ask for,” says Daniels.
While the $1,000 prize is the ultimate goal, actors sign up for Monologue Madness for a variety of reasons.
“It’s a great way to test the reactions you get from your monologues,” says three-time-competitor Tony Strowd Hamilton. “If you get a big laugh, then you know you’re doing something right. The competition’s helped me make some connections too. I’ve connected with various film and casting agencies out of it.”
Actor Nikki Summons will be competing for the first time this year, aiming to challenge herself through the format of the tournament.
“I’m actually facing fears by doing this because I have a lot of nerves going into competitions,” says Summons. “I know that every audition is like a competition, but it’s very different to go head to head with an actor onstage. It’s going to be very challenging, but I’m excited to try it.”
Daniels likens Monologue Madness to a behind-the-scenes view of the casting process as the audience witnesses the tool that most actors use to land their next role: the audition monologue. But beyond that, he also strives for the competition to be a source of exposure for actors.
“It’s just a great opportunity for actors to be seen,” says Daniels. “And another unique part of it is that the actors get feedback after the open call audition, and during the competition night. You don’t traditionally get feedback during any open call.”
The tournament features different judges every year. This year’s panel will include six local film and theatre casting directors, artistic directors and actors, including DC Theatre Scene’s very own Christopher Henley.
With six years of producing the artistic showdown, Daniels hopes to expand Monologue Madness beyond DC’s theatre crowd, looking into cities like Atlanta, New York, Los Angeles and Chicago.
“I’m happy with what it’s become, and I’m looking forward to getting it on the road.” says Daniels, “Just to take it as far as it can go and having it be an official made-in-DC event.”
Monologue Madness 2018 returns to the historic Miracle Theatre, Thursday, March 22 at 7 pm.
Audience tickets are now on sale at www.MonologueMadness.net.
Here are the contestants:
1 Clarence WM Fletcher
2 Ruthie Rado
3 Reginald Richard
4 Richard Sautter
5 Alana Sharp
6 Gemma Davimes
7 Eli El
8 Vaughan Midder
9 Kazi Jones
10 Melissa Robinson
11 Kayla Earl
12 Noerena Limon
13 Michael Wood
14 Nikki Summons
15 Heather Gibson
16 Peter Moses
17 Clayton Pelham, Jr
18 Henry Clarke
19 Matthew Casella
20 Lee Ordeman
21 Quincy Vicks
22 Jordyn Nicole
23 Joi Bradley
24 Carol Bell
25 Greg Gordon
26 Kyra Walker
27 Chad Tyler
28 Joel Snyder
29 Lori Brooks
30 Tony Strowd Hamilton
31 Carolyn Demanelis
32 Dani Jacoby