I am pleased with the progress I am making on the dramatic monologue I have chosen to study this week. I just got off a half hour session of running it through over and over. I would say I am very close to being off book for the first half of it. (It's about 2 minutes at the pace I am delivering it, but it could be done in less than that. I admit, i have not read the play from which it comes, but based on the description given to me by the anthology's editor, the piece seems more suited to a muted, quiet delivery.
Even so, I have said before that sometimes monologues can be advantageous as stand alone works, for the purposes of honing the craft, and for use as audition pieces. Many people disagree with me on this, included my former acting professor. He always encouraged us to read the entire plays from which our class monologues came from before committing to them and delivering them for a grade. His argument is not without merit, and indeed, if you find you have no insight into the character, and no reference point at all for what he may be saying, you are best to either read the whole play, or choose another piece. But barring that whole ignorance of the purpose of the piece, I think it can be liberating sometimes to have monologues in an actor's repertoire that are more like disconnected vignettes of humanity...separate from their larger story, even though you know that larger story exists. Gives the piece character.
There are book out there that consist solely of monologues written for the purposes of auditions. I am not as familiar with them, but I would think there would be a slight temptation on the part of the playwright to create something too hamish by a few degrees. If not guilty of this sin, writers of such stand alone might be guilty of less than realistic language...trying to make it "monologueish" if you will.
So why I do not think reading the whole play behind an audition piece is required, if you have a connection to it already, I do think there is something to be said for it being a part of a whole play, even if you do not read same.
(For those that may be curious on what I am working on currently, it is a monologue from the character of Robbie from a play called Fishing by Micheal Weller.)