It's almost Halloween and Holiday Season, and what does that mean for high school age theatre kids?
Right: College Auditions, Unifieds, Preparations, getting your book sorted, and oh wait, that's not even everything yet, for many there is this small detail called graduating from High School. It is very easy to get caught up in this jungle of new things, decisions and constantly having to prove yourself. But trust me, in the end, everything will be worth it, and you will look back on everything you learned in this intense time.
But to make it even a tiny bit easier for you, I will answer a few burning frequently asked questions (aka what I wish I had known back then)
When is the right time to (apply/) audition?
In general, there is no right and wrong, and if you're incredibly talented, you might just as well get accepted if you attend the very last audition. However, bear in mind that each school has a certain number of places to fill, and if you therefor the first audition, you might benefit, as they still have all their places available, and they can't really know who else will come up for the other auditions. Meanwhile, you might experience that at certain schools for later auditions either all applicants compete for just one or two remaining places, or even that they are already full before you even enter the audition room. In the end, it's all a matter of luck and who comes in at the right moment (e.g. after a terrible applicant) so go with your gut feeling, but as a general rule of thumb the earlier, the better. (Also you might have less stress with your exams then.)
How to find the right school/college etc. for me?
This is a tough one. First of all, it is important to acknowledge that there is no school that is right for everyone. Some people need a high standard, big groups, and a lot of competitions to thrive; others need a more personal experience with teachers tracking their individual progress. Some want to be close to a theatre to get inspiration in all the hard training; others want to save on accommodation. So really and truly there is no right and wrong, and if you have it in you, you can make it on Broadway or West End, regardless of your school and background. This doesn't mean your choice is irrelevant, though. In fact, it is crucial that you get to the very place you can be. Don't let yourself be fooled, though, by glamorous reputations or big names, acting, singing and dance are about connections, on stage or camera. This means you need to be able to fully connect to your tutors and open up to them, if for some reason a world-renowned college felt wrong for you, and you didn't feel a connection at your audition or research, forget about it, and you might find that your heart leads you to a very different lesser-known school. And fast forward ten years you will be their first big name on their homepage.
What to expect at auditions?
All schools have their very own method of finding their students. Nevertheless, everyone (for MT) will want to hear you sing, they will see you act mostly by using a monologue, and they will see you dance/move.
When it comes to singing they will more often than not ask for two contrasting songs, i.e. a classical one and one that is more contemporary, of which one is more upbeat and uptempo than the other one. Here it is important to make the right choices and choose songs that highlight your talents, but at the same time come very natural to your voice even under pressure and allow you more for storytelling than just forcing these high notes. Keep in mind that you might not have had a sufficient warm up before an audition that might be either very early or very late and you will be very nervous especially in the beginning. The panel is looking for you telling a story and performing in front of an audience rather than you showing off (and potentially failing).
Consult a vocal teacher and experiment with a number of different songs that work for you. Try to surprise the panel and find something that they haven't heard a million times already or reminds them of their last breakup etc.
When it comes to acting, nine times out of ten, they will ask you for at least one monologue. Obviously, I could give you hours worth of advice about posture, diction, intentions, objectives, Stanislavski, pauses and so on, but that's not the point here. Something that helped me a lot to boost my performance and to improve in all of these areas was to drop the idea of it being a monologue. When we think of monologues, we think of somebody delivering over-dramatised lines, standing in front of a panel. But guess what, they weren't written in that way, in fact, did you ever see a (good) show and even noticing a monologue (although they were guaranteed many)? No one writes a monologue (at least no playwright), they are merely part of a play, and we must think of it as a mini-performance (think off-off-off-off-off- Broadway). This idea helps a lot, but there is something about the idea of being on stage, in a play, that automatically makes us slow down, move, and not weirdly wandering of into acting land. In your audition you're performing a one-man play in front of a tiny audience, and you need to behave that way. Think back to some of the great plays (or movies ) you have seen where the character bursts into a very dramatic and emotional or inspiring speech. For once, now, that's you, and you want to make an impression.
Other than the monologues you probably will have to do some kind of improvisation, physical theatre or any other interacting acting exercises. Here they want to see how you can pass energy back and forth. The key here is simply to go with it (as crazy as it might seem) and not be afraid to make yourself a fool. Because if you're doing awesome everyone will admire your performance, if not, you won't see any of them again anyway, so why even care about them. Make sure to be kind and friendly to everyone and collaborate well, communication is key here.
When it comes to dance and movement, there isn't much you can prepare, other than to attend as many jazz dance and ballet classes as you can, preferably by several different teachers, so that you get used to different lesson- and choreography styles.
Make sure, to be honest in the audition room and ask whenever is unclear, if you consider yourself more of a mover, don't try to hide this but work as hard as you can. Dance teachers love it if you're trying to go the extra mile working extra hard to get it right, practice even everyone else is taking a break and ask them for advice if just don't seem to get it right. If they know you are a fighter, they can get you anywhere in three or four years.
How to deal with nervousness/anxiety?
Everyone is nervous at auditions and that is completely fine, the key is to channel your nervousness to give you energy and focus, rather than to hinder your performance.
There are a couple of things to think about that might help with that:
Number one, everyone behind the table is on your side. I know this isn't easy to process, but what I mean by that is, each of them is hoping to get the best students for them, and they are sitting all day there waiting for that to happen. In fact, they might even have higher hopes in you than you in yourself, because if you were this perfectly talented student, they wouldn't need to keep searching and staying there every week/month looking at more and more applicants. This means if you mess up you're beginning or don't hit this important note, don't let it determine the rest of your performance, they want you to be good, and they want to get to know you. Because after all the one thing they are looking for is if they seriously want to continue working with your for all these years, so if you're enthusiastic, open to their feedback and kind they will see that and overlook where you still need training. They are looking for potential and passion and not perfection because it would be incredibly boring to teach a perfect student.
Another image that helped me a lot was to see the whole thing as a performance opportunity:
You want to be on a stage in the middle of hundreds of spotlight, performing in front of thousands of people, many of you will have done some kind of performances before, and I'm almost certain you had more than 2-4 audience members ;) This might just be the most relaxed performance you will ever have, an incredibly tiny audience who are all on your side and haven't paid thousands of dollars to see you perform, they have no expectations and want you to be good, you will never experience such a forgiving audience in a Broadway theatre.
So dive right into you're work from now on, every minute can be used productively, you got this! Fingers crossed and break a leg, and see you on Broadway!!!