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Archive for Audition

It’s Audition Time Again

I have a love/hate relationship with auditions.  As a director, I’m excited to see the growth of my students’ auditioning skills from their previous auditions.  I’m optimistic that new jewels are about to be discovered, and that those diamonds-in-the-rough from the previous year are now sparkling and ready to “wow” me. Watching students enter the audition process with excitement, hope, and determination is something that I absolutely love.  I hate, however, the eventual task of making those difficult (and many times hair-splitting) decisions, breaking hearts, and disappointing kids. Unfortunately, it’s part of the process if your students are truly invested in your program.

With the beginning of another school year, many directors are currently going through the audition process.  Below are a few tips that have worked for me.

  1. The CALENDAR. Have a calendar with dates of rehearsals, performances, contests, and any other dates that your company members will be required to attend.  It’s important to be very specific concerning the expectations you have of your students’ time. This will, hopefully, eliminate conflicts in the future. It will also give you leverage later should a student ask to miss a required event due to a conflict that was not previously approved.

 

  1. The CONTRACT. A contract listing your rehearsal, performance, and contest expectations, along with information concerning the dates you require students to attend these events (attach calendar mentioned in #1) should be distributed at auditions.  Have students read the contract and allow them to communicate any questions they may have. Contracts should be signed by both the student and a parent. There should be a statement indicating that the parent and the student both understand and agree to your expectations and the student will be available on all dates indicated as a required event.

 

  1. The AUDITION FORM. I include a section for students to list their other activities (job, school activities, church activities, private lessons, etc…) on the audition form. Have students list all possible activities they will be involved with during the rehearsal process and through the run of the show (including advancement dates for contest and any rehearsals to accompany advancement). They should include dates/times for these activities.  It’s important that you get an idea how busy the student is and with which activities they are involved.  It’s best to know that a student has conflicts prior to casting them.  Sometimes, you can work through the issues and the student can still participate, but if the student is going to have to make choices, it’s best for them and for you to know that now.

 

  1. The PROCESS. It’s important to consider many things when perusing scripts: your talent pool, your audience, your community, your budget, and the literary merit of the material you’re considering just to name a few. Finding “the one” is often a time-consuming process.  If more than one script could be “the one”, consider auditioning multiple scripts to get an idea of which is the best.  During the audition process, include a brief interview with each of the students who receive a call-back (and, if time allows, during regular auditions). If you haven’t already discussed possible conflicts from the audition form with each student, the interview process is a great time to have that discussion. Interviews can be done during lunch and before or after school on non-audition days if desired. Also, consider using various audition techniques in your assessment of auditions.  A cold reading of the chosen script can be useful, but not all students cold-read well.  Warm-ups and improv activities can be valuable in discovering who is quick-witted, creative, or willing to get out of their comfort zone.  Having students memorize a brief monologue or scene for call-backs is yet another way to access a student’s abilities. Pantomime activities are a great way to observe a student’s use of physicality when acting.  When multiple assessments are used, a director can consider how each student uses the body, voice, imagination, and script.  This will give you a much better picture of the actor you are casting.  Crew members should also have an audition and interview process.

 

  1. The “TALK”. I give “the talk” prior to the start of auditions and at the conclusion of each audition session.  The “talk” at the beginning of the audition session will include information concerning what I’m looking for in auditions.  I also give each student a list of characters with character descriptions, a synopsis of the play, and the calendar/contract/audition form. I want the students to have all the information they need to be successful and to understand the expectations of them. At the end of each audition session, and especially on the final day of regular auditions and call-back auditions, I conclude with another “talk”.  I explain to the students that I have to make very difficult decisions, and not everyone will get what they want.  I ask that they look at me and really hear the following words, “I’m talking to you”.   So many of them truly believe they’ve aced their audition, and there’s no way you can’t choose them. They need to understand that rejection is a part of the process.  If you get the part you want, that probably means someone else (or several people) have not gotten what they wanted.  It happens.  It’s disappointing, and it is alright to be disappointed.  It’s NOT alright to be angry, bitter, or disruptive to the production process if you’re disappointed.  During the production process, we teach theatre, but we also teach “life”.  Teaching them how to handle disappointment and triumph is part of what we do.  I tell my students, “You’re always auditioning” in hopes that this will encourage them to reflect before reacting negatively. Help them learn that you love them enough to hold them accountable for their behavior.

Don’t forget that you, too, will be auditioning during the student audition process.  Students come into auditions evaluating you, your program, & your choice of script. They’re considering, “Do I want to spend my time being a part of this process?”, “Does this director seem like someone I want to work with?”, and “Do I really want to be in this particular play?”.  Be organized. Be engaging.  Be excited.  Students want to make sure that the commitment of their time, talent, and efforts is well placed. The audition process will help them make that decision.  Best wishes with your auditions this year, and remember—-you, and they, are always auditioning!

Preparation: Key Element to Contest Season

Key to SuccessAs I write this, I am listening to my students singing Bohemian Rhapsody in the dressing rooms down the hall.   They just closed the curtain to the matinee performance and will begin preparing for the evening performance after a short break.  Apparently, this is one of their traditions at the close of a show; although a student just informed me this was supposed to happen after closing night and not after the matinee.   I am still learning their pre-performance and post-performance rituals while trying to incorporate the preparation I feel they need to grow as performers and a department.

While we still have two more musical performances, I am mentally preparing for the next productions.  In one class we are halfway through blocking , Reckless, by Craig Lucas.  In my Theatre I classes, we are beginning talk theatre.  After school, we begin auditions for our competition show.  Such is the life of a high school theatre teacher.  Saying good-bye to this show is much easier with so much to organize for the rest of the year.

Unfortunately, along with preparation for UIL One-Act Play contest season comes the dreaded play selection and auditions.   I hate both. What if I choose the wrong show?  What if I do not cast it right?  This is the part of the process that I do not like.  I cannot decide what entrée to order at a restaurant, think how hard it is for me to make a decision about what play I want to be married to for the next few months – much less which students will best fulfill those roles.

Today, I want to share my thoughts about beginning a competition season and share some of my own processes.  Since I have not been a “solo” director in a while, I am trying to remember what all needs to be done, re-create contracts and calendars, as well as, teach my students my way of doing this.   I am very thankful for the new Maestro Production Process Guidebook with sample calendars, contracts and reminders of all the things I need to do.   This will surely simplify my preparation for the competition season.

Yesterday, I began the process.  I posted audition dates.  It is strange to post them in November, but with contest the first week in March, I need to get started.  I posted five audition dates.  I am not one who does one to two days of auditions.  Remember, I have a hard time making up my mind!  I want to be able to really trust my decision.  During this time, I will do some improv activities, creating situations that I might need in the play.  I will do some theatre games to see who are leaders, who are followers, and, mostly, who are team players.  I will assign some semi-cold readings where I give a group a scene and ten minutes to rehearse it.  They will return to perform the scene without scripts.  I will not ask them to memorize, I want them to create characters and conflict.  My newest, and favorite audition tactic, I learned from Maestro workshops.  I will give each a stereotype that fits the characters I am looking for.  The student will create the silhouette of that character and deliver one line.  This lets me know what they can do physically, as well as, vocally.  It also shows me what students are willing to take risks and can create on their own.

Okay, so I have the dates posted.  Tomorrow, I will spend the day creating my audition packet.  It will contain my expectations, calendars, rehearsal uniform, a contract to be signed by parents and students, student information, a grade check, expectations for travel attire, and I may add a teacher recommendation form since I am just learning about my new students.  I gained a wealth of knowledge about the work ethic and responsibility of the students in the musical, but many of my students did not audition for the musical because they cannot sing or dance.  I need some sort of gauge for their responsibility level and work ethic.  I am thinking a teacher recommendation might be helpful.  Plus, it puts responsibility in their hands, and it can be the first thing to see if they follow through with a directive.  Same with the contract, it must be signed and returned by the deadline.

The next step is beginning the audition and determining the play.  Yes, I said that right.  I do not know, for sure, what play I am auditioning.  I know that is not the normal procedure for some people.  You should have seen the look on students’ faces as they asked what play they are auditioning for and I said, “I’m not sure, yet.”  I told them they have to trust me.  I have 3-4 scripts that I am considering.   I will audition all of them to determine what script fits the kids best.  I am leaning heavily on an Arthur Miller script (yes with a porch) but I have very physical students who are naturally comedic, so I am also looking at some scripts that meet those criteria.  I think a huge mistake is choosing a play and trying to make your students fit those roles.

During this audition process, as I narrow down my script choices, I will assign the stereotype silhouette and give a line to memorize.  I may give a monologue for memorization.  It all depends on what I need to see in order to make my decision.  Sometimes, I need to see a monologue or see that they are committed enough to prepare a monologue.  Sometimes, I feel this is a waste of my time.  I am as involved in the audition process as the students, I adapt based on what I feel is needed with that group of students auditioning at that time.

During the audition process, I will interview students.  I want to hear what their expectations are, what they feel are their strengths and weaknesses, and why they are interested in representing our school in this contest.   This is time consuming but worth the investment.  It sometimes clarifies my decision and I think many times, it makes the casting decision easier for a student to accept.  They sometimes see themselves in roles that do not fit them physically nor work within the current ensemble.  Sometimes, I have re-visited my own ideas to look at roles through a new lens suggested by a student.

Remember, I mentioned teaching my new students my process.   I require technicians to attend all auditions, which is a new practice for them.  They are handed a contract and participate in the improv activities and the games.   I am casting a company and I need to see that they are as committed as the actors.  This is new for my new school where technicians do not attend rehearsals until the end of the rehearsal process and sometimes do not even know the names of the actors.  I have had a few technicians in my office panicked over this requirement.  I, again, told them to trust me, it will all work out with a rewarding outcome.

I am tired as we close our musical, but I am excited about the future.  I have watched students grow in the past six weeks through this production and I look forward to watching them grow in the next production.  I know tomorrow, I would love to veg-out on the couch and watch the Cowboys, but I know I need to prepare for auditions.  Maybe, I can get my contracts, calendars and expectations together as I watch some football.

 

Are Your Students Theatre Major Ready?

So the year has just begun, you have cast the first show and you have some Seniors who might want to go to college to study theatre. Well, you will worry about that tomorrow, right?  There’s time for that after Christmas break, right?  Wrong. It is not to soon to start preparing your students for the next level of theatre studies. In fact, it may already be too late. With earlier college admission and scholarship deadlines (November in some cases), it is important to prepare your Juniors so they are first in line when it comes time to auditions and admissions and they are prepared.

PLAN OF ACTIONCollege Ready

  1. Be aware.

Make yourself aware of deadlines and communicate those to your students. Put together a group of college bound or interested students to research and post information in the classroom or on a webpage. This support group will help to grow and cultivate a culture of student driven responsibility for higher education and keep the whole department informed of options for the future. The group can research and post information about the topics listed below:

  • When are the first dates for the SAT or ACT?
  • What are the available academic scholarships? What are the processes and deadlines for application for those scholarships?
  • When do the colleges or universities hold scholarship auditions?
  • Where and when are the large multi-school auditions? – Colin County Community College, Greater Dallas Area and Greater San Antonio Auditions allow for opportunities for many schools to see your students in one place.
  • What are the admissions requirements, processes and deadlines?
  1. What programs are the BEST?

Each student must evaluate what program is BEST for them by looking at their personal goals, cost, location, reputation of the program, success rates, etc. Reminding students that they are not only auditioning for the school but the school is also auditioning for them is important. The student should ask the school several things before deciding to audition.

  • How many theatre majors do you have?
  • What degrees do you offer?
  • Can freshmen audition for shows and how many are cast?
  • What options are available for theatre outside of campus productions?
  • Do you have a graduate program?
  • What scholarships do you offer?
  • Do you have a work study program?
  • What is your theatre season?  What type of plays do you produce and how many students do you cast?
  • What is the tuition?
  • How long does it take the average theatre major to graduate and where do the graduates from that institution typically go following graduation?
  • How does the institution support graduates in their next career steps?

The following list of BEST schools comes from an informal poll of college theatre professors and shows a variety of in state and out of state options as well as a range of prices. This list is not all inclusive. There are several other BEST programs available to students that are not on this list and should be considered.

  • Musical Theatre- Sam Houston State, University of Oklahoma, Texas State, NYU, Carnegie Melon
  • Theatre/Film- University of Houston, Texas A&M Corpus Christi, Carnegie Melon, Suny Purchase, University of Evansville, Northwestern, USC
  1. Know what colleges are looking for and bring it!

  • Schools want students who have a growth mindset and are responsible. Emphasize the importance of keeping academic goals high, keeping continuous improvement as an objective and producing a record of achievement in time management, academics and activities.
  • Schools want physically fit, healthy students who understand the importance of their body as a primary tool in performance. This doesn’t necessarily mean everyone has to be one body type but being healthy and responsible for the condition of your body is a must. Do you eat well, exercise, get proper rest and stay drug free?
  • Schools want students who have a commitment to theatre and personal growth, who read plays regularly and have an understanding of theatre history and the direction of current theatre. You can help your students by challenging them to read at least 2 plays a month (1 classic, 1 modern) in preparation for college theatre.
  1. The Audition

Most auditions consist of 2 contrasting monologues that total no more than 2 minutes or 1 monologue and 16 bars of a song.

Make sure you rehearse these pieces with your students. Time does matter and they will be cut off at the time limit so make sure they are under the limit. Having additional material to perform, if asked, is always a good idea. The more preparation, the better.

  • Students should not pick monologues with big character voices or accents.
  • Students should read the entire script before performing a monologue. Understanding the context of a monologue they found in a monologue book is critical to an accurate portrayal of the character. If there is no script because the monologue is a stand alone monologue not found in a play, DON’T USE IT FOR AN AUDITION.
  • The student should analyze the monologue in the script and know the following: Who are you talking to? What is the reason you are talking to them? What is your relationship to them?
  • The focus of the monologue should be open or closed and facing out, not to an empty chair.
  • Rehearsed blocking appropriate to the character is also important.
  • Students should have their introduction memorized and rehearse it as much as the monologue. Mistakes or mispronunciations in their name, the names of the character or title of the plays look unprofessional and set an uncomfortable tone for the entire audition.
  • Students should rehearse so that they are confident and at ease. Kelly Russell, Theatre Professor at Texas A&M University Corpus Christi, says “The audience at an audition is a guest in your house, make them feel comfortable and welcome.”  This is a great way to set the tone in an audition introduction. Students need to remember that the introduction is a time to see the student before they become the characters in monologues and songs,
  1. Don’t forget your technicians.

  • Some of the best scholarships offered are for outstanding technical theatre students. Colleges are looking for highly motivated set, lighting, costume, make-up, and marketing designers.
  • Start working with these students now to develop a portfolio of work. That portfolio can be digital or mixed media and should include renderings, examples of designs that have pictures or video of finished work and evidence of the mediums in which they have experience.

Get started today with your students. Creating a legacy of prepared graduates that find success in higher education programs allows for partnerships with universities and colleges and creates a network of opportunities for your students. Be sure to share your success stories and tips for auditioning or assisting students with the admission process on the Maestro Theatre Forum at maestrotheatre.com.