Private Acting, Dance, Voice & College Audition Training

Introducing The Muscal Theatre & Acting Preparatory Program at McCallum Fine Arts Academy

PROGRAM OVERVIEW

Promising young performers can hone their talents through the Musical Theatre and Acting Preparatory Program at McCallum Fine Arts Academy. Faculty members of McCallum’s acclaimed Acting, Musical Theatre and Dance programs offer private lessons and group classes in voice, acting, and dance throughout the summer. As experienced performers themselves, our instructors understand the importance of creating a positive and challenging environment in which middle school and high school students can build technique and confidence in the performing arts.

MTAPP helps students gain professional-level skills and prepare for roles in high school, community theatre, and professional theatre performances. MTAPP also equips high school students for auditions to gain entrance into highly competitive college and university theatre programs. MTAPP can assist students at all levels of performance ability, and no auditions are required.

Students may register for the musical theatre package of classes, encompassing acting, voice and dance or in classes in a single discipline. 

ADMISSION

MTAPP at McCallum is designed for students ages 12 to 18, who want to improve their technique in voice, acting, dance, or all three disciplines by participating in weekly private lessons and/or group classes. 

Students should register at least two weeks before the beginning of the class session. Those who register early receive priority scheduling for private lessons.

No audition is required.

CURRICULUM

MTAPP provides exceptional, professional-level training to students ages 12 to 18. Students may choose from an array of private lessons and group classes in acting, dance, or voice, or select the Musical Theatre package that includes all three disciplines. Private lessons in contemporary pop singing are open to students of all ages.

Acting

  • Private Acting Lessons – one hour or half hour: Weekly training of the imagination, mind, body, and voice for the actor, with application to monologues and/or songs; suited to audition preparation.

  • Private Alexander Technique – 45 minutes: Weekly classes explore ways to release unnecessary muscular tension and redirect energy for more flexibility and ease in the body and voice for more successful performing and living skills.

  • Stage Combat - one hour: Beginning weekly with unarmed "hand-to-hand" combat, this class gives the student a safe and reliable set of combat techniques for use on stage and in front of the camera. As the class progresses, more advanced concepts are introduced involving rapier and broadsword.

Dance

  • Ballet Class – Dancers learn movement proficiency and the basis of all modern dance technique within a classical ballet training framework. Ballet meets twice weekly for an hour and a half.

  • Broadway Jazz Dance Class – Dancers learn movement proficiency and versatility within jazz and musical theatre dance. Jazz meets once per week for one hour.

  • Tap Dance Class – Dancers gain a greater understanding of rhythmic structures in traditional and contemporary approaches to tap technique. Tap meets once per week for one hour.

  • Contemporary/ Lyrical Dance Class - This class uses motion to interpret music and express emotion. Dancers will learn to demonstrate balance, extension, isolations and control utilizing the lyrics or mood of the music.  Contemporary Lyrical meets once per week for one hour.

  • Private Dance - Students can expect to receive knowledgeable attention to detail while promoting the individuals own personal artistry. Students will be given corrections, exercises, and physical/verbal cues to work up to their highest potential. Private dance lessons are available for 45 minutes or one half hour per class.

Private Voice Lessons

  • Musical Theatre Voice – one hour or half hour: Weekly private lessons concentrate on the fundamentals of vocal technique with application to the musical theatre repertoire.

  • Contemporary Pop Singing – one hour or half hour: Singers learn to sing with style by concentrating on the fundamentals of vocal technique, with application to contemporary music such as pop, rock, jazz, blues, and country. *Open to all ages.

Musical Theatre Package

  • This intensive schedule is designed for the student who wants to work on all disciplines of musical theatre performance. It includes weekly group classes in *ballet, Broadway jazz dance, and tap dance, and weekly half-hour private lessons in voice and acting. *Ballet class will meet twice weekly.

REGISTRATION PROCESS

No audition is required. Students simply register and pay for classes below and then coordinate with their instructors for lesson scheduling.

MacTheatre Recommended Dance Training

WE OFTEN GET ASKED WHERE THE BEST DANCE STUDIOS ARE IN TOWN

Though we have so many wonderful places to choose from, we have found that the following list of artists and studios in the industry have come with the highest recommendations from multiple sources. These are studios that emphasize TECHNIQUE and these are also the studios that we send students to regularly

DANCE STUDIOS

 

TEXAS ACADEMY OF BALLET: STRENGTH: BALLET

20009 FM 685 Pflugerville, Texas  78660

Phone:  512-670-9959    Fax:  512-670-9951

ROUND ROCK REPERTORY: STRENGTH: BALLET

1100 Sam Bass Rd, Suites #201-203

Round, Rock, TX

 

DANCE SPOT: STRENGTH: BALLET

900 Round Rock Avenue, Suite #220
Round Rock, TX

 

BALANCE / TAPESTERY: STRENGTH: RHYTHM TAP

4544 S Lamar Blvd #200 

Austin, TX

DANCE INSTRUCTORS

 

TONI BRAVOBALLET/MODERN:

Maria Antonieta (Toni) Bravo Originally from Mexico City, and naturalized American, Bravo holds a bachelor's degree in Chemistry, a Diploma in Physiotherapy Nursing and a master's degree in Theatre History and Criticism, with a minor in Dance Pedagogy (UT, 1987). Ms. Bravo left Latin America in 1979 since then she has studied and performed throughout the planet before she settled in Austin, Texas. Most notably, Bravo studied in London at the Royal Academy of Dance and the Imperial Society of Dance, with Ruth French, John Field and Dame Ninette de Valois in 1976, In the USA she has performed with Ballet Austin, Ballet Memphis, Discovery Dance, and The Early Dance Institute. In 1985 she became assistant to the director of Dance Repertory Theatre at UT, Austin where she studied with Merce Cunningham [in residency] Leon Danielian, Woody McGriffe and Sharon Vasquez. And in 1989 Bravo spent 9 months in Essen Germany, teaching and training with the Gymnasium Essen Werden and Pina Bauschs company in Wuppertal. In Austin she has worked with almost everyone in the dance and theatre scenes. In 1995 she founded Diverse Space Dance Theatre DSDT. Her work consists of different dance and dance-theatre styles including Modern/Contemporary Dance, Musical Theatre, Ballet, and Dance and Rhythms from different sectors of the World. In the 90s she was awarded best choreographer title by Austin Chronicle's Best Of Austin for three years in a row. And, last year, she received the B Iden Payne award for outstanding choreography for The Vortex's production of EARTH. She presents her independent works with DSDT and her youth company travels every year to perform and study in the Irish Youth Dance Festival and at LISTROS, Berlin. She also choreographs every year for Austin Shakespeare. Last spring, she choreographed UT's production of In The Heights, the Tony Award Best Musical written by Lin-Manuel Miranda. Since 2008 Bravo has taught and choreographed in Spain, Germany, England, and Ireland every Summer. And is currently working to train teachers in Dublin and Berlin to teach her methods and concepts. Toni began teaching for the Ballet Austin Academy in 1990. She spearheaded Ballet Austin's in-school movement programs, which are currently conducted in a number of school districts throughout the Greater Austin area. Toni is also the Artistic Director at Diverse Space Dance Theatre.

 

 Currently teaching at:

 

JESSE SMARTBALLET

Jesee Smart is originally from Chicago, IL. She has studied dance for more than 20 years under various professionals including Lisa Boehm (Ballet), Frank Boehm (Jazz), Randall Newsom (Ballet, Graham Technique), Judith Chitwood (Ballet, Horton Technique), Paula Frasz (Modern, Tap, Musical Theatre), Karen Williamson (Ballet, Modern), Lila Dole (Spanish), Danny Herman (Broadway Jazz, Tap), Rocker Verastique (Broadway Jazz), Kenney DeCamp (Jazz, Performance), and Joel Hall (Jazz). Jesee moved to Austin in 2006 after graduating from Northern Illinois University with a Bachelor of Science in Business Management (Human Resources) and a Bachelor of the Fine Arts in Dance Performance and Education. She currently choreographs and performs in and around Austin, including multiple performances per year at the Georgetown Palace Theatre. Jesee taught ballet, pointe, modern, tap, and jazz for ten years prior to moving to Austin. She was a founding member of the award winning competition group "Petite Feet" with DancEncounter in Geneva, IL. While attending Northern Illinois University, Jesee was the director and producer of Art for Life, an AIDS benefit concert associated with Dance for Life in Chicago.

"People have asked me why I chose to be a dancer. I did not choose. I was chosen to be a dancer, and with that, you live all your life." -Martha Graham

 

Currently teaching at:

 

DANNY HERMANBROADWAY TAP: (DANCE THEATER INSTRUCTOR)

DANNY HERMAN was in the original Broadway cast of A Chorus Line,Contact,and Leader of the Pack, and performed as a principal jazz and tap dancer in many other off-Broadway and Broadway shows. Danny was also in the first national tour of Song and Dance, toured Europe in Broadway Tonight, was featured in the Chicago company of Sophisticated Ladies and began his career as the Purple Panda on Mister Rogers' Neighborhood.
As a choreographer and director, he created three International Editions of the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus, spectaculars for casinos, special events such as the Martin Luther King Honors Show at the Kennedy Center, and an encore presentation of 200 inner-city children dancing together on stage for the Pittsburgh Musical Theater. He has directed, choreographed, and staged musical shows for theaters throughout the United States, as well as for international and national touring companies.

Mr. Herman has taught jazz, tap, and theater dance at Ballet Austin, Steps, Broadway Dance Center, New Dance Group, and Queens College in New York City, Carnegie Mellon University, Point Park College, and Pittsburgh Musical Theater in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and at Fresno State University in California.

An internationally recognized director, choreographer, actor and teacher, Mr. Herman has received Chicago's Jeff Award, Artisan Award, and After Dark Award, was awarded a Platinum Album for his contributions to the record breaking Tabaluga and Lilli, and co-directed and co-choreographed the recently acclaimed Dreamgirls - the 20th Anniversary Benefit Concert, raising over a million dollars for The Actors' Fund. As associate choreographer for Michael Bennett's Pre-Broadway Workshops of Scandal, Mr. Herman recognized his passion for creating original works, and has since collaborated as a director and/or choreographer on numerous world premier productions in New York and nationally.

 

Currently teaching at:

 

KRISTIN NICHOLAISON/BALANCE DANCE STUDIOS: JAZZ/LYRICAL

Kristin Nicolaisen started dancing at a very young age and is now the Artistic Director and co-owner of Balance Dance Studios. Kristin grew up in Houston dancing with some of the best studios in the city including North Harris Performing arts Center and Masters Upper level where she was on the advanced competitive team under the direction of Melissa Hooks. The company traveled all over the country seeking the highest level of well-rounded dance education and placed first overall at national competition, multiple years in a row. She also received many awards and acclamations in her solo work including multiple scholarships, 'L.A. agent' and 'Teen Dancer of the Year' I.D.C. etc. During these years Kristin also coached gymnastics and participated on her high school cheerleading team where she was awarded the honor of All Star as well as All American. Kristin then attended Texas State University where she graduated with a bachelor degree in mass communication with a sociology minor. While going to college she worked as a dance sr. instructor/choreographer for 8 years at Alisa’s Dance Academy. She also has directed the off campus physical education program at ADA working with Austin school district. Kristin has worked close with Austin’s Dance Elite competitive team, Aspire Dance Convention, Lake Travis I.S.D. and Manor I.S.D. choreographing many award winning ensembles and countless solos including the 1st place district champion 2011. She travels to Los Angeles and New York regularly to continue her training and stay current. Last year she toured U.S. and Canada as a backup dancer for singer Zayra. She dances with Reverence Dance Company as well as Verge Dance company where she has been artistic director and head choreographer. Kristin is madly in love with the art of movement and is ever embracing and exploring this beautiful boundless art. She has found in her dance experience that she not only loves the art but also truly loves sharing it with students. Exposing people of all ages to a form of athleticism and personal expression that induces healthy happiness for the mind, body, and soul is endlessly fulfilling. 

 

Currently teaching at:

 

BOO RUIZ: WEST COAST JAZZ/HIP HOP

Ms. Ruiz has more than 20 years of dance training in jazz, hip-hop, tap, lyrical, and contemporary dance. She was in the pre-professional program at Ballet Austin from 1996-1999 where she was fortunate enough to study under Mr. Stephen Mills. She has trained in jazz, hip-hop, tap, lyrical, ballroom, and contemporary dance all over the country in studios such as The EDGE PAC (West Hollywood, CA), The PAC Annex (Van Nuys, CA), Broadway Dance Center (NYC, NY), and Steps (NYC,NY). Ruiz was a competitive dancer from 1992-2003. In 2003 she was ranked as the number three competitive soloist in the nation (National Dance Finals in Orlando, Florida). She began choreographing and teaching at the professional level in 2001. Ms. Ruiz is also a Certified Pilates Fitness instructor and is on staff at Ballet Austin's Pilates Center. She currently teaches Contemporary Dance and Pilates for Ballet Austin's Butler Community School. She continues to dance and audition all over the United States and Canada. 

 

Currently teaching at:

What You Can Do After Each Performance to Become a Better Dancer

What You Can Do After Each Performance to Become a Better Dancer

When Patricia Delgado was a young dancer in Miami City Ballet, she always felt the need to keep practicing immediately after a performance. "It was a bit of a neurosis," she says. "I felt like I should use the warm, ener­gized feeling to work on things for the future."

Then a series of injuries and surgeries forced her to rethink her post-performance practice. Instead of continuing to push herself, she started to take some quiet time to de-stress and be grateful for what she had been able to do. She was truly surprised by the results. "I started to wake up with my head filled with ideas of how to make that new day productive," she says. "It's like I was getting out of my own way by doing some meditation after the show."

Mental coach Clay Frost, who works with a lot of high-achieving athletes and performers, says he often sees people overtrain. "Then they are pooped and their mind is behind the eight ball, just like their body," he says.

Taking time to reflect gives you a chance to recognize the full value of the work you just did and take control of how you want to proceed with future performances. When there are 35 Nutcrackers to dance, it's tempting to start counting them down rather than using each show as an opportunity to evolve. Learning how to calmly evaluate your work will ensure you don't turn into an automaton, but actually learn and improve with every role.

Delgado believes that her real growth as a dancer came once she learned how to debrief productively. "Just give yourself an hour to wind down from the adrenaline before you start trying to figure out what happened and how to get better," she says.

Step 1: Start With What Worked

To maximize your analysis, start with the positive. Joffrey Ballet dancer Xavier Núñez makes sure he thinks about all the things that went well before letting himself ruminate on the one or two things that didn't. "I try to have my moment where I just enjoy what I did," says Núñez.

People are naturally inclined to reflect on the negative. We can blame this inclination in part on human evolution—those ancestors who saw threats had a better chance of survival. However, disproportionate negativity is not productive either.

Frost advises performers to start their debriefing with a feeling of gratitude. "It makes them give themselves credit," he says. "And that builds ownership of their progress."

When people feel positive, they have more momentum and energy to improve. Frost asks performers to reflect on all the good things they did leading up to the show: how well they prepared themselves physically, how well they managed their diet and rest pre-show, what went well in the performance, where they improved, and what can they learn from this performance.

Step 2: Put It on Paper

After getting in a positive frame of mind, Frost suggests writing things down. This helps get those niggling thoughts and anxieties out of the head.

"Once it is out of your head and onto the page, you can move on," he says. Frost suggests using three columns: the things that worked in one column, the things that didn't in another, and the things you want to try down the center.

Writing things down this way is particularly bene­ficial for dancers who become fixated on what went wrong. "Focusing on the problem isn't always going to solve it," he says. "So, ask yourself 'Is this a productive thought?' " Simply by posing that question, you can begin to train your focus.

Step 3: Take Any Criticism Calmly

Whether it is welcome or not, getting others' opinions is essential. Your own subjective thoughts about your performance do not always give the full picture. You'll often know when something went awry, but not why, nor how to fix it.

Still, receiving feedback calmly and openly requires a prepared mind. "It's so easy to get defensive," says tap dancer/choreographer Caleb Teicher. "I try to receive everything very plainly at first. I say thank you. Perhaps I felt that way too, or I'm not so sure."

Frost says performers can deal with their emotions by developing skills like deep breathing. "One thing deep breathing does is occupy space in the brain, and so it allows you to reset," says Frost. He encourages performers to see emotions as choices. "I always fall on the side of giving people responsibility and accountability, because that puts them in the driver's seat."

Feedback can be overwhelming when there are rehearsal staff, colleagues, friends, audiences and critics to contend with. Decide on a few people to really listen to. "I trust my fellow dancers," says Joffrey Ballet dancer Derrick Agnoletti. "I always ask them: 'Did you see anything?' I ask the younger ones more because when you are fresh out of school, you are a little bit more nitpicky."

Step 4: Watch the Replay

Núñez fills out the picture further by watching performance videos. "We are visual learners and being able to see ourselves dance is really important," he says. It took him some time to get comfortable using video as a tool. "Once I got over that barrier, I really grew as a dancer."

He finds video helps you understand what sort of dancer you are. "I really try not to focus on all the things I don't like. You have to look at yourself and understand how you can make those things better," he says.

Teicher mostly dances in his own choreography, so video is doubly important. "I tend to step back and think less about my personal performance and more about how the whole piece is received, with my performance just being a part of it," he says. The team discusses which sections seem to communicate something meaningful, which moments seem inconsistent with the world of the piece, and which ideas seem underdeveloped. They look for patterns in the work that went unnoticed while making it and then the pivotal moments when those patterns are broken.

Being able to understand your role in the bigger picture can be very helpful. "As a dancer you are a small part," says Delgado. "I try to trust that the whole thing isn't riding on me. I'm part of a bigger experience, and that's a beautiful thing about art."

By Patricia Delgado

How Not To Be A Toxic Performer

HOW TO NOT BE A TOXIC PERFORMER

There is always drama in the drama department, but it doesn’t have to be that way. There are a lot of books and articles about how to avoid toxic people. Today I want to share some thoughts on how to make sure you are not the toxic person people want to avoid. Each point is linked to the original article so you can expand your reading beyond just this post. It is important to remember that talent is not enough to succeed in this business. In order to thrive, you need to be someone others want to work with. Check-out the points below, reflect on how they do or do not relate to you, and have the courage to change if needed. Life is a journey, it is ok if you have made mistakes in the past, what matters most is if you make changes so that those mistakes never happen again.

  1. A Conscious Rethink says that toxic people are always comparing themselves to others. It is hard to not do that as a performer. What you need to remember is that in today’s marketplace, producers, record executives, casting directors, and agents are always looking for the next best thing. If you spend all of your time comparing yourself to others, you will not only become toxic in your relationships, you may be stifling your own creative growth. Instead, focus on yourself, your skills, strengthening your weaknesses, and maximizing your strengths.  – https://www.aconsciousrethink.com/3865/30-toxic-behaviors-no-place-life/

  2. Life Buzz says that toxic people lack emotional self-control. What motivates many young people to become a performer is a desire to share intense emotional experiences with others. But it is important to try to save those intense emotions for the stage. If you are constantly turning the little things in your life into big dramatic moments full of intense emotions, you are going to quickly become someone people avoid. If you are feeling overly emotional, go create something. Write a poem, song, short story, novel, or a play. You could also start a journal and write about what you are feeling as a way to process your emotions and reflect on what is happening in your everyday life. Whatever you do, please do not use social media as your outlet. Deeply emotional posts may be appealing to others who are feeling deeply emotional, but for others, overly emotional posts may cause them to take a step back from you and create distance in your relationship.  http://www.lifebuzz.com/toxic-behavior/

  3. David Wolfe says to avoid “Fault-finders” – people who are constantly criticizing everyone and everything. It is normal for humans to think critically about situations and people, but it is often best to keep the majority of those thoughts to yourself unless you are trying to constructively seek change. Don’t be the person who never has a positive thing to say. Don’t be the person who is always looking for faults in others and pointing them out. If you are always criticizing others to your friends, your friends are going to start wondering what you actually think about them and what you are saying to others about them when they are not around. People do not want to be around others that constantly make them question whether or not they are going to be criticized.   https://www.davidwolfe.com/6-behaviors-toxic-never-tolerated/

  4. Psychology Today says that toxic people almost never apologize because they always think that when bad things happen it is someone else’s fault. In his book “How to win friends and influence people” Dale Carnegie says to “If you are wrong, admit it quickly and emphatically.” We all make mistakes, when you do, be the better person and apologize. https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/in-flux/201608/8-things-the-most-toxic-people-in-your-life-have-in-common

  5. Kathy Caprino says that toxic people need constant validation. It makes sense that actors would feel this way. After all, you can’t get a job unless others like what you are doing. But there is a difference between seeking validation to make yourself feel good and seeking feedback to know if what you are doing is working for the scene or song you are working on. Instead of seeking comments that make you feel good, seek comments that help you grow. https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/20140620200646-17850276-6-toxic-behaviors-that-push-people-away-how-to-recognize-them-in-yourself-and-change-them/

  6. Higher Perspectives says that toxic people lack compassion. Dale Carnegie says that you should always “Try honestly to see things from the other person’s point of view.” This is a good rule to follow. If a fellow performer is acting out, try to think what it would be like if you were in their shoes. You do not have to give into them or their needs, but by thinking about what they may be feeling or why they are acting the way they are, you are more likely to handle the situation with skill. http://www.higherperspectives.com/toxic-behaviors-1406179117.html?page=2

  7. Peg Streep says that toxic people treat others with contempt. In our field, these are the people who watch their fellow cast members on stage and make faces or roll their eyes when they do not like what they are seeing or hearing. First of all, remember that different people have different tastes. You are not going to always like everything you see, but it is very likely that others will like it. Instead of physically or verbally communicating your distaste for another’s work, focus on yourself. Think how you might do things differently and then think about how your observations can apply to what you are currently working on or future projects. https://blogs.psychcentral.com/knotted/2018/02/7-toxic-behaviors-you-should-never-tolerate/

  8. John Boitnott says that toxic people are jealous of others’ success. It is really hard to not be jealous of others when you are a performer. We are all chasing big dreams and if someone else is getting there before you, it can be really hard to let that go. However, you have to remember that everyone’s path is different. If someone gets an opportunity that you were really hoping for, it is ok to be disappointed or feel down and out for a while. But take the high road and congratulate them knowing that this is their time to shine and yours is coming. http://www.baltimoresun.com/business/success/inc/tca-3-signs-that-you-re-the-toxic-one-at-the-office-20180216-story.html

  9. Awareness Act says that toxic people often turn everything into a competition. There are many times in life when you will be competing against your friends for a gig. If you want to keep your friendships healthy, focus on yourself and remember that it is hard to change a director’s or producer’s vision. You may give the best audition on a given day, but if you do not fit the vision of those on the other side of the table, you are not getting the gig no matter what you do. It is ok to look at others and see if you could be doing something different, but do not be competitive with others in your day-to-day interactions. http://awarenessact.com/32-toxic-behaviors-to-eliminate-from-your-life-immediately/

  10. Do not be the hothead in the room, the people who act that way are toxic. Dr. Sari Cooper says if you have cycles of anger, remorse, shame, and provoked anger without understanding, you need to do some self-examination and figure out what is going on. Tensions often run high in performance situations, but blowing up is not going to help anything. In fact, it usually makes things worse. If you frequently notice your temperature rising, you may want to seek out help to find better ways to deal with frustrating situations. https://www.rd.com/advice/relationships/signs-toxic-one-relationship/

Finally, do not be an internet troll. It is a form of bullying and it is a sure way to lose the respect of the community and stifle your career. Wikipedia says “In Internet slang, a troll (/troʊl, trɒl/) is a person who starts quarrels or upsets people on the Internet to distract and sow discord by posting inflammatory and digressive,[1] extraneous, or off-topic messages in an online community (such as a newsgroupforumchat room, or blog) with the intent of provoking readers into displaying emotional responses[2] and normalizing tangential discussion,[3] whether for the troll’s amusement or a specific gain.” There are a lot of theatre discussion rooms, blogs, and other forms of Internet content that take pride in attacking, insulting, and/or trying to anger others in our community. They sew discord solely for the purpose of building an audience for themselves and to make themselves feel better about their own shortcomings. Do not join them in their quest. They are toxic and most of the time bitter that they themselves have not achieved the type of success they envisioned when they were young. Instead, get yourself to a practice room, do the work, and go audition. When you read and listen to negativity you will begin to see the world through a negative lens. When you intently focus on the work and yourself, you will have a much better quality of life and will be more likely to reach your goals. To be sure, it is ok and healthy to disagree with things you see posted online. Intelligent and well thought out conversations are the way we grow as individuals and as a profession. Just make sure you are being a professional in your reactions and interactions when you post. If you are not sure how to do that, read Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence People. It is an old book, but it is full of advice that is as relevant today as it was when the book was written.

No one is perfect and it is unreasonable to think that you will ever be. However, by avoiding these behaviors, you are more likely to be a valued colleague. Be the person that everyone likes to be around and you will soon find yourself with plenty of options available to you.

By Matt Edwards

Matt Edwards is an Associate Professor of Voice/Director of Musical Theatre at Shenandoah Conservatory in Winchester, VA, and Artistic Director of the CCM Vocal Pedagogy Institute. He is the author of “So You Want to Sing Rock ‘N Roll” and dozens of articles and book chapters on functional voice training for non-classical styles. For more information visit EdwardsVoice.com

A Professor's Recipe for Electric Musical Theatre Stage Presence

Stage Presence.  Star Quality.  The X-factor.   Whatever you call it, it is the difference between an adequate actor and a good actor and often times, between a good actor and a star.  Many people say it is an indefinable quality that someone is either born with or not.   As a college professor who is charged with teaching students how to be solid actors and musical theatre performers that does not cut it.  It is my responsibility to teach my students everything in my power to make them stronger and “you’ve either got it or you don’t” is a mantra that does a disservice to my students and my profession.  

Last week after a rehearsal a student of mine stopped by my office and asked me what she could work on to take her performance to the next level.  

“I’d really like to see you go for it more,” I told her, “you are doing everything the way you’ve been directed to but to really soar in the role, we need to work on your stage presence.”

“My what?” She responded.

“Your stage presence,” I reiterated, “I want to see you own this role in order to take it up a notch.”  

“I don’t know what that is,” she said, “How do I do that?”

Now I’ll admit… it is a pretty bad note.  It is not specific and pretty doggone generic.  But I was in a hurry and in the professional world it is a note that I could have given and it would have made some sense to the actor.  Her question was totally legitimate, “what is stage presence and how do I apply it to my work?”  

I sat there for a moment bewildered and not knowing how to explain it.  Finally I just looked at her and said, “Let me send you some videos.”

In the age of the internet, research is easy.  These young whippersnappers have no idea what we old folk use to go through to do it… we had to go to the LIBRARY, walk 25 miles in the snow (even in California where I am from) and somehow it was uphill in both directions blah-blah-blah.  

I spent the next couple of hours assembling a list of videos that demonstrated what I considered to be great musical theatre stage presence for my student.  I solicited suggestions from friends and compiled a small Youtube library.  This is in no way is a “Top ten list” but rather ten great examples of star quality on the musical theatre stage.  And a demonstration of the crackle-n-pop that I believe makes musical theatre performers stars.

Lining these videos up next to one another I started to notice some qualities that all of them possessed.  The more that I studied them, the more it felt like each one of the videos demonstrated one of these qualities clearly but all of them had traces of all of these qualities.  Could it be that while there is “no recipe for success” there is in fact a recipe for stage presence?  And that, while each performer’s voice is unique and to what level these characteristics are harnessed varies, it is the presence of all ten of these qualities that make up a musical theatre actor’s “star quality?”  This is in an untestable hypothesis but the more I watched recordings of great performances the more I felt like I was on to something with the identification of these ten important attributes.

 
The ten characteristics of great stage presence that I have identified are

  • Commitment

  • Energy

  • Fearlessness

  • Intensity

  • Ownership of the Material

  • Danger

  • Hope (aka The Musical Theatre Twinkle)

  • Power

  • Focus

  • A Little Bit of Crazy

Let me use the following videos to illustrate.

1)    COMMITMENT
One of the most memorable and electric performances that I have ever seen (albeit on video) was Michael Jeter in TAKE A GLASS TOGETHER from Grand Hotel.  His commitment to the character, choreography and storytelling is unmatched.  This guy is in 1000% and you cannot question that for one second.  His body moves in an almost muppet-like fashion as he bobs, weaves and bounces everywhere.  He leaves it ALL on the stage (and he won a TONY for it).

2)    ENERGY
When Ben Vereen played The Leading Player in Pippin, he energy was so explosive that you expected there to be fireballs shooting out of his finger when he pointed.  The sweat spraying off his face when he turns his head to look around the stage is the physical manifestation the kind of energy the makes for incredible stage presence.

3)    FEARLESSNESS
When Donna Mckechnie performed Music in the Mirror from A Chorus Line, she left her inhibitions at the door.  Her reckless abandon makes her performance thrilling and captivating.  You simply can’t be afraid of how you look or what you sound like and have incredible stage presence.  She is electric.   No artist can live in fear and thrive.  Fear is the enemy of creativity.  Show us how it is done Miss Donna (Special thanks to my good friend Jerry Jay Cranford, Professor at Augustana College, for reminding me about this great video!)  

4)    INTENSITY
Mandy Patinkin has an intensity to everything he does but few moments come close to his rendition of “Finishing the Hat” from Sunday in the Park with George.  His voice cuts through the soundscape with an intensity that is only matched by his commitment, energy, focus and…. (the other ten qualities of incredible stage presence).  His acting is the quintessential example of theatrical intensity.  Just wait till 2:35.  This video is a masterclass.

5)    OWNERSHIP OF THE MATERIAL
When a performer can live in and own the material that they are presenting, magical things can happen.  In this day and age of masturbatory musical theatre performances with singers slipping their same favorite unnecessary riffs and runs in because they like the way it sounds, Bernadette Peters reminds us how to indulge in a freedom of back-phrasing, front-phrasing and shifts in melody NOT because she thinks is sounds good but because it helps her character express her feelings!  No one else could perform this song like this… because Bernadette owns it (Super special thanks to Anderson University Professor David Coolidge for reminding me of this masterpiece).  

6)    DANGER
In one of the greatest musical theatre performances in history, Jennifer Holiday walks a tightrope across an alligator filled swap dangling on the edge of certain disaster with every note.  The vulnerability in her acting and the exposure of her soul gives the audience a sense of danger that makes us sit up and pay attention.  In situations like this we grab the arm of our seats, sit up straight and hold our breath for the entire eight minutes of the performance.  It won’t be until tomorrow that we realize that we gave ourselves bruises from the tight grip.  Try not to chip a tooth while you clench your jaw and watch the following awe-inspiring performance.

7)    HOPE (The Musical Theatre Twinkle)
Great musical theatre performers get a hopeful optimism and a twinkle in their eye that I theorize is a remnant of the classical rags-to-riches musical comedies of the 1920’s (like Sally, Sunny or No No Nenette).  It causes audiences to lean forward in their seats and root for the people onstage, even when we KNOW things are not going to end the way that the characters think it is.  Check out Brian Stokes Mitchell and Audra McDonald perform Wheels of a Dream from Ragtime at the Kennedy Center.

 8)    POWER
If stage presence is commanding an audience’s attention, few things command attention the way that a performer’s raw power does.  The power in which a performer presents material and the power in their instrument.  No one is a better example of musical theatre power than Patti LuPone.  I could have shown something from Evita or Anything Goes but her power doesn’t seem to have an expiration date… so I decided to share her Tony performance of Gypsy.  When she is on stage, she commands our attention and her power captivates and controls us. 

9)    FOCUS
While focus can be closely related to “intensity” they are certainly different, as demonstrated in this great clip of Sutton Foster performing Gimme Gimme from Thoroughly Modern Millie on the Rosie O’Donnell Show.  As she sings this song the rest of the world fades away and she creates a captivating performance that is difficult to take one’s eyes off of.  Focus, unlike intensity, can have an ease and gentleness to it.  In fact, you’ll see that while this number starts with incredible focus from the outset, her intensity is able to build… really kicking it up at about the 2:30 mark.  Nobody owns her focus like Miss Sutton. 

10)    A LITTLE BIT OF CRAZY
I wrestled with the title of this attribute because it sounds a wee-bit negative… but lets be real it takes “a little bit of crazy” to stand in front of a group of strangers and pretend to be someone that your not.  In fact in some walks of life that is the very definition of insanity.  Some performers can harness that “little bit of crazy” energy and allow it to propel them into having a great stage presence.  I don’t mean this as a knock… I basically have a BFA in crazy and an MFA in directing-crazy.  That wildness in one’s eyes can be an actor’s best friend.  It creates a sense of unpredictability that is totally mesmerizing to watch in a performer.  A great example of “A Little Bit of Crazy” in performance is the clip below of Alice Ripley and Emily Skinner from a performance from Side Show that they did on the Rosie show.  Harness the crazy inside you performers! I may have chosen this clip to demonstrate it… but every single clip on this list has “a little bit of crazy in it.”  Get your crazy on!  

Perhaps your personal recipe deals in two parts POWER and an one part HOPE… or you like to sprinkle in a little extra DANGER and keep the LITTLE BIT OF CRAZY to a minimum, that part is up to the performer.  You can season to your personal taste so to speak.  The point is that all ten videos posses all ten elements and, it is my contention, that it is the ownership of all that makes for great theatrical stage presence.

By Matthew Teague Miller 

College Term Glossary

To help you out during the college audition season, here’s a list of some commonly used terms that are often thrown around:

BFA: Bachelor of Fine Arts degree

MFA: Master of Fine Arts degree

BA: Bachelor of Arts degree

BM: Bachelor of Music degree

AA: Associate of Arts certificate

Prescreen: Digital audition submission to determine if you are granted a live audition

Tracks: Recorded playback piano accompaniment

Combo: Brief dance choreography taught to usually 6-4 eight counts of music

Adjustment: When an auditor gives you a re-direction of your monologues or songs in the audition room

Conservatory: A college for the study of the performing arts where nearly all classes focus on practical performance training

Conservatoy-style: A program for the study of the performing arts where practical performance training classes are supplemented by general education classes that usually make up about one-quarter of students' credits

Common App: The undergraduate college admission application available to apply to any of 693 member colleges

Gap Year: When a student decides to take off a year before applying or re-auditioning for college programs

Early Decision (ED): A binding early offer of admission to a college

Early Action (EA): A non-binding early offer of admission to a college

Rolling Admission: Programs that make offers as they audition, rather than waiting until all auditions have been completed

Redirect: When college admission offers you a spot into a major other than the one for which you auditioned

Deferral: When a college program is holding their decision about your audition status until a later date

Waitlist: Students listed who are stand bys after a college program has made first round offers

FAFSA: An acronym for the Free Application for Federal Student Aid

CSS: An acronym for College Scholarship Service, a financial aid profile from the College Board

NACAC: An acronym for the National Association Of College Admission Counseling

Reply-By Date: May 1st is the national deadline to put a deposit on a college

Why The College Audition Process Is Actually Bullshit

Why The College Audition Process Is Actually Bullshit

Spending thousands of dollars...so that if all goes well, you get to spend even more thousands of dollars.

When I was a sophomore in high school, I discovered the musical theatre college audition process. At that point it was already pretty clear that theatre was what I wanted my life to be, and really, I couldn't imagine any other option. (I still can't. Oops.) BFA Musical Theatre program auditions sounded to 17-year-old me like the most exciting things in the world. All through my sophomore and junior year, I would pass the time planning. Washing dishes at work, I’d think of the perfect dance call outfit. Skiing with my dad, I was picking out monologues. In class, I was writing lists of all the schools I wanted to audition for and ranking them in order of how much I wanted to attend each and making spreadsheets in the margins of my notebook. During my hour between tap and ballet, I’d sneak into the empty dance studio and choreograph my imaginary dance prescreen. And let's not forget the bedroom lip-sync performances of audition material. I spent hours. Forget it, days. So much time.

The college audition process started for me as a way to continue doing what I love to do for as long as possible. It quickly blossomed into an obsession. So naturally, when the thing itself finally rolled around, I totally fell out of love with it.

Background info on musical theatre college auditions: they usually consist of one or two (contrasting) monologues (from contemporary plays, 1 minute, 90 seconds, 2-3 minutes, or in the case of one school, “until we cut you off”), two songs (one ballad, one up-tempo, one Golden Age or pre-1965, usually from the musical theatre canon), and maybe a dance call (a jazz combo, a barre, maybe a warm-up or across-the-floor--make sure you wear a solid color leotard and shoes that match your leg!). As you can already tell, there are a LOT of requirements, and they differ heavily from school to school. Or maybe slightly…but just enough to make you crazy. And that’s only the actual audition day!

First come applications, just like regular Muggles have to do! Supplemental essays, standardized tests, application fees, all that fun senior in high school stuff. Except you have to get it all done by October so you can submit the prescreens, where colleges look at a video of you and decide whether they want you to even bother to audition at all. Woohoo!

Now, as a sophomore in a BFA Musical Theatre program, I. Would. Rather. Die. Than have to go through the college audition process ever again. I don’t even want to think about it.

The first time it dawned on me that "The Process" is bullshit was when I was going to apply to an extremely prestigious school, and they required FIVE special essays just to submit a prescreen. Let it be known that the acceptance rate for said school is less than 1%. And the application fees for the program and the school totaled almost $200 together. And after all that, you still might not even get seen in person.

But as soon as auditions started, I got back into it. I was having the time of my life. I was living the dream! Going on fun road trips, staying in hotels, performing every weekend. It wasn't until I was actually in college that I looked back on The Process and realized how horrible it is.

Auditioning for college is incredibly demanding, physically and emotionally...not to mention financially. In fact, I nearly developed an ulcer from all the stress of constant traveling and prolonged uncertainty about the future. I missed nearly a month of school that I wouldn't have had to even with all of my auditions. I still sometimes struggle with stomach problems that never surfaced until college auditions. It's a crazy amount to expect a 17 year old kid to handle...which is why parents so often end up shouldering much of the burden. And if your parents can't or don't want to get super involved (perhaps they need to be working so they can pay for your audition related expenses), it's going to be significantly more difficult to even make it through The Process, let alone get accepted. This is just one of many ways in which aspiring theater majors from lower socioeconomic brackets are at a disadvantage.

Sometime during Unifieds, I started to realize how much of the college audition process is about doing things right. There are so many rules to be followed. You have to sing the right songs, wear the right clothes, and answer the interview questions correctly, all while "being yourself." It makes everyone the same. I remember walking by an audition room at Unifieds and noticing that the three girls lined up outside the door were wearing the exact same solid blue dress, and had their hair pulled back in the same way. It made me vaguely sad. That's not why I do theatre. In fact, that stupid mold that everyone tries to fit represents everything I hate about theatre. Art is really not about following the rules. And learning the rules is incredibly draining of your time, energy and, of course, money.

My major beef with the college audition process is that it's expensive as hell. The year I auditioned, my mother insisted on keeping a spreadsheet of all the costs associated with applications and auditions. I think it totaled around $12000, and we didn't even fly anywhere. Already, the astronomical cost of higher education prevents many bright kids from attending the college of their choice, or any college at all. This is magnified in the arts. There's a common attitude (not just in theatre), which I subscribed to for a long time, that says, "well, if they REALLY wanted it, they would have worked hard and found a way." It would be really nice if that was true, but the fact is, sometimes there are insurmountable systemic factors that render kids unable to pursue the education they deserve. It's so hard to get into college for theatre that many kids hire expensive college audition coaches or attend summer programs to specifically prepare themselves for their auditions. Plus, in order to become competitive for most college theatre programs, you have spend years training, taking dance classes and voice lessons. Those financially unable to do so are undeniably at a disadvantage. And yes, this makes musical theatre a political issue. It also aids in explaining the racial disparities in many theatre programs and productions. Without actively seeking out people of color, you likely won't be able to find enough to fill out a diverse class. Whitewashing is the result of socioeconomic factors, not mere bias. Simply put, more white people can afford to (and are encouraged to) pursue theatre at the collegiate level.

When you're auditioning for college, remember that like everything in America, college admissions is a business. It's sad but true that one's socioeconomic position is generally what will determine their level of success. When I was in high school, I accepted The Process as fact, necessity, and a rite of passage. But as a college student nearly halfway to the coveted BFA in Musical Theatre, I'm floored by the systemic inequalities that enable me to pursue an arts degree. It’s honestly absurd to me to think of all the time, money and energy my parents and I spent trying to get where I am now. I'm lucky as hell that I'm able to attend college for theatre and I could not be happier at my school. But nevertheless, I know that the "Process" I went through to get here was a stinking load of bullshit. :)

By Abigail Morris

Do Big Name colleges Give Actors an Advantage?

Do Big-Name Colleges Give Actors an Advantage?

Young performers coming out of college are looking for opportunities that will lead to employment. Most college training programs offer a variety of networking opportunities and showcases to help launch their graduates’ careers. But in landing work in the professional world, is it “who you know” or “where you’ve been?” 

Students and families about to enter the college audition process ask me each year if having a highly-recognized school’s name on their résumé will really make a difference when it comes to getting work. So, I asked some industry decision-makers to find out how important it is that young thespians attend a college with a prestigious name. 

You maybe be surprised by their answers. 

A while back, I spoke with my friends, Rachel Hoffman, Broadway casting director with Telsey + Company, and Jamie Harris, talent agent with Clear Talent Group in NYC.

They told me that if a person is right for a role, they don’t care where they got their training. And when I asked if the name of the college really made much of a difference in terms of casting, the response was that the person the creative team feels is best for the role is who gets cast. 

 

But what about those with no college degree? Do they have an equal shot at landing work? Apparently, for dancers, the answer is yes. But for actors, gaining entrance to that audition room is more difficult without great training. Also, the majority of the top schools come to New York to showcase, so an actor who does well during showcase season definitely has a leg up in terms of having been introduced to casting. But they added that having the years in college to really focus on training is incredibly valuable for other reasons. College shapes the kind of person/actor that one becomes. Good point.

I also asked if it came down to a prestigious name college grad and a grad from a lesser-known program, does that influence casting decisions, or who is brought in for a role? The response varied that maybe, in very specific situations, it might influence who is brought in.  But I got the impression that was the exception. What generally matters more is if the person seems right for the role. After all, the responsibility of the casting director is to find the best person for the role. It seems they follow that creed no matter what school the performer did or did not attend.

But what about agents? Can the program name influence agents in terms of who they interview and sign? Agents say that the name alone does not play a role. But with the huge amount of showcases, agents are more likely to attend a showcase of a program that is well known, or a smaller school where they have had good luck in the past. Furthermore, an actor is much more likely to have representation once he or she has gone through a four-year program and the showcase process.

So what proves to be most important in choosing your performing arts college program is finding the place where you can develop fully as an artist and advance your skills so that you can flourish. This is far more important than the name of the school.

 

I advise families early on to decide their “must-haves,” the things the student is going to insist on in a college program in order the have his or her individual needs met. There are so many wonderful college training programs out there. Focus on what you want, not the name of the school. This will help guide you when choosing a college.  

 

Professionals give this final bit of sage advice:

Look for the program that’s right for you, above all else. It’s really about your training and preparation. Once you arrive on the professional scene, the cream tends to rise, regardless of what school you attended.

BY MARY ANNA DENNARD

The College Coaching Phenomenon

The truth is that while students who have coaches are often very prepared, organized, have strong repertoire choices, and strong audition skills, they do not have any kind of advantage on the final outcome of acceptances. Talent, skill, and potential will get you accepted regardless if you are using a coach or not.
— Amy Rogers, Head of Musical Theatre, Pace University

It seems, of late, that there are independent college audition coaches popping up everywhere. Every month or so during the audition recruitment season, new services appear virtually all over the country, in big cities and small towns, in the Northeast, the Southwest, and the Midwest. Those families who find themselves in the market for a college audition coach need only use Google to see an abundance of offerings. Some of these college advisors also work as private voice or acting coaches, and some are instructors at summer performing arts programs or training facilities.

Currently there are about 20 private advisors throughout the country who have set up shop offering college audition coaching services. And that number increases substantially if you take training schools, summer programs, and online companies into account. Many of those offer a college prep weekend or college audition workshops and seminars. And the largest coaching company for college auditioning, based in New York City, has about 50 individual coaches on their roster (most of whom are recent graduates from BFA college programs). And there are college theater faculty members available for private lessons and master classes focusing on college prep. In fact, more and more university theater, music, and dance departments now have summer pre-college programs.

So what is spurring this trend? I asked my friend and colleague, Amy Rogers, who is writing a book on the BFA musical theater process. Amy is director and founder of the Pace University BFA Musical Theatre program in New York City. Their drama department has a record number of applicants in the thousands.

Amy had this to say: “Roughly a third (this is a very unscientific estimate) of students we see audition use a coach or a coaching company to help them prepare for their college audition. The growing competitive nature of acceptances into BFA theater programs has helped to fuel this relatively new cottage industry of college audition coaches. Families have realized they need help navigating this often overwhelming process, which coaches tend to do very well.”

But does coaching actually give these musical theater hopefuls an advantage in the college admission process? She continues,

“The truth is that while students who have coaches are often very prepared, organized, have strong repertoire choices, and strong audition skills, they do not have any kind of advantage on the final outcome of acceptances. Talent, skill, and potential will get you accepted regardless if you are using a coach or not.”

College Audition Curveballs

College Audition Curveballs

Most of you are diligently preparing for your college auditions. You may have already hired a college audition coach, started prep in a summer performing arts college program, or participated in some mock auditions. I shared tips on what goes on in the college audition room so that you can feel confident and know what to expect. But what about what you don’t expect? 

You may have heard rumors about gotcha questions, material adjustments, and unexpected behavior from the auditors and other actors. I don’t want you to be thrown off on the big day, so here are six college audition curveballs that might come your way, and how to bat back successfully.

 

The Adjustment

This is when the auditor wants to see you perform your monologues or songs in a different way. This does not mean they didn’t like what you did. Auditors will usually give an adjustment to see how well you take direction. If you have been over-coached, this could really throw you off. So be sure to stay fresh in your material and able to take spontaneous direction and improvise. And if you are given direction, listen and commit fully to the adjustment. Look at this as a wonderful opportunity to show what you can do. Enjoy!


 

Questions About Your Résumé

If the college rep asks about your résumé credits or training, this can be a conversation starter and a great way to connect with your auditor. This is also the best reason I can think of to have an accurate and updated résumé! Be sure your credits are from recent productions. It is possible that you may be asked to perform a song or monologue from one of your past shows. In addition, you and the auditor may discover that you have mutual acquaintances. Engage!

 

Tell Me About Yourself

This may sound easier that it sounds. Just remember that you are a human being first, not just an actor! If the college reps ask you about yourself, they want to know something personal about you that is not found on your performance résumé. Suggestions: pets you have at home, hobbies you enjoy, travel experiences, factoids about your family, or tell a joke. Have some ideas in mind in case this comes up. I don’t want you to get thrown off. Ease up!

BY MARY ANNA DENNARD

Checklist For A Strong Audition

Checklist For A Strong Audition

Material

  • You have the type and length of material needed

  • You have material that you think is well-written and that you enjoy

 

Entrance

  • You have a confident, positive entrance & introduction and seem happy to be there

  • You have a clean transition from your introduction to beginning the piece

 

Directing Choices

  • You have identified a clear beginning, middle, climax, and end

  • You have clear staging that tells your story

  • You consistently perform your monologue at a comfortable distance from your auditors

  • Your monologue is physically specific and fun to perform

  • There is variety - the monologue doesn't stay on the same mood/tone Acting Choices

  • You know exactly what your character wants from those he is speaking to

  • You have a simple, clear acting objective that you believe in and care about

Performance

  • You know your monologue and staging so well that you are free to play

  • Your voice is supported and expressive throughout

  • Every word is clearly articulated and easy to understand

  • You are easily seen throughout the monologue

  • You know your lines and staging cold - you can do them no matter what

  • It is clear what you want from the person/people you are talking to

  • You are pursuing your acting objective fully throughout the monologue

  • Your whole body is engaged in your performance

  • You have a strong, clear ending to your monologue

  • You have a clean transition to your ”thank you‘

 

Exit

  • You have a confident, positive exit from your audition, OR You are prepared to stay and chat if your auditors ask you to.

BY KAREN KOHLHAAS

12 Rules for the College Audition Room

Student actors should expect that college auditions will vary from one school to another; no two auditions are exactly the same. However, there are some rules about auditions that are always the same: be prompt, have a current headshot and résumé, know your program, practice proper audition etiquette, etc. 

In the spirit of those always-the-same rules, I offer some commonalities to help take the mystery out of what happens in the college audition room. Although there can be exceptions from time to time, here are some general things you can expect.

For Musical Theater Auditions With an Accompanist

1.      When you enter the room, smile and say hello to the person conducting the audition, but don’t expect to shake hands.

2.      The person conducting the audition will likely be seated behind a table. Hand him/her your stapled headshot and résumé.

3.      Take your book of song repertoire to the accompanist. Greet him at the piano and open your book to the two songs you plan to sing. Show the pianist your cuts (clearly marked) and set your tempo. Do this by softly singing a few bars of the song. Do not snap your fingers or tap on the piano. Setting tempo should only take a few moments. 

4.      Walk to the center of the room and tell the person conducting the audition what you plan on singing. Then, find a place on the wall just above the his/her head to place your focus. Do not look at them directly in the eyes while you are performing.

5.      Give your accompanist a cue with a nod of your head, and begin singing. 

6.      When you are finished singing your songs, smile and look at the person conducting the audition to signify you’re finished.

7.      For the monologue portion of the audition, slate your pieces to the person conducting your audition. If you are only performing one monologue, it should be your “thumb print.” This is the monologue that is the most like you. If you are performing two monologues, begin with your thumb print. Find that same spot on the wall to place your focus, then begin.

8.      When you have finished, hold for three seconds, then break and smile at the person conducting your audition to signify you’re finished. Do not say thank you immediately after you finish.

9.      If there are no questions, retrieve your book of rep from the pianist and thank him/her. Lastly, thank the person conducting your audition for his/her time as you exit the room with a smile.

The entire audition will probably last about five minutes.

For Musical Theater audition With Recorded Tracks

The only difference involves your playback device. 

1.      Once you enter the audition room and have handed your headshot and résumé to the person conducting your audition, place your playback equipment on a table or chair made available for you near the center of the room. 

2.      Be sure your playback is fully charged with no need to plug into a wall socket. Most students use an iPhone and Bluetooth speaker.. 

3.      When your audition is over, retrieve your playback equipment and exit with a smile and a thank you.

BY MARY ANNA DENNARD

Preparing Your Sheet Music

Preparing Your Sheet Music

For musical theater college auditions, you will be asked to sing two songs. Typically the colleges will require an up-tempo and a ballad. Requirements can range from contemporary pop/rock to golden age traditional musical theater. And for a few schools, an aria in a foreign language will be required. You will need to prepare 32-bar cuts and 16-bar cuts of each of your song choices as each school has different length requirements. 

Because you will be auditioning for a number of different colleges, it is easy to see that your book of college audition song rep will house a variety of music. The most basic book of rep will contain five songs. Your book needs to be well organized and sheet music cuts must be clearly marked.  

Remember that the pianist will be meeting you for the first time and needs to get in sync with you without delay. Anything you can do to make his or her job easier will benefit your audition!

Make things easy for your accompanist with these simple steps:

  • Make sense out of your music cuts.

  • Avoid those little bumps in the road in your sheet music.

  • Present yourself as a professional.

This is how:

1.      Using a Sharpie, put brackets toward music that is sung, and brackets away from music that is cut. Brackets should span the entire grand staff, from top staff to bottom staff, and should be drawn right on the bar line.

2.      Strike through music that is not played. Don’t scribble it out.

3.      Write “start” above the initial bracket, and “finish” above the final bracket.

4.      Write tempo changes, fermatas, ritards, etc., in both the vocal and piano parts.

5.      If cuts don’t start on the first page, write the opening tempo above the initial bracket.

 

Extra tip: Don’t mark up your only copy of the music. Always keep a clean, full copy. This allows you to make additional copies to mark up for various cuts of the song.

Have a great audition, and avoid any mishaps by working together.

Thank your accompanist by name after your audition. 

BY MARY ANNA DENNARD

How To Find College Audition Monologues

7 Ways to Find Your College Audition Monologues

Finding the right monologues for college auditions is one of the biggest challenges facing teen actors, but here are some easy ways to start your search for the perfect college audition monologue. Remember, college auditors want to see the real you, so let your genuine self-shine through.

  • Try searching The Monologuer right at Backstage.com, which has a varied library including classical material.

  • Subscribe to email lists of Samuel French and Dramatists Play Service. You will receive regular updates with the newest published script. And they provide character and plot summaries.

  • Bookmark the NY Times’ theater section and read reviews daily. Read the reviews each day and, in addition, familiarize yourself with what is playing in regional theaters.

  • Regularly visit the Drama Book Shop’s website. They have a “play of the week” including a synopsis that may be of interest.

  • Peruse the Playwrights Horizons online bookshop. A small but significant collection of new plays recently produced

  • Search Playscripts.com. They have a section called “high school category” with age-appropriate scripts.

  • Go to the library and thumb through scripts. Look for large blocks of text and note the
    monologues that speak to you. The words should feel like something you yourself would say in a way that you would say them.

Enjoy the process. It is every actor’s responsibility to have material at the ready. You might also want to stockpile evergreen audition material you can use for later auditions or classwork once you get into college. And it’s always a good idea to have extra pieces in case the college auditors ask if you have anything else? You want to be able to say, “Why yes I do!”

BY MARY ANNA DENNARD

How to Show Your Authentic Self in College Auditions

How to Show Your Authentic Self in College Auditions

I say it over and over, but it bears repeating. The college auditors just want to see you. They do not want you to play a part, portray a role, or disguise yourself in any way. This is why one of the cardinal rules for college auditions is no dialects or accents. When you walk in that audition room, the reps have just a few minutes to get to know you. So you need to make it easy for them to see your true self. 

“Be yourself” is the motto. That sounds simple enough, but for a 17-year-old high school student, this can be more difficult than it sounds. The tendency is to out-perform the person in the room before you, choose material that auditors will never forget, and show them all the wonderful facets of your talent. But auditors tell me this is actually not what they want to see. First of all, in a two-to-five-minute audition there is no way to show everything you can do, so trying to do that will always fail. You will end up showing them nothing all. They want to see you perform material that you sincerely resonate with, prepared in the simplest way that shows them something specific about you as a person. Surprisingly, the subtlest most honest audition performance will often leave the strongest impression.  

But first, you will need to do some internal digging and thoughtful introspection in order to know what part of yourself you want to share in the audition room. This can be a challenge as many teens are still trying to figure out who they are. Be aware that your chosen material is a direct reflection of your personality. Determine the answers to questions such as: Are you passionate about politics? Do you champion any social causes? Are you sensitive and shy, or the goofy class clown? Are you the responsible leader and organizer, the quirky offbeat best friend, the hopeless romantic, or the athlete? Begin to know you are so you can show who you are

I have outlined some simple steps to get you started.

Know Who You Are

  • Take a personal assessment by quizzing your friends, family, and teachers. Ask each of them to give you four adjectives that describe your personality. This is a fun way to see what kind of impression you make with those who know you best.

  • Choose four celebrity performers you think are most like you and why. This can include physical appearance, personality, and talent. Also note what kind of roles they typically play.

 

Show Who You Are

  • Choose material that is age appropriate and within your life experience. Don’t perform roles that are considerably older than you or going through something that is outside of your direct world of knowledge. Use the information gathered in the personal assessment when looking for material.

  • Your material should reflect your own understanding of how you will be cast and what type you are, while at the same time revealing something personal about who you genuinely are as a person. Tally the most common adjectives that friends, family, and teachers used to describe you and let that be your guide. Compare audition material with your celebrity performers list and the roles they typically play. 

 

You will begin to find similarities and consistencies in the way people view you and in the material that speaks to you. Trust that you are enough. And as Oscar Wilde said, “Be yourself. Everyone else is already taken.”

Break a leg! 

BY MARY ANNA DENNARD

Common Sense College Audition Advice

IN THE FOLLOWING PARAGRAPHS  we offer some general advice about the process of auditioning.

The advice may be "common-sensical," but it will help you present yourself in a mature and professional way.

  • Look your best. Dress casually but neatly in clothes that allow freedom of movement. Present yourself as a prospective student who will be fun to teach and highly employable after graduation. 

  • For the dance audition, you may want to invest in some basic dance wear. Women should wear character shoes, jazz shoes or ballet slippers, leotards, tights, dance skirts or non-bulky warm-up wear. Men should wear jazz or ballet shoes, tights, t-shirts or shorts. Sneakers are not recommended -- how can you do a double pirouette when your Nikes keep you nailed to the floor? 

  • DO consider your deportment. That means the way you behave (and are seen to behave) from the moment you arrive at the audition to the moment you leave. Show that you are well prepared and have done your research about the school and the program. Ask intelligent questions, exude confidence as you enter the room, say your name with authority, answer questions in a provocative way, look your best, thank the faculty for their attention and leave with the air of a job well done. And if you are really interested in pursuing the program, write a note to the faculty on your return home. 

  • DO be confident. Like yourself. Be proud of who you are. In short, make the faculty want to teach you. Arouse their interest through the sheer force of your personality. Dare to be different -- in other words, true to yourself. 

  • DO ask questions about the school or the program if you wish. Remember you are auditioning the faculty, too. But how shall we say this -- keep the questions logical and to the point. Take the opportunity to talk to the current musical theatre majors— they'll be happy to give you the dirt on the school, the faculty, the classes and the productions. Just remember, they often give us feedback on the behavior of prospective students, too. 

  • Please do not expect the pianist to transpose your music on sight.

NO-ONE CAN SUCCEED in musical theatre without skills in its three component areas. These are the areas they assess during your audition. They try to gauge your level of accomplishment in each and in all three as a whole.

But they are also looking for more than mere accomplishment. Your skills must be complemented by drive, commitment, confidence and like-ability. Your performance can be greatly enhanced by the way you present yourself -- in fact the "packaging" can transform a pleasant audition into a striking one. Your aim is simple: to convince the auditors that you are the student we most need for the success of our program.

With careful planning you can do just that. If you can audition successfully for a college program by applying these simple guidelines, you will have acquired a skill that will stand you in good stead throughout your career in theatre.

By Aubrey Berg

College Audition Do + Don'ts

College Audition Do’s and Don’ts

IN HIS EXCELLENT BOOK Acting Professionally, Robert Cohen suggests that an actor needs a strong personality. For him, the most undesirable quality for an actor is to be bland — a "good little boy or girl"— nice, dull and unmarketable.

Musical theatre is a frankly presentational form of theatre — generally, we do not burst into song or dance at moments of crisis. This raises the stakes for the musical theatre performer and emphasizes the need for a magnetic stage presence, a confident air and a unique personality.

These qualities should be evident in a musical theatre audition. They can transform a routine audition into a memorable one and make us eager to enroll you as a student.

The personality you project is the basis for your audition. It includes the clothes you wear, the way you introduce your material and your ability to answer questions. Even the materials you choose to perform can be revealing. But remember, please, personality is not an alien persona affected for the occasion — it is just the simple use of the characteristics that make you distinctive as a performer and a human being.

TO ASSIST YOU in selecting suitable songs or monologues, you may want to consider some simple DOs and DON'Ts of Musical Theatre auditions.

  • DO avoid overly familiar material, songs that are performed continuously. There is a wealth of material from which to choose without resorting to "Much More," "I Can't Say No," "All That Jazz," "If I Were a Bell" or "Can't Help Loving That Man of Mine."

  • DO avoid songs associated primarily with particular artists. "New York, New York" is Liza's song, "Don't Rain on My Parade" is Barbra's and "Over the Rainbow" is Judy's. Comparisons are inevitable.

  • DO avoid the current hit from the current Broadway smash or revival. These songs are simply performed too often at auditions to work to your advantage.

  • DO NOT present a choreographed routine. Dance skills are evaluated at the dance audition. DO, however, approach the material with a free body and move whenever appropriate. Body movement should be relaxed (not casual) and should not "illustrate" the lyrics (pointing at your head then at your watch on the words "I know now.") 

  • DO select material suitable for youthful performers. Many students hide behind phony elderly voices and mannerisms, the characterizations that won them acclaim in the high-school play. Remember, we want to see who you are. 

  • DO NOT attempt songs obviously created for mature characters -- song such as "I'm Still Here," "Send in the Clowns," "Fifty Percent," "Rose's Turn" and any Sondheim song written for a mature character.  

  • DO beware of choices that are difficult to perform under stressful conditions. Many of the patter songs ("If," "Another Hundred People," "Funny," "Giants in the Sky") are notoriously difficult and require careful coordination between pianist and singer. These songs are hard to perform without adequate rehearsal and under the naturally competitive circumstances of an audition. 

  • DO avoid excessively emotional pieces. It is difficult to build a sentiment quickly and convincingly. In her concert appearances, the legendary Lena Horne sings the song "Stormy Weather" twice because, as she says, she has to "build up to it." And consider that selections like the transformation scene from Jekyll and Hyde without the benefit of costume, make-up and lighting are often unintentionally hilarious in the unforgiving light of an audition room. 

  • DO NOT imitate your favorite performers. Don't moonwalk like Michael, pout like Bernadette or clutch the air like Mandy. And please don't wear a white half-mask or a lion's head. 

  • DO NOT outstay your welcome, argue if you are cut off in mid-note, or be evasive about your head voice, chest voice, legit experience, range or dance expertise. Answer questions in a straightforward manner that expresses your individuality. "Well, I can move!" ranks as the most often heard evasion in answer to a question about previous dance training. 

  • DO bring sheet music in the correct key and with all cuts or repetitions clearly marked. 

  • DO place your music in a binder or tape the sheets together for the benefit of the accompanist. 

  • DO speak clearly to the pianist and articulate the tempi by singing a few phrases. This is preferable to snapping your fingers or yelling "Faster," "Too fast," or "Slow Down" in the middle of "Ol' Man River" or "Corner of the Sky." And please note that if we do not feel your songs adequately represent your vocal range, we may ask you to perform some simple vocal exercises at the keyboard or present another song. 

IN SELECTING A MONOLOGUE, DO pick material that reflects your strengths as a performer, suits your age and demonstrates the image you wish to create. Differentiate between monologues that have literary value (good pieces of writing) and those that are dramatic (they play well). Opt for the latter. 

  • DO select a piece that allows you to make strong acting choices. Most importantly avoid those hackneyed pieces that elicit groans from the adjudicators ("Tuna fish" from Laughing Wild, "I brushed my hair" from The Fantasticks, "Peter Pan" from 'Dentity Crisis, "Sunbonnet Sue" from Quilters and pieces from the often-performed Brighton Beach Memoirs, Biloxi Blues, The Odd Couple, Night Luster, Nuts andBoys Life.) Avoid monologues from anthologies, and, of course, read the entire play before attempting to perform the speech. 

  • DO NOT select pieces that attempt to shock with their use of bad language or obscene physical action. Auditors are never shocked but often bored! Present the material naturally, and remember that you are using the words of others in order to sell yourself. Through your choice of material and your performance behavior, show yourself to be a person of taste, confidence, sincerity and sensitivity. 

  • DO NOT perform material written for a character significantly younger or older than you are and avoid pieces written in dialect. We want to hear your voice expressing emotion or making us laugh. Yes, you may use a chair, but no props or costumes — and if you must do "Glass Marbles" from Talking With, please DO NOT drop them on the floor!

BY CCM

Interview Question Ideas

Make an impression by showing interest with a few key questions.

Can you tell me about the teachers I might have freshman year?

Are some of the freshman courses taught by teaching assistants? Are there professional actors, dancers, and artists on the staff? Most performing and visual arts school faculties offer a combination of academics and professionals. If you want to be mentored by people who practice their art, you need to find out who your teachers will be.

Are there opportunities for work/study positions or internships in my field of study?

Most programs offer a variety of employment options for students, but it would be great if the experience could tie in directly with your area of the arts. This will help you discover your range of options.

What do students in the arts programs do for fun?

This is the perfect chance to highlight your interests beyond your chosen field of study and help the interviewer learn more about you as a person. Are there clubs or activities related to your interests? Let your interviewer know what you like to do in your spare time. Also, ask where the popular hangouts are for arts students. Stop by to chat with some students. You’ll likely get some valuable insight into the student experience that you won’t find out in a formal interview.

It’s obvious that you graduate some tremendously talented students each year and I was blown away by the alumni I read about on your website. I’m curious, however, if you could tell me about someone who graduated while you were here that you are especially excited about? Someone who is doing something exciting whether it’s theatre related or not?

 By ArtsBridge