It's the Season of "No," but not for long
It's December 20th, and while everyone else is doing their Christmas shopping and wrapping up finals, you're wrapped in a blanket of anxiety because you've received almost all "no" responses from your college audition pre-screens.
I'm here to tell you...this is exactly how it's supposed to happen.
The "no's" come first. It's just pragmatic, not personal. If a school doesn't think you're a fit, there's nothing else for them to consider, and you get an email right away.
If a school is considering you, they've got things to think about. Where do you fit with the season they've got planned, and the season after that? What kind of aid package can they offer you on top of the admissions office aid? Are they mulling over redirecting you to the acting program so they can keep you in the program?
That stuff takes time. So if you haven't heard from your school yet--good!!
In the meantime, you're going to get a hundred 'no' responses from schools. I'm waiting on 475 responses for my students. We have three 'yes' answers thus far. Everyone is trudging through 'no' right now. It's universal. Wade through it. Wait through it, because the season of yes starts next month and goes through March. And it's so glorious.
Greetings from chilly NYC as our tour is snowed in for a few days. This east coast snow is no joke!
If you want to go to college for acting or musical theatre, and you want to stand out to every school, from the safeties to the tip-top reaches, read on!
If you are a performer with talent, passion, and drive but you want top consideration in every school you audition for, read on!
When I was talking with the head of musical theatre at the University of Michigan, Vincent J Cardinal, he asked about me and CAP. Then I asked about Michigan. What don't I know from the your website, reputation and auditions?
What he said blew my mind. "Have two out of three."
Meaning, you don't have to be an insane triple thread. Just have two out of three skills, and they'll help you hone the rest.
The head of MT at Michigan isn't looking for triple theats--just for double threats!
Having said that, here's the secret trick to stand out: identify what your "second" skill is and spend the next year(s) honing it.
If you're a singer first, an actor second, and a dancer third, GET IN THOSE ACTING CLASSES.
Be really really sharp on your first two skills, and shake the rust off the third one.
For instance, I'm an actor first, a singer second, and a dancer third, I would:
-continue my acting classes
-get into great shape vocally with lots of vocal technique training
-get into dance classes to improve that skill, but don't go bananas about it.
Having two out of three skills in top-notch shape will make you an asset to every program you audition for.
For voice, get into private voice now. I have recommendations, so message me and I"ll help you find a teacher.
For dance, find a local studio for ballet, jazz, and tap.
For acting, find a summer program. There are some wonderful college summer programs and regional theatre programs. My top recommendations are UCLA, Boston University, ArtsBridge, and my own summer intensive in Orange County. We'll be joined by five top-tier MT and acting programs and a Broadway Superstar.
Questions? Don't hesitate to comment and message me!
Not getting the callbacks you want from your pre-screen college auditions? Good news! Those schools aren't off the table at unified auditions!
If you've finished submitting your pre-screen auditions and you haven't gotten the callback you were hoping for, I know it feels like you're fighting an uphill battle, like you're climbing up a wet slippery rock in loafers.
BUT what if I told you, that those schools aren't actually off the table--that you can still end up being asked to attend a school that didn't call you back?
HOW, you ask?
If you want to keep those schools in play, read on!
When you get the unified college auditions, (NY, CHI, and, LA), you'll have appointments with the schools who called you back, and the schools who asked you to audition without a pre-screen. But what about the schools who will be there who didn't offer you a callback? Won't they be there too? Yes, and you're in luck!
Many schools, including some BIG musical theatre colleges offer walk-in auditions without an appointment. You can see when they have open spots on their daily schedule and write in your name (and possibly pay a small audition fee) and that's it!
Here's my advice: do this with all the schools you're interested in. Including the ones that didn't call you back. If they have open spots, it means they need to see more talented passionate people: that's you!
And they may need you now, even though they didn't before. A college is casting a stable of actors for their season(s). So maybe you are a tall handsome baritone, and when they saw your pre-screen they had enough tall handsome baritones so they passed on you.
But here's the thing: people leave college theatre programs all the time.
So by the time you show up at the in-person auditions, they may need exactly you! You'll be doing them a big favor by coming in and reminding them you exist and have so much to offer. YOU SOLVE THEIR PROBLEM.
I've had students who have not been called back from a school via their pre-screen audition, and then at unified auditions been offered admissions at the same school!
Also, to maximize dollars, audition for schools you may potentially be interested in, even if you've never heard of them.
Worst case scenario is you don't go to a school you've never heard of. Best case is they offer you a ton of money to go there and you end up loving it. OR they offer you a ton of money and you can use it as leverage money for other schools. The possibilities are endless!
If you're anything like I was when I was a senior in high school, you're looking at college applications for theatre programs, hyperventilating, and turning on HGTV instead.
While deciding which colleges to apply to may seem daunting, you can simplify your selections by answering the following questions:
Where do I want to be:
Quick! What do you think of when you think of 'college?' Did you see a beautiful serene campus with quaint dormitories? Or jumping on your bike and navigating through the streets of a big city to get your class across town?
What excites you more--a mega-campus with 30,000 people, or a small grounds where everybody knows your name?
Do I want an academic life outside of theatre?
If everything but theatre, food, and Netflix bores you, then a BFA is your kind of program. It means theatre is about 80% of your academic commitment.
If you are like me, and still want to be a paleontologist, astronaut and president, then a BA is what awaits you. It means between 50-70% of your studies are theatre, but you can have a minor, and in some cases a double-major. (Again, paleontology requires some serious study)
Where do I want to study abroad?
Some theatre programs have dedicated study abroad locations for theatre, often England, because, well, Shakespeare. And the whole speaking the language you're acting in.
Some programs give you a semester in New York City
Some have a veritable plethora of study abroad locations, though not necessarily all for theatre.
And some, especially conservatory-style schools, have none.
What can I afford?
College selection is a collaboration between you and your parents. Money is a necessary factor in determining your school selection.
If your parents have a hard limit on what is affordable, check out www.fastweb.com, and www.studentloans.gov for what scholarships and grants are available. And contact the theatre departments to find out what talent based scholarships are available.
And the most important question...how much do I want to do??
Regardless of your choice of colleges, you determine what you get out of it.
If you're at a less-than-stellar school in NYC, use your location to your advantage. Start auditioning and building connections.
If you're in the midwest at a great conservatory, take all the additional master classes offered.
If you're at a general BA program, contribute to the student theatre company.
A degree shows the world where you graduated, but the diploma doesn't make you a better performer, or a more interesting actor, or make you happier with your work or your experiences. Invest in your happiness when you choose a school.
The question is not which college will make you a better performer, but where you will be happiest proactively making yourself better?
Audition scenario: You're feeling like a million bucks as you walk into the audition room. You have your organized binder of sheet music, your headshot and resume, you've practiced like a yeoman and you're dressed to the nines. You turn, happily, to the audition panel and introduce your monologue. You rock it. Then Woman 1 behind the desk says politely, "Interesting choice with the character."
Your smile, no longer naturally big, is held up by will by your facial muscles, as you feel a growing lump in your throat.
She continues, "Interesting in that she is an Irish revolutionary, and you played her well...as an American with a casual agenda."
Your stomach lurches. This isn't what you planned at all.
She asks sweetly, "What did you think of when you read the play?"
What did you think of when you read the play, hm? Oh, dear. But you didn't read the play. Why didn't you? You did everything else like a professional, to the highest standard anyone could apply, but you didn't read the play! "I...uhh...yeah...thought also, it was interesting. Irish. Revolutionary, or American, and....yeah.."
Other Scenario: You walk in, introduce your piece and rock it. Woman 1 says: "I love this play. What made you choose it?" You, at the ready for this question answer brightly "Because I loved his other plays like 'The Pillowman, The Cripple of Inishman, and The Beauty Queen of Leenane. I was hoping I could find a piece of his that had a female of my type in it. And then, thank god for 'The Lieutenant of Inishmore.' " Woman 1 beams at Man 1. "Thank you so much," she says, "It was a pleasure to meet you." Of the two scenarios presented above, I strongly advise experiencing the latter. If you're a thrill seeker and have very little interest in getting into college for theatre, by all means, go bananas and do the former. And please, do a blog post about it--we'd very much like to live remotely through you. :-) Reading the whole play is the responsible thing to do for an actor. You have this whole character's experiences to draw on from the rest of the play, and you're throwing away valuable information and extra tools if you don't read it. Often, very often, the more prepared student will have advantage in acceptance over the talented student. So, make a Sunday afternoon of it. Settle into a chair with a glass of lemonade and enjoy a read. You'll thank yourself just after the audition panel does so too.
Your accompanist is your partner and most valuable asset you have at your audition. Take the care to treat them as such. Remember, your accompanist can only play the music the way you want IF YOU TELL THEM EXACTLY WHAT YOU WANT! Let's go over the basics of how to help your accompanist help you.
1) Your music presentation: Your music should be bound in a binder in good repair that makes it easy to turn the pages while playing,. You want your accompanist's hands on the keys, not flipping pages. Better yet, your music should be in 2-4 taped-together non-glare sheet protectors that fold out like an accordion, so they don't have to turn any pages at all. They will thank you, and you'll thank yourself, when your song's bass clef doesn't take a two measure break to flip the page.
2) Cutting and marking your music: If you have a 16-32 bar cut, you'll likely have to do an old-school cut and paste and copy job. Take great care to make sure it's straight and nothing is cut off. Your accompanist will be playing it maybe for the first time in her life--make it as simple as possible to follow. If you're lucky, and you're just doing the last 16-32 of the song as written--great! That means you don't have to do cut and paste, but you do have to clearly mark in pencil where to start. Draw a line at the bar you want to start at, and above write 'Start.' Similarly, if you're performing the FIRST 16-32 of a song, mark 'STOP' and a line. No guesswork that could be misinterpreted!
3) Speaking with the accompanist: They're a human being and they've seen people all day. A warm friendly 'hello' is appreciated. Point out the places you've marked 'START' or 'STOP,' and then give them the tempo by singing or humming it at the tempo you want. Let me say again, give them the tempo by singing or humming the song at the temp you want it. Do not be shy about it. It's your song and they want to play it exactly the way you want to sing it--give them the tools to do so.
4) Cue to start: If you don't tell them what their cue is. accompanists may jump in as soon as you assume your spot in front of the team at the table. If you want, let the accompanist know 'I'll nod when I'm ready.' It is another piece of specific direction they'll appreciate.
5) Composers to avoid: Unless the audition warrants it, avoid composers who are especially difficult to sight-read, notably Sondheim, Jason Robert Brown and Adam Guettel.
6) Odds and ends: Never blame the accompanist for anything. It is the hardest job in the world and they're putting their years of practice into making everyone sound their best all day long. And always thank the accompanist after you're done.
Remember how reliant upon your accompanist you are. And remember they are trying their best to make you sound great! You're in it together--so give them every advantage you can. You'll thank yourself after every audition.
Over Thanksgiving break, I spoke to Val Rachelle, formerly professor of theatre of the University of Southern California, head of casting at Pacific Conservatory for the Performing Arts, and choreographer at Utah Festival Opera. I was curious to know what someone on the other side of the table hopes to see from auditioners.
"Preparation," she said with a second to think about it. "Show me you're serious about doing this."
I asked a follow-up question. "What do you really NOT like to see at an audition?" She paused a little longer this time. "Lack of preparation," she smiled. Her theme was just subtle enough for me to pick up.
She continued to drive home: preparation over talent, every time. "I've seen people with all the talent in the world, that I haven't cast, [or this case admitted] because they were not prepared for this audition. And if you're not prepared for one audition, what are you going to bring to a two-year, or four-year program?" I asked specifically things she could point to that stood out to her in memory.
"I've seen girls show up in four inch heels, and not have anything else to wear for the dance call. And pencil skirts. They look pretty, but they can't MOVE!"
The song and the monologue are only half of the equation. The other half, equally as important, is the interview. The college likes to get to know who they're admitting into their program. Who will they be working with closely for four years? How can you help their department get stronger?
Val's thoughts on this were dead on.
"Be yourself. I want to admit you. Not a version of you that you put on for the auditions. And, to the point, you have a much better chance of getting in you by just being yourself."
I asked about the responsibility of the person auditioning to come up with material for the interview. Turns out, it's a huge part of your interview. Val continued.
"Ask us questions. Do your research on the school, and ask questions about what you've found about us. Show us you have an interest in going here. And that's for every school. Spend time getting to know each school and have specific questions for each audition."
We were wrapping up, and I asked if she had any parting thoughts. Not surprisingly, she reaffirmed my golden rule of auditioning. "Your audition begins the moment you step into the building. We always talk to the audition monitor afterward." Now that shouldn't scare you. Not if you're the awesome auditioner that I know you are. You dress for the audition, politely and confidently introduce yourself and get ready. You know the audition monitor is an extension of the people in the room, and you behave accordingly--as you would normally with your amazing professional attitude!
Stay tuned! Next blog coming up soon. Happy New Year everyone!