Believe it or not, BFA acting and musical theater training begins way before you receive the acceptance letter to your dream school. Because BFA programs require students to audition as a crucial step to getting accepted, for many students it’s the first time they are auditioning for people other than their school drama teachers and local community theater directors.Traveling to auditions, auditioning for college faculty members who are complete strangers, and being surrounded by so many other talented performers who share the same passion may be a new, exciting, and stressful experience, but in a lot of ways, the college audition experience isn’t all that different from the professional audition experience. When I coach my college audition students, I often find myself working with them on audition techniques that they can apply to their professional auditions in the future.Here are five ways college auditions prepare you for a professional acting career.
1. Learning the art of juggling.
On top of preparing for your college auditions, recording prescreens, and heading to colleges and Unifieds to audition for the programs of your dreams, there are still all the typical pressures and exciting events that senior year has to offer. Trying to balance application deadlines, taking the SAT/ACTs for the last time, writing application essays, keeping up grades in classes, rehearsals, homecoming, etc. might leave you feeling overwhelmed.In your professional career, you will continue to become a master in the art of juggling as you attempt to find the balance; jobs, auditions, classes, workshops, and your social life will pull you in all kinds of directions.
College Audition Tip: Your mom/dad might be helping you organize your audition schedule, but try to take some ownership of the process. What works for you? Excel spreadsheet, wall calendar, notebook, iPhone app like iStudiezPro? The more organized you are, the easier you will find it is to juggle.
2. Staying calm under pressure.
Whether you are about to enter the room for a college audition or a professional audition, it’s important to not let your nerves overpower the audition experience. It’s ok to be nervous; typically, it’s because you’re excited about the opportunity. As a professional, controlling your nerves might get easier, but honestly, no matter how much audition experience you have, you can never predict what tricks your mind will play on you or if there are outside factors (like running late, drinking too much coffee, etc.) that impact what happens to you right before the audition.
College Audition Tip: Many college programs will find a way to calm you down before your audition by offering a group warmup or talking to you and getting to know you before you start your audition material. They understand that being nervous is part of the process. If you’re nervous because you haven’t thoroughly prepared the audition material, chose it at the last minute, or didn’t read the play the monologues have come from, they will be less forgiving. The more prepared you are, the more you will be able to trust yourself, take a deep breath before you walk into the audition room, and keep your cool.
3. Being flexible.
No two auditions will ever feel exactly the same. If you are asked to sing or dance as part of your musical theatre auditions, you are going to work with different accompanists and choreographers in the audition room. When you audition with your monologues, you are going to show your work to a wide range of people who are going to conduct their auditions in their own unique way and look for something slightly different from you.Some college programs throw lots of adjustments at you, some set aside time to interview you, some just say “thank you” and ask you to go on with your day. What happens inside the audition room can even change from person-to-person. Like professional auditions, you don’t know what will get thrown at you, but you have to stay open and willing to try all adjustments. Working with a college audition coach who is also an expert in the audition process can help to prepare you for as many audition scenarios as possible.
College Audition Tip: Don’t let one negative experience or “bad vibe” impact the rest of your auditions. It’s often not because they think your work is “wrong” or “bad,” but because they want to see how you work and what you will be like to work with. Part of being flexible is learning how to treat each audition as a brand-new opportunity. Brush it off. Breathe. Be fully present for your next audition. This is important at Unifieds particularly because you are often auditioning for many colleges on the same weekend, so you cannot let one audition throw off all the rest of your auditions.
4. Staying healthy.
When is the height of both college audition season and pilot and professional audition season? The winter! If you are auditioning in the Northeast or Midwest, it can be tough to stay healthy, especially if the winter is brutal, and even more so, if you aren’t used to the cold weather. Auditioning when you are under the weather or jetlagged is THE worst, but sometimes it happens. Remember that audition season is a marathon, not a sprint!
College Audition Tip: Sleep is always the best preventative measure, but I know that’s nearly impossible during senior year. Make sure at the very least to stay hydrated and stock up on your go-to cold remedies. Emergen-C, Throat Coat Tea, and Halls Triple Action Honey Lemon cough drops are some of my favorites. If you’re experiencing something much more serious, consider trying to reschedule your audition.
5. Prescreen video technique.
In the world of college auditions, it’s called the “prescreen video.” In the professional world, it’s called the “self-tape.” Whatever you want to call it, in today’s technological age, all performers are asked to put their work on camera by themselves, in order to get to the next level of the casting process. If you “pass” the prescreen requirement, you get the “live audition” or “callback.” If you don’t, then it’s on to the next audition.
College Audition Tip: Learning how to put songs and monologues on camera can plague even the most experienced of professional actors, so it can sometimes be a challenge for high school students to have to take their first crack at it during the college audition process. The most important technical elements to pay special attention to are the lighting (if the video is too dark or too grainy, it is difficult to properly evaluate the audition) and sound (the sound balance becomes even more crucial when singing on-camera).
Your college auditions will help you to gain invaluable audition experience and allow you to work on audition skills that you will continue to hone throughout your training as you prepare to enter the profession. Every year, my students comment on how much easier the audition experience feels, when they are almost done with the process. Use the college audition experience to learn important lessons about how you audition, what you are really good at, and what you hope to improve upon during your BFA training before you enter the professional world. Want to work on your audition technique, so you can rock your college auditions?
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*This post was originally published on Backstage. Click here to read the original article or read more of Tom's Backstage articles.
Tom Morin is a NYC-based acting coach, co-founder of Polish Your Passion, and a professional actor/singer. He holds a B.A. in Theatre & Political Science from the College of the Holy Cross and an M.F.A. in Acting from Ohio University and has been teaching for the past 9 years, advising and coaching students through the college audition process and beyond. He loves coffee, Shakespeare, and YouTube.