8 Questions to Ask Yourself When Selecting BFA College Audition Material
As an acting coach who works primarily with students on college auditions, one of my favorite parts of the college audition process is guiding students toward and matching them with audition material that fits them like a glove and reveals something uniquely special. The college audition process is highly selective and BFA classes tend to be small, so faculty members are hand-selecting a class filled with students who are passionate, from diverse backgrounds and looks, intelligent, hard-working, and ready to take on disciplined, intensive training. So, it’s crucial that you use the monologue and song audition material as an opportunity to leave them with the clearest impression of who you are, what you bring to the table, and how you would make a unique addition to the BFA class they are assembling.
Before “getting married” to a college audition monologue or song, be sure to answer the following eight questions about the material:
1. Does it reveal something unique?
Allow the college audition faculty to get to know who you are through each piece and fall in love with what makes you unique as an artist and person! The audition material you select for a specific musical or play audition should demonstrate your understanding of the style of the show and where you fit type-wise into the casting pool for that particular production. A college audition is not a show audition; when selecting BFA college audition material, it’s important to have an understanding of your “type range,” while selecting material that reveals something truly special about you and your personality. When I’m hand-selecting college audition material for my students, I keep in mind their passions, experiences, and what makes them stand out in the crowd of applicants.
2. Does it follow the college audition and/or pre-screen video requirements?
Every BFA musical theatre or acting program will ask you to present something slightly different. The length of monologue/number of monologues and the length of audition song cut/style/number of songs will vary. If you are asked to submit a pre-screen video before you’re granted a physical audition slot, you must follow the requirements to the letter. You don’t want to risk failing to pass a pre-screen because you didn’t follow directions. Look at it as your first college test!
Let’s use Carnegie Mellon University’s School of Drama as an example, a school that has, for the first time this year, added itself to the ever-growing list of BFA programs that use a pre-screen. To audition for the BFA acting/MT program, you must record the following as separate video clips:
- One contemporary monologue and one classical monologue (pre-1900s) from plays, each under 90 seconds
- Two 32-bar musical theatre songs; one up-tempo and one ballad, sung with recorded or with live accompanimentOne song and one monologue should be shot in close-up (head and shoulders), one song and one monologue should be shot showing your full body
Carnegie Mellon wants to see a classical monologue; many BFA musical theatre programs say specifically that they don’t want you to do a classical monologue. Another college might ask you for one 60-second contemporary monologue, one 16-bar ballad, and one 32-bar up-tempo. You must pay attention to every detail and make sure that you are selecting and preparing audition material that fits each program’s audition requirements.
3. Is the material active?
Avoid monologues that just tell a story and songs that repeat the same lyrics over and over again. You must choose material that requires you to play an objective that is clear, active, and your character has something to gain or lose that’s important to him/her. You should also be able to ask yourself: How is my character trying to achieve his/her objective? What tactics are he/she playing?How does my character change throughout this piece? What new ideas or discoveries are made? Although the monologue and song time restrictions might feel limiting, when you map out the tactics, you’d be surprised at how many ways a character might achieve an objective in a minute. Characters also can change, grow, and have life-altering moments in 32-bar cuts of songs. The objective, to tell a story, just doesn’t allow you to add in the tactics and acting technique or acting thru song work that will make your audition material and your interpretation come alive.
4. Is it age appropriate?
Because many students tackle mature roles in high school like Mama Rose and Sweeney Todd, they feel like their type is the “old man” or the like. You may very well continue to play those types of roles in college, but check the age ranges of all the characters you portray in monologues and songs. They want to see you, not 50-year-old you (or 8-year-old you). Try to stay within five years of your actual age, either way. Older characters tend to be dealing with circumstances that are outside of your lif