This morning was an exciting day for Johnson County area high school seniors. A collection of talented students auditioned for a chance to win a Shooting Stars scholarship by showcasing their artistic talents in the areas of theatre performance, technical theatre, design and music. The Shooting Stars program began in 1997 and has funded over $200,000 in college scholarships for incoming freshmen. Living in the state of Kansas, a state of increasingly diminished arts funding, I am more than proud to support a scholarship program that nurtures young artists.
An especially talented group of students made judging great fun yet difficult as there were easily a half-dozen students that could have been awarded scholarships today. Unfortunately, we could only choose first and second place winners, but I have hopes that the program will grow and include more scholarship opportunities in the future.
I have participated in the program for several years as a judge for the theatre and performance category. I was delighted to once again judge alongside Michael Grayman. It's fortunate that we collaboratively work well together and are on the same page when it comes to the scoring process.
The Shooting Stars program holds a very special place in my heart as fourteen years ago, I auditioned as a high school senior. I was fortunate enough to win a scholarship and have previously shared my experience on the JOCO Arts Council's smART Blog.
After a full day of writing and scoring, I have been thinking about the fragile audition process. I know how difficult it is to be on the other side of the table, looking into the faces of strangers who are judging your performance on two contrasting snippets of work and no more than seven minutes of time. And, in today's world seven minutes is more than generous. I remember an audition in Chicago where I waited two hours for a sixty second audition.
During our post judging interview, I was asked "What is the most important criteria you were looking for today?" Responding with "talent" isn't constructive to the young minds that will watching our interview. So, I created a short list below of audition advice that I hope will resonate to those facing those constant sign-in sheets:
1. Choose good audition material.
A piece that is age appropriate, especially if you face college auditions.
A piece that begins and ends somewhere different. Judges want to see your range, so find a piece that showcases what you can do.
Don't pick a monologue without understanding where the character is in the context of the play. You might not know Macbeth, but I do, and so will all others sitting behind the table.
2. Physicality is just as important as your vocal quality.
Look for ways to use your stage space and make intentional character driven choices.
Wear shoes/clothes that you can move and you feel comfortable in.
Ladies, don't wear ridiculous high heels, they limit your movement.
3. Find your focal point.
Determine who you are delivering your monologue to, find your focal point and stick to it.
Take time to establish environment before you begin your piece. Are you in a car? We don't want to learn that 3/4 of the way through your piece.
Your focal point is NEVER the floor, the back of your hand or facing upstage.
4. Everything you do is part of your audition.
How you greet the auditioners, speak to the accompanist and conduct yourself once you're in the audition space counts. Be sure to be plesant, calm and say thank you.
Rehearse your introduction and be sure to know your pieces, character name and title of show. If you choose to share the names of the writer/composer, be sure you pronounce them correctly.
5. Rehearse. Rehearse. Rehearse.
You will walk into a multitude of foreign spaces - black boxes, classrooms, stages etc. for auditions. The more times and places your rehearse your pieces, the more comfortable you will be with them.
You should be able to audition with a classical, dramatic, comedic and song at any time. Hopefully you will be auditioning frequently enough to keep them fresh in your head, but if not be sure to rehearse them often. You never know when an opportunity to audition will present itself.
Ultimately, the director/judge/casting agent is on your side. We want to be engaged in your performance and want to suspend disbelief with you.