Thoughts from SETC 2015

My wife is driving us home from SETC in Chattanooga, TN and listening to Neil Diamond as I write this post. Love me some Neil Diamond! We both had a wonderful time and it was great to meet some readers of the blog while there. Shenandoah decided not to sit in on the college auditions this year for a number of reasons. However, my wife and I did slip in for one round of about thirty students and I thought I would share a few notes. Sadly, even though I have been writing about what to do and what not to do in college auditions for the last four years, I’m still seeing some of the same mistakes over and over again. In fact out of thirty students, I would say half of the auditioners did something that was really a turn-off. Here’s a brief list of some of those things (more to come):

The sex monologue. We don’t want to hear about your character’s first time. We don’t want to hear a character awkwardly relating his experience of buying condoms. You are 16-17!!!! Sex may be on your mind because let’s face it you are teenagers. But we don’t want to hear about it and we don’t want to know about it. It sends a weird message to us, one that does not play in your favor.

The rape monologue. Rape is real. It is a traumatic event that will forever affect the victims. Playwrights that take on the subject do so with a specific purpose and handle it in a broader context than just talking about the actual incident. When you bring a rape monologue into the room, you deal with only the traumatic event with no context and no resolution. If there are members of the panel who have been victims of rape, it is very likely going to stir up horrific memories. Is that how you want to impact the panel? By reminding them of being raped or their sister being raped or their best friend? Probably not. PLEASE find better material.

Monologues about your parents dying. This is similar to the rape monologue. I was sitting with a colleague who just lost a parent. They said it is rough hearing those monologues and furthermore they don’t think students can truly understand the devastation and the feelings that accompany losing a parent unless it has happened to them. Even then, it is too depressing of a subject to bring into the audition room. There is better material out there.

Parenting monologues. Monologues that portray characters who are parents are hopefully a MASSIVE stretch for most of you. If you are 17 and auditioning for a theatre program, it is very unlikely that you are a mother or father. When you do a monologue about being a parent it is just confusing. And PLEASE do not do a monologue about burying a dead child. Talk about depressing. Not something we want to think about in the audition room.

-While there are some schools out there who really like slapstick comedians, many others do not. A colleague in the room said “we are not auditioning students for clown school, we are auditioning for THEATRE.” Seriously, flailing around the stage and trying to make us laugh does not work for most schools. Especially not for the conservatory style programs or the competitive BA and BFA programs.

If you cannot nail every note in a song, on pitch, with the correct registration, don’t sing the song. For example: if you can sing most of “On My Way” but not the high E on “me,” don’t sing it. You can’t sing the song. We want to be impressed by your perfection, we are not impressed by what you are working towards. You are 17-18, we know your voice will continue to grow in school. If you can nail a song perfectly with a belted B4, we know you will have D5’s and probably higher by your senior year of college. Show ONLY what you can do really well!

Try to stay away from the hot new thing. There is great material out there besides what is currently on Broadway or in the movie theatres. Obviously the material is great, but it is very likely a lot of other students who don’t read this blog will be doing it too. You are better off being judged on your interpretation of a song that the panel has not yet heard that day than being compared to all of the other students who sang the same song before you.

I have other notes that I will post later. If you have been on the other side of the table or teach at a university, I would love to hear your input in the comments section. I always screen the comments for profanity and spamming, but I will approve all comments as long as they do not fall into those two categories.

Matt

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