In my career in college admissions, I've been able to sit in on countless BFA auditions for acting and musical theatre programs. I've seen auditions ranging from breathtaking to downright awful. While there isn't a surefire way to be accepted by every BFA program you audition for, there are aspects to your audition that every college looks for. With the season of BFA auditions right around the corner, here are some of them.
Know Your Story
I can't tell you how many times I've seen auditions where the person has little to no idea of what's happening to their character in their monologues or songs. Knowing the context of your audition material is essential. Every institution I know of looks for this. If you don't have a firm grasp of what your character is going through, chances they've denied you before you even finish speaking or singing.
I always recommend when selecting a monologue or song, reading the entire play or musical, read reviews of the show, read character studies. Do everything you can to know what your character is feeling. What is happening to Millie when she starts singing "Forget About the Boy"? Why is Henry V talking about St. Crispin's Day? Know your story.
Explore The Space, But Keep Your Distance
A good faculty member or casting director will tell you that "the room is yours, feel free to use it how you want." Movement during your audition can help your chances, especially if you do it the right way. Movement in character during a monologue or song, shows you've done your homework. However keep your distance from the table. NEVER get in their faces, you don't know how they will react to that and it's not worth the risk.
One of the best examples was a student who performed Romeo's "What Light.." monologue. He moved around the room hiding as he was speaking, speaking the monologue as if it was a secret between himself and the audience. He kept checking behind his back and around him and stopped himself when he spoke to loudly. I asked him why he was doing this. He replied, "Well I didn't want the guards to hear me." He was immediately admitted.
One of the worst was a young man who was doing a monologue from "Glengarry Glen Ross". He was yelling in his monologue and came right up to the table, screaming and accidentally spit on the faculty members. He was immediately denied.
So know how to use your space, but keep your distance.
Shakespeare Is Not The Only Classical Playwright
One of the big misconceptions is that a "classical" monologue has to be from the 17th-18th Centuries. I had a full day of auditions where every single person did Shakespeare for their classical monologue. I wanted to scream. Being memorable is key to any audition, so picking material from other playwrights is always a great idea. I love seeing someone come in with an Ibsen, Chekov, Marlowe or Wilde. Don't hesitate to look beyond the works of the The Bard for your audition. In fact one of the best monologues I've ever seen was from Ibsen's "Peer Gynt."
No Need To Belt All 32 Bars
Never have I ever met a faculty member who wants to see belting in all 32 bars for an audition. Some in fact prefer if you didn't belt at all. Pick a cut of music that best showcases your voice. Let it build to a nice finish, but I've seen many who feel that power is the only way they can get into some of these programs. You'd be surprised.
I was at an audition and a young woman came in and did 32 bars of "There's a Fine Fine Line" from "Avenue Q." Her voice never raised the decibel bar but she picked a fantastic cut and she was cast immediately to one of the best BFA Musical Theatre programs in the country.
Ask Questions About Their Program
Many time, you may be asked if you have any questions about the college's program. I encourage you to do some research into the school beforehand and ask questions. I'm not saying questions about class size and campus residence life. I'm talking about philosophies when it comes to how they teach their students, performance opportunities, faculty mentor-ship, etc. This demonstrates a genuine interest in the program and that goes a long way.
You May Be A Teenager But Act Like An Adult
Nothing impresses auditioners more than showing wisdom and intelligence during your time with them. I've read countless comment cards praising how someone is "wise beyond their years", "so smart", "well-read". Believe me, you want to thought of this way. It will tell the faculty member that they can throw everything they have at you and you can handle it. In the same regard I've read countless cards that read, "needs to mature", "can't speak professionally" or the dreaded "acts their age". Avoid being thought of this way at all cost.
Like I said before, there is no secret formula that will guarantee you will get admitted to every program you want, but these are good places to start.
Photo: Kent State