Performing Arts School Auditions for Dummies

Your Guide to Acing Your Drama and Dance School Auditions

The wait is over. You've sent off all your applications to all of the performing arts colleges you've ever wanted to go to. You've crossed your fingers and hoped for the best. You've opened that letter only to discover you've been offered multiple auditions at multiple prestigious institutions of performing arts—fantastic! Now what? Well, now it's time to get prepared. 

Preparation is key when it comes to auditioning for performing arts schools. Without preparation, that audition could end with a disappointing outcome. Preparation is what will give you the confidence when you walk through that door to own your audition and to truly enjoy every aspect of it. Another key is to treat your audition like a performance. You should prepare as though you are performing on stage and commit to your prepared material as though it were a performance. Remember the profession you are wanting to enter; the audition panel WANT to see you perform and be entertained!

Depending on what schools and courses you are applying for, you will be asked to prepare a number of different things, including monologues (classical and contemporary), songs from musical theatre and pop repertoire and dance routines. It sounds like a lot of hard work, and, believe me, it is, but the rewards are great and it is important that you are passionate about the arts to fully commit to your prep. 

When it comes to choosing a monologue, you must pick a monologue by a character that you are likely to play and within your own accent. Do not pick a monologue written for a 50-year-old if you are auditioning as an 18-year-old. This will work against you. Do not pick a monologue where you can show off your best American accent. The panel want to hear your natural speaking voice and whether it has potential to be trained. Pick something you feel you can relate to, or act out well; if comedy is a strong point of yours, have a look through comedic monologues and find a monologue you like and enjoy performing. Also, check back monologue specifications on your letter. The school you have applied for may ask for only one monologue from any era, it may ask for two—one classical and one contemporary. Some schools can ask you to prepare up to four (two classical and two contemporary). The key when being asked for more than one is to show contrast between the monologues. If you have been asked for up to four, make sure that both classical monologues are contrasting; one being a serious monologue and the other being more lighthearted—apply the same with your contemporary choices. This shows you have versatility in your acting and that you thought through your choices. When it comes to preparing your monologues, you must know all of them back to front, side to side, up and down. You could do it in your sleep you know them so well. This will allow you to really explore the performance side of the monologue and how you want to deliver it. Make sure you find new things to put emphasis on in the story every time you perform them. What are the key parts of the monologue and what is your character trying to achieve? You must read the plays in which your monologues are from so you know exactly why your character is saying what they are saying and what your character wants in that particular moment. Play around with your monologue and try not to get stuck in the same rhythms or way of playing the character. Every time you practice your monologue, try something new with it—this will help you develop it and make it the best that it can be. Finally, get other people to watch your monologue and ask them for both positive and negative critiques. This could be your friends, family, or a drama teacher. Getting people to watch your monologue is crucial. This will allow you to get an outside perspective on your process and allow you to make the adequate changes to have your audience engaged throughout your performance. 

Choosing songs for an audition can be daunting, as there is so much to choose from! Again, depending on where you have applied, they may specify different types of songs they would like to hear. Acting schools will typically ask to only hear one song, from either musical theatre or pop repertoire. Musical theatre schools will probably ask for two contrasting songs from the musical theatre repertoire. Either way, there is a lot to choose from. You want to pick a song that shows off your vocal ability in its best form and you have to like the song and enjoy singing it. If you are not a confident singer, think more about how you perform the song and tell the story through the lyrics. This is the most important thing about musical theatre and performing arts. It's not about singing a song nicely, it's about telling a story through the song. When preparing a song for an audition, make sure you have the sheet music sellotaped together neatly, or put into a file so that the pianist can easily turn the pages. You want to keep your song short and sweet and showing off the best parts of your voice. If the song is five minutes long, make a clear and adequate cut of the song so that it is whittled down to the best two minutes of the song. A good technique for getting an understanding of the story is to read the lyrics as though it were a monologue. When a song is used within a play or musical, it is essentially a sung monologue. If you have to pick a musical theatre song, make sure you watch the musical(s) your song(s) is from so you understand the context of the song within the piece. You also never know when the panel may ask you questions about the show and the song. This will help you with how you can perform it and feel confident with your work. Normally they will ask for sheet music so you can be accompanied with a pianist. If this is the case, ensure you get some practice time with a pianist. Be it a singing teacher or a friend you know can play piano, make sure you get some time singing the song with a piano as it isn't the same as singing with a backing track. 

If you are applying for a dance course, or a dance-based musical theatre course, you will have to take part in a ballet and jazz class, as well as possibly choreographing your own solo for the audition, however some places might not want to see a solo. If you are applying to a dance course I'm assuming you will have had previous dance training and knowledge, so coming in the correct kit and looking neatly groomed would be a no-brainer. Bring your favorite leotard that is bright in colour, however, if you don't have one, invest in a leotard you think will be flattering and make you stand out from the others in the room. For the ballet section, ensure your hair is immaculate. Use gel, hairspray, grips and pins to make sure every hair is in place and will not come out, especially when it comes to pirouettes. A plain, black leotard is essential kit for a classical ballet audition. Do not wear a black leotard with any lace, intricate detailing, mesh or pattern. Although it may look nice, the panel will deem it to be inappropriate for the classical style. When preparing your solo, include all of the dance moves you know you can do well and will show off your dance ability to your best—ensuring it is within the style of dance specified on your audition letter. If you are struggling to choreograph, ask a dance teacher to help you choreograph it or to give you suggestions to make the choreography more fluid and complementary of your skills. Remember to also keep the music short and sweet. You will more than likely need to make a cut of your music before the audition. Make sure you have your track stored on your phone AND a USB stick for back-up. Alternatively, you can use a CD. 

If you are asked to do an interview at your audition, relax! This is the easiest bit. The interview section will be your opportunity to really show them your personality and your enthusiasm for your profession. Don't shy away from selling yourself as best you can. They want to know what you have to offer, so you should never feel like you are being big-headed by talking about your achievements and what is so good about you as a student and a performer. At the end of the day, you will have to constantly sell yourself in this industry as the right person for every job you go up for, so be confident in yourself, your achievements, and your ability. 

And that's it! Your audition is over and you did the absolute best you could. You put in the ground work, you made sure everything was perfect for the day, and you feel confident in how well the audition went. 

I would like to wish everyone auditioning for performing arts colleges this year the very best of luck and I hope that this guide has been useful to you. 

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Performing Arts School Auditions for Dummies
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