To audition for a higher performance institution, you don’t need to have it all figured out. In fact, sometimes the audition process itself will be the exact clarity you need to decide whether to further your creative pursuits. But no matter what, you shouldn’t let the audition itself deter you from figuring it out. Below, industry professionals answer everything you need to know about auditioning for acting school.
1. Auditions can tip the scales in the right direction.
“The audition process can be revealing and a good opportunity not to quit, but to evaluate what you need to follow this path. You can love acting while finding other ways to keep it in your life. If you struggle to get into a program, explore other ways to satisfy your love for it. You can be an actor anywhere. Still, my favorite place to act is at the Ritz Company Playhouse in Hawley, Pennsylvania, because that’s where I got my start when I didn’t know as much and acted only because I love it. I still fantasize about going back there and acting for the pure joy. All this to say, I turn away talented hopefuls often and maybe even ‘the next Meryl.’ So only you will know if you should continue. Do not let any of us take your dreams away. Fight for what you love and go towards it. Remember, if there is doubt in your mind, it’s also really worth examining.” —Grant Ketchik, associate director of Pace University’s School of Performing Arts, head of its BFA acting program, and Backstage Expert
2. Nerves are one thing; underpreparedness is another.
“Many college programs will find a way to calm you down before your audition by offering a group warmup or talking to you and getting to know you before you start your audition material. They understand that being nervous is part of the process. If you’re nervous because you haven’t thoroughly prepared the audition material, chose it at the last minute, or didn’t read the play the monologues have come from, they will be less forgiving. The more prepared you are, the more you will be able to trust yourself, take a deep breath before you walk into the audition room, and keep your cool.” —Tom Morin, professional actor, NYC-based acting coach, and Backstage Expert
3. Hate monologues? You’re not alone.
“Monologues are horrible animals. We all hate doing them, we all hate looking for them, listening to them—but they’re a convenient way to get to know another person who wants to be an actor. We can see if you have talent, any sense of instincts, a creative imagination, if you’re able to access emotion freely—and I don’t mean a frenzy of emotion, but allowing yourself to come from a real place. Anything apart from that is distracting.” —Lucien Douglas, faculty member at University of Texas at Austin
4. Take the reins.
“Handle the business part yourself. Sign in, give your paperwork, and ask pertinent questions. Parents and coaches are excited for you but avoid letting them dominate a Q&A. It’s important that we interact with you and understand you are mature, thoughtful, and engaged enough to ask your own questions.” —Grant Kretchik, associate director of Pace University’s School of Performing Arts, and JV Mercanti, head of acting for the musical theater program at Pace University’s School of the Arts
5. The interview can make or break you.
“Be ready to talk about yourself. Why do you want to act? How does each one of the schools specifically meet your criteria and dreams? Sometimes the professor auditioning you will be much more interested in the person sitting in front of them talking about their passions than the actual audition.” —Caroline Liem, L.A.-based casting director, teacher, owner of College to Career Acting, and Backstage Expert
6. Make peace with rejection.
“It’s important to have a balanced list of reaches, fits, and safeties to give you the best chance for acceptance. Avoid a list that is top heavy in reach schools. Extreme reaches are programs that are highly selective with an acceptance rate of less than 5 percent of those who audition. Reach schools are selective and accept less than 15 percent of those who audition. ‘Fit’ programs accept over 15 percent of those auditioning, and ‘safety’ programs don’t require an audition.” —Mary Anna Dennard, author, founder of College Audition Coach, and Backstage Expert
7. Choose material that showcases your person and persona.
“The material that you choose should be not only age-appropriate but also accentuate who you are as a person. Make sure you know the original source material well. Once you are familiar with the show, ask yourself, ‘Does this seem like a character I would play?’ Select pieces from roles that the admissions team could envision you playing onstage.” —Andrew Byrne, voice teacher and Backstage Expert
8. Remember: You are being watched at all times.
“Always stay busy! I watch students through the entire audition process and am specifically interested in what they do between combinations, on breaks, and during free stretches of time. Use every moment to work on something the professor has asked of you, whether through personal correction or general observation. Always mark combinations even when you’re not in the performing group. Always stretch on the sides when you get a chance. Always focus on the professors and look at them while they’re speaking. Showing your most prepared self displays professionalism in an audition setting and how prepared you will be for college.” —Shawn Bible, associate professor of dance at Manhattanville College’s Dance & Theatre Department, artistic director of professional contemporary NYC-based dance company shawnbibledanceco, and Backstage Expert
Ready to get to work? Check out Backstage’s theater audition listings!