The College Audition, Part III: Headshot, Résumé + Style

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We’ve talked about the steps any high school student should take before applying to a drama or musical theater college program, as well as how to prep for auditions once you’ve applied. Now, it’s time to talk about your material.

The physical materials you bring into the room (headshot and résumé) and the way you present yourself (personal style) are just as important as your performance in the room. We will look to your headshot to remember you as we go through all the candidates, and your résumé will give us an idea of how you’ve been cast so far. We’ll also make notes on your clothing to remember what you looked like in the room.

5 things to do before a college audition.

If you have a professional headshot, that’s great. If you don’t, we don’t expect one—you don’t have to rush out to get them. Your headshot isn’t getting you into a university but we do need a photo. Here are some things to keep in mind:

  • The photo should be in color.
  • It should be of nice, decent, and clear quality.
  • It should look exactly like you at this moment in your life.
  • It should be between 5-by-7 inches and 8-by-10 inches.
  • It should be a photo you’ve posed for, not a screengrab of you at a party someone posted on social media.
  • If it’s a professional photo, please make sure your name is printed on the front either within a white border or on the actual photo.

The College Audition, Part II: Preparation

Résumés should be well-formatted, easy to read, and concise; a simple Google search of “acting résumé” will yield a plethora of examples and templates. We’re aware of the fact that you’re in high school, please don’t feel the need to lie or embellish. We’ve accepted plenty of students who have little to no experience. Your résumé gives us a sense of who you are and how you’ve been cast, but it’s by no means the final arbiter. This is also an opportunity to let us know of other activities you’ve participated in: community service, sports, and more extracurriculars. We’re looking for students who have interests outside the theater as well. Now, some résumé tips:

  • It should be one page. Really.
  • It should be 11- or 12-point font.
  • Use standard fonts like Arial or Times New Roman, not Comic Sans.
  • It should have your name on it.
  • It should have your phone number and email address so we can contact you (but please don’t put your home address or Social Security Number on it).
  • It should lead with your performance experience: show title, role, location and or director. Separate theater from film and TV.
  • Training and education should follow: voice, acting, dance, workshops, etc. and with whom you’ve studied.
  • Special skills: dialects, acrobatics, stage combat, foreign languages.
  • Theatrical awards and honors.
  • Educational awards or extracurricular activities.
  • Go through and edit. More isn’t better.
  • Grammar and spell-check.
  • Staple your résumé to the back of your headshot.

The college audition, part IV: Dos and Don’ts

Your clothes are the outermost layer of who you are and trust us when we say that we’re looking for the uniqueness that is you. Your personal sense of style can be a big part of that. It’s not so much that we look for fashionable people who are ready to be on the cover of “Vogue.” Sure, that can be nice, but what we see more often is that actors will eliminate their sense of style to fit what is they think is appropriate.

Don’t do that! Whether you are preppy, hippy, nerdy, gothic, a biker, that! Dress like you’re going on a first date with someone who shares the same fashion sense as you. Do not let your parents change your outfit to what they think is appropriate. We want to see what you think is the best version of you.

Men: You have it slightly easier, but here are some things to avoid: a suit and tie, oversized and sloppy shirts, sweatshirts, jackets, heavy work boots or sneakers. Of course, all this does not pertain to you if the examples listed here are true reflections of your everyday personal sense of style. Instead, consider comfortable, clean jeans, khakis, or dress pants with a simple t-shirt that fits, a polo, a dress shirt with no tie. Remember this isn’t an interview for business school.

The college audition part V: mental health

Women: Avoid jewel-tone dresses that look like the same one every other woman is wearing that day, stilettos or other shoes that make us fear for the security of your ankles or face, capes and drapes (a shawl hides your upper body and as our colleague Amy Rogers says, “a scarf does not make you a better singer.”) Capes and drapes are all ways of hiding yourself from us. That includes character shoes! (Character shoes are what we costume the chorus in and we’re not looking for actors who aim to be in the chorus.) Consider a dress that reflects you, nice jeans with sturdy shoes you think are fun, cool, or that you wear daily. If you wear jewelry, choose one or two items that you love.

The bottom line is that your audition outfit should feel special but it should also come from your closet. It should be something you want to wear again because you feel great in it and look like yourself.

Everything here speaks to the idea that you can control aspects of your materials and it’s important that you appear to care about this audition by preparing them appropriately, but it is equally important that you trust who you are and present that.

Get all of your college questions answered by peers and experts on the Backstage Community forums!

The views expressed in this article are solely that of the individual(s) providing them,
and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Backstage or its staff.

Author Headshot
JV Mercanti
JV Mercanti most recently directed the critically acclaimed premiere of Songbird at 59E59 Theaters. He is currently the head of acting for the musical theater program at Pace School of Performing Arts. He served as the casting and associate director on the recent Broadway revival of “Romeo and Juliet” with Orlando Bloom. He also cast the Kevin Kline-starring revival of “Cyrano de Bergerac” with Jennifer Garner.
See full bio and articles here!
Author Headshot
Grant Kretchik
Grant Kretchik is the Associate Director of the School of Performing Arts at Pace University, and the head of its BFA acting program. He had been a guest teacher with Lehman College, Warsaw Film Academy, Eutheca-European Union Academy, ArtsBridge, and Broadway Dreams Foundation. Kretchik is a member of the Actors’ Equity Association and the Stage Directors and Choreographers Society.
See full bio and articles here!

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