Sixteen Bars, Two Monologues- Welcome to College!
Franklin Bennett reflects back on auditions during his first week at Northwestern University.
The official Northwestern callboard currently set up for the spring productions of Twelfth Night and The Little Prince
It is hard to believe that I have already entered the spring quarter of my freshman year of college. It honestly feels like I showed up at Northwestern yesterday, ready for all things theater to come my way, and at the same time, the past 20 or so weeks have brought me so many opportunities to be a part of some pretty awesome shows. With that in mind, I thought this was the perfect time to remember and reflect on my first week of college: auditions!
Now, many of you reading probably remember the tedious and painstakingly long process of college auditions and admissions, and I'm sure when I can speak for all freshmen (and anyone who ever applied to college) when I say, I was beyond ecstatic when it was over. Needless to say, it made sense that I was a little relieved when I realized that theater at Northwestern is done a little differently in terms of applying. NU is not conservatory style training; however, the Theatre and Interpretation Center at Northwestern maintains one of the best college theater reputations in the nation. As I've mentioned before, a typical season at NU consists of five or six mainstage productions produced by the theater department, and the student theater groups produce their own season as well, so the opportunities for auditions are endless. That being said, I had to be ready to jump right in, as I found out very quickly that auditions for fall and winter productions happen within the first two weeks of class!
The theater department combines with the student theater groups and together, they form a panel. With nearly 80 productions in a year, this combination relieves some of the chaos that could occur if each show held its own auditions. Additionally, in my own opinion, some of the typical worry of being in a room with just a director or two or three people is eliminated, as the audition room now contains a small audience of faculty, guest directors and student directors. Another element I felt creates a special kind of audition process is the fact that you have the chance to audition for over 20 very different shows, so essentially you have to craft an audition set that best showcases who you are and what you can bring to the table. While that seems like common sense for any audition, it is even more important when 12 different directors only have four minutes to watch what happens.
And speaking of only four minutes... This was perhaps the only element that threw me off guard because of my previous auditions but it is a sure fire way to prep for the "real world." The logistics of the NU audition process is typically the standard: 1 minute dramatic monologue, 1 minute comedic (or 2 minutes of something that shows your range), and the same dramatic/comedic split for musical theater auditions. As we all know, it is perhaps the most fascinating thing about the art form: in just under five minutes, you are asking a roomful of people to take everything you are giving to them, and in turn, show that you deserve work with them.
Of course, the next step is the callback process, in which the diverse nature of each and every show really starts to come to life. The variety of styles of performance offered on campus, including movement based theater, devised works, and new student written pieces, allow for an entirely experiential callback. The old high school sides readings are long gone, and the creative and artistic energy truly shows the character of each show. I distinctly remember going from one callback embodying the Snail from A Year with Frog and Toad to remembering what it was like to be an inquisitive six-year-old for Autopsia, a work written by Northwestern student Allison Finn.
It goes without saying that auditions will always be the hardest yet most fulfilling beginning steps to entering a new production. The best thing to remember is always go into the room as comfortable as you can be. Whatever that may mean for you, chances are you will have greater success if the tension is far away. Being able to relax and just be yourself will say a lot about what you can offer, no matter if you audition for Northwestern, Broadway or your own hometown theater.