We are 2 months into 2018, and for a lot of theatre educators and directors, this means one thing: audition season. If you are in charge of your school's spring musical or play, this very well may be the time you're gearing up to stay after school and watch kids sing and dance, and then cast your production.
Now, this is my 10th year of organizing and sitting through auditions. I've been fortunate enough to work with various schools that support the arts, and that yield high numbers of students interested in auditioning. But as a middle school educator, there are some changes I've made in my audition process that really seem to help the students and streamline the casting process. I'm going to share those now:
1) Provide the materials
High school students have an easier time choosing material- they know more musicals, some may take lessons and know where to find sheet music. 11-13 years old's have a harder time with this, and the majority won't put in the extra effort to ask and learn. So I post my audition notice with the following info:
- 4 song options (with cuts marked) from the show. I usually choose 2 higher voice parts, and 2 lower voice parts.
- 4 scene options (with cuts marked) from the show. I provide a reader in the audition, so they can read with someone instead of me.
Something that makes my life easier in this: Google Drive. I put all the materials into a Drive folder, post the link on our blog, and let the kids explore. If you are doing an MTI junior production, they'll even send you MP3 files of the music with AND without lyrics. Utilize that.
2) Offer an Audition Workshop
We live in a society where kids are so afraid of failure, that they would rather not try than try and fail. I've even noticed this just these past weeks when there were less signups than usual. I asked a student "What's going on?" she said "Well people are so afraid of getting cut, that they don't want to try out."
Obviously, this is backwards, because how is someone supposed to learn and improve if they don't try? But that's not the mentality at the moment, so we as educators need to step in and try to combat that, or run the risk of having low numbers. So that's why I offer an audition workshop, one week before auditions.
Interested students come after school, I teach the songs and their cuts, I have them talk through the scenes in groups, and then we do some mock auditions. This is something I've found hugely helpful- this gives the more outgoing student a chance to practice their audition in a low-stakes situation, and it lets the quieter, more unsure students see what the process looks like. The best is when the whole group applauds for the people who volunteer- it creates such a great vibe.
3) Create the Experience For THEM- Not For You
What I mean is simply this: Not every student who comes out for auditions is there because they want to be a star. Some are looking for a group to be part of, some are unsure of what theatre is and wants to learn more, some want to be with their friends to hang out after school. Whatever the reason is, it's our responsibility to make it as positive an experience as possible. If your program does audition cuts- encourage them to join crew and stay part of the musical "team". When you have your cast, make sure everyone recognizes that they're all working *together* towards a great final product.
Best of luck to you in
Spring Musical season!
Joan Schubin, Timberlane Middle School
Jr. Thespian State Board Member