How to Improve Your School’s Theatre Auditions
Great performances begin long before your cast takes to the stage. Improvements throughout the process can lead to a greater experience overall for your cast, crew, and audience. Here are some simple ways to improve your audition process for your students.
To a bystander, it may seem like the production of a show (virtual or otherwise) begins with auditions. But you know better! You had a lot to do just to get to the audition stage of the process including:
- Evaluating past seasons’ shows—the hits and the also ran’s;
- Assessing the make-up of your current classes and the history of participation by those students in productions;
- Preparing a budget, which is a key factor in determining the scale of your next show;
- Consulting with stakeholders—the principal, and other departments that could be needed for the show, like the music department.
Once that checklist is complete and you’ve selected the show, now it’s time to announce it and hold auditions. Or is it? How much time, effort, and thought were you able to give to the audition itself? Could enhancements to your auditions lead to better casting and productions?
Here are three aspects to consider to improve your auditions.
Build in More Lead Time for Students
While you’ve been leading up to this moment for weeks now, it may be a surprise for your students. How much time did you leave between the audition announcement and the auditions themselves? In your school, what would a generous lead time be? How much is enough time so they can do their schoolwork and prepare thoroughly for this opportunity? Would that be a week? More?
Their audition preparation can be an enhanced learning experience, too. While it’s critical to memorize lines and prepare some choreography and songs, it’s also an opportunity for all the students who are interested enough to audition to grow their knowledge and understanding of the period in which the play is set. As part of their audition packet (with the script and the who/what/when/where about the show and audition), guide them to resources so they can learn about the political and social issues, styles, and important trends of the time. This context will help them understand their characters better and give better auditions.
Also consider having an ‘audition workshop,’ where you walk students through exactly what to expect while reviewing the material in the audition packet.
Reach More Potential Performers
Who knows about this audition opportunity? When and where are announcements usually made? Do announcements reach as many different students as possible? Could they reach more? Are the announcements equitable and inclusive for all students? Depending on your drama program’s design, you may be missing out on students interested in theatre with talents to share.
Of course, you tell your theatre students in class, and put notices on the bulletin board in your department. Consider reaching out further by:
- Including the information in the school-wide announcements;
- Making an ad for the student-run radio station;
- Engaging all your faculty colleagues (via flyer, text, group message—whatever works in your school) in spreading the word among their students;
- Addressing the needs of differently-abled students to encourage their participation;
- Scheduling auditions at various times both after school and in the early evening to accommodate students with part-time jobs or commitments to other practice schedules.
You might be pleasantly surprised who shows up when it’s at a time they can manage. For either live or virtual auditions, using a scheduling system that can set appointments, send invitations and reminders, and keep track of it all with just a few clicks is a real bonus.
Improve Audition Conditions
While auditions are not the most comfortable experience, there’s no reason not to find a happy medium with your students. Despite the anxiety and apprehension inherent in the process, were students comfortable enough so that they will come back and do it again? Here are key considerations:
- Clear directions for the date, time, and location. Was anyone late because they couldn’t find it or log in? If so, it might be worth reviewing the information to see what can be clarified.
- Appropriate space for social distancing while waiting, and for students to be able to maintain their focus and concentration.
- Clear expectations for what students should prepare/memorize, and wear.
- Consider virtual auditions even if you are conducting in-person school, rehearsals, and productions. There can be some benefits:
- synergy among performers is less crucial;
- you can choose whether they are live or recorded;
- if it’s recorded the actors are more in control of what they choose to record and share.
- Notification of casting that is respectful to all, including those not cast.
While not every student can be in every production, part of the theatre experience you are teaching is that the students’ best efforts are sincerely appreciated. Help them understand what they learned from this audition experience. That’s part of what will bring them back for more.
Want to improve your next school theatre production even further? Download our free guide to the school theatre post-mortem to unlock key insights from your last production.