Every dramatic performance on campus, no matter how big or small, begins on a stage in a little room with dimmed lights in the Visual and Performing Arts building. One or two—maybe more—directors sit in the back observing potential cast members with a critical, albeit considerate, eye. Each person has less than two minutes to make an impression.
As a freshman, Jacob Van Hall (Grad, MI) decided to try out for a couple of performances taking place on campus—just for fun. Though he had not yet declared his major—it would be youth ministries—he had a passion for acting, having been involved in productions in elementary school. “The first play I auditioned for on campus said I needed a piece with archaic language—so I simply came up and quoted Luke 2—that was a lot of fun,” he said.
That first year, Jacob ended up receiving roles in both a graduate speech recital featuring Ben-Hur and the Fine Arts production of The Importance of Being Ernest.
Even if it wasn’t my initial goal to get in, the minute I decide to audition, there’s still that desire to make it into the production.
Jacob Van Hall
While Jacob takes a more relaxed approach to auditions, his sister Lydia (MI), now a senior performance major, admits that no matter how many times she has tried out for a production, the process still intimidates her. “The first time I tried out for Fine Arts, I wanted to challenge myself with new things,” she said. “I read off a piece of paper and still managed to forget a memorable line! But I kept going as well as I could.”
Lydia made callbacks and was cast in A Midsummer’s Night Dream as an understudy for one of the leads as well as a background character. “I was happy that I did it,” she said. “When I got callbacks, I was shocked, but ecstatic. I couldn’t wait!”
I have really enjoyed theater and the Fine Arts productions at college. The audition part is very nerve wracking, but the friends you gain, the experience you get, and the character you build is worth it all in the end!
Lydia Van Hall
Before trying out for the Fine Arts production Comedy of Errors in the fall of 2017, alumnus Ryan Klein (Graphic Design) played roles in Dramatic Productions as well as graduate speech recitals. Previously when auditioning, Ryan had used the same humorous piece. But this time Ryan knew he wanted the role of Dromio of Ephesus, so he took a more specific approach. “They say you should never audition with a piece from the thing you’re auditioning to be in, but rather audition with something similar in tone and language,” Ryan reveals. “I chose an audition piece that had more Shakespearean dialect and dramatic movements.”
Ryan received the role and thoroughly enjoyed portraying Dromio. “I loved how acrobatic my character needed to be and how many slap-stick moments I got to have on stage,” he said. “Every time I fell down on stage just gave the audience more to laugh at, which in turn gave me and my fellow cast members more energy to draw from.”
The beauty of the audition process is that it doesn’t always end in tryouts. The callback process is where you really get to show what you can do and how you can approach a character or role. Callbacks are also far more competitive.
Most recently, auditions were held for Pygmalion, the first of the fall 2018 Fine Arts Series. Many students, faculty, and staff tried out, hoping to land a role in the “comedy of manners.”
While faculty members Josh and Laura Vaught tried out together with a mock dialogue, grad student Shauna Kaiser read from a children’s storybook. Others impersonated a fictitious character or quoted scripture.
Senior performance major Amanda Lucas (CT) auditioned despite her busy schedule—which includes rehearsals most week nights for the H.M.S. Pinafore debuting later this semester. “I hope that people see the performance and are touched by it and the message,” she says, relating why she enjoys acting. She hopes that other students thinking about auditioning will “just go for it. From backstage to onstage to the director, the team is incredible. You see new perspectives.”
Though the actual trying out process lasts only a minute or two, the memories made from being part of a performance will last a lifetime.
For now, those who tried out for Pygmalion are waiting on callbacks.