Relaying the depth of one’s study and understanding to a potential employer can be a daunting task. Doing all of this in two minutes through a scene from a movie or a song from a musical may seem impossible.
Students in Bama on Broadway, the senior showcase featuring these two-minute auditions, have the opportunity to make their first impressions on industry professionals in New York City before leaving college. The students will perform the showcase audition in New York City on Monday, and they will spend the rest of their spring break in the city participating in workshops and callbacks.
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Choosing the perfect combination of material from scenes, monologues or songs begins in the fall of senior year, in a showcase preparation class led by Seth Panitch, associate professor and director of MFA and undergraduate acting programs.
“The individual student has to first figure out where is their personal sweet spot, what’s that seed of personality that makes them so interesting and so compelling on stage,” Panitch said. “Then they choose material that reflects that, instead of choosing material just because it happens to be a great scene.”
About two-thirds of the 15 students in the showcase were enrolled in the one-hour class in the fall, and Panitch led rehearsals for the showcase with the start of spring semester.
“It’s a lot of work for two hours of performance,” he said. “But that two hours of performance has the potential of being the first step – sometimes a small step, sometimes a large step – for our students in the industry.”
The showcase setup requires the student auditions be sewn together in what seems more typical of a performance than an audition. Panitch therefore added entertaining transitions between each scene, monologue and song that included music played by Raphael Crystal, associate professor and director of the musical theatre program.
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While Panitch aided students in selecting a scene or monologue for their audition, Crystal provided assistance to students who were interested in highlighting their vocal talents with a song.
“It’s the hardest thing in the world,” Crystal said. “How can you really fit your whole self into a couple of minutes? First we say, it has to show what you do best. Then, it’s got to give people an idea of how they could cast you.”
Panitch and Crystal emphasize to the students that while they may not receive immediate results, the opportunity to experience New York City and make a first impression with casting directors and agencies is a success in itself. For Allison Heinz, a senior majoring in musical theatre, the experience has been something that initially drew her to study at the University, as she hopes to live out her dreams in New York City.
Heinz has involved herself heavily in preparing for the audition and has gathered a variety of acting experiences through performing and attending many other auditions.
“The busier I am, the better I work,” Heinz said. “I directed two shows last semester, was in a show as an ensemble member and was in a two-person show – all of them were completely different types of theatre, and it’s all educational. You learn something from all of it.”
Motell Foster, a senior majoring in theatre, said he has plans to live out his dreams in New York City as well, beginning with attending the graduate acting program at Tisch School of the Arts at New York University in the fall. While already having a plan for the fall alleviates some of the stress of the audition, Foster said he is still excited to have the opportunity to meet the professionals and showcase the hard work and collaborative efforts that have gone into Bama on Broadway.
“It’s been really fun, it really has,” he said, “just because you’ve been with these people for four years, and now you’re seeing what all they can do, as opposed to what they could do when they first came here. And you get to really notice the growth that has happened, and that’s always special.”
Adam Vanek, a senior majoring in musical theater, said he has also enjoyed the process of working alongside his classmates, receiving feedback from both his peers and professors, despite the challenging preparation.
“I picked material that isn’t really a stretch acting-wise, meaning it’s very relatable and it’s very me, because that’s ultimately what the agents at showcase want to see,” Vanek said. “They want to see who you are and how you act and how you move. I think a lot of us picked our material with that in mind.”
The showcase rehearsals will culminate in the New York City theater space early Monday afternoon before the actual audition for the casting directors and agencies occurs later in the day. University alumni are invited to attend the final rehearsal, and Jessica May, a musical theater student who graduated in May 2013, plans to be in attendance.
May participated in the showcase her senior year and has been living in New York for the past six months. She said she is looking forward to seeing the students audition in an experience that was instrumental to her own career as well.
“Once you’re up here, you’re auditioning every single day,” she said. “So it’s good that during your final semester you audition a lot, for conferences, for semester shows, outside shows, stuff for the summer, you go to workshops. So it just really helps you get in the mindset of auditioning.”
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