College Theater Auditions: 5 Key Areas To Improve

Elevate your audition by learning what to do and what not to do.


Every performing arts student, who attends college theater auditions, competes with thousands of others attempting to get accepted to that particular school and that particular program. The good news for you is that many students don’t do what it takes to fully prepare. Talent only goes so far. The right tools and tactics in the following areas are designed to help you achieve your college arts goals and objectives.


1. Material. Choose wisely. Select source material from published plays and musicals. Generally, stay away from monologues that you find online, in film, or on television unless you know that they are appropriate. It is acceptable, but sometimes risky, to work from a new play. Just make sure that it is well written, and read the entire play, not just the scene or the monologue you want to perform. Musical theater programs often ask for song selections from the musical theatre canon, because they really prefer you to sing songs they know or have heard of. You may even be asked, in some instances, to sing a particular era or style of music. Rock/contemporary songs are much more mainstream than they used to be!


Just as important as what you choose is how you feel about your choice. Make sure you love it! Otherwise, it will be apparent, and you won’t be at your best for your audition. Also make sure you know your part, beyond memorizing words and notes. Know who you are and who you’re addressing. Know the nature of the relationship and what you want to communicate to that person.


2. Preparation. First, and foremost, read the audition requirements carefully. You would be amazed at how many students do not. And no matter how talented you may be, it leaves the wrong impression. There is a reason that each program establishes their own audition rules, and it is essential to follow them.


Whatever you do, don’t wait until the last minute to select your audition material. Finding the right material alone can take weeks or months. Then you need the proper time to digest and internalize your selection. It’s not difficult for the audition panel to tell how prepared you really are.


Treat the audition the same way you would approach the performance of a play. If this were the opening of a show, how much would you rehearse your part? Why do anything less for an audition? Rehearse and rehearse some more. Work with a coach if possible. Then rehearse in front of people. And just when you think you’re prepared, rehearse again!


3. Paperwork. Your audition performance counts for a lot, but there is more that goes into the judges’ decision. The smallest details of your resume, headshot, and sheet music are all given strong consideration by the audition panel, and each can have a significant effect on the final decision.


If your resume does not look presentable, don’t present it! It should follow standard format and appear crisp, with no marks or wrinkles, as though it was just printed. Keep your headshot simple and professional. It should look like you, not some glammed-up, celeb version of yourself! Make your sheet music presentable in a binder so the accompanist can handle it with ease.


Your paperwork is the price of entry and it doesn’t take much to get it right, so there is no excuse if you don’t.


4. Appearance. Dress the part. The idea is for your talent to stand out, not your outfit. Wear something that reflects who you are, but keep it professional — not too formal or too informal. You should be able to move in your clothing, including going to the floor if asked. If you’re going to be dancing at all, you should bring dance attire to change into. It allows the lines and contours of your body to be clearly seen in movement. Women should have heels and flats. Men can wear either ballet or jazz shoes.


Comb your hair, and make sure it doesn’t cover your eyes. The audition panel wants to see your face, particularly your eyes. It’s hard to judge your acting ability without seeing the eyes. Don’t fuss with tour hair, and don’t do the “wet look” or actually have wet hair! Makeup and hair should be natural and clean. That may mean clipping back bangs and tying back long hair or possibly getting a haircut before you begin college auditions.


As a general rule, don’t dress in anything that is too tight, too low, or too short. The judges don’t want to watch students hike up tops, pull down skirts, pull out shirts, or take off shoes because they’re tight. Take a good look at yourself from behind, because that’s what the faculty is going to see as you walk out the room!


5. Confidence. This is it. You’ve been working hard, so go for it! When you walk into the room, shyness doesn’t work, so enter with absolute confidence. Look the judges in the eyes during introductions. If hands are offered, and only if they’re offered, shake them. Introduce yourself and let them know what pieces you are performing, who the authors are, and what you will perform first.


Respect the space of the panel by standing at least 6-8 feet from the table throughout the audition, unless they invite you to come closer. Be open to conversation if the auditors start it. Otherwise, get on with the audition performance. Don’t ask if you should start. When you’re ready, and you have their attention, simply begin. Don’t wait for an invitation to command the room. Take charge! The faculty members want to love you, believe it or not. They want to look up from their notes and be captivated.


Learn about upcoming ArtsBridge Audition Workshops that offer students the opportunity to learn the ins and outs from decision-making college faculty.


Prepare for success in the arts with ArtsBridge College Consulting, and see how former college deans of admissions offer specialized guidance to bring out the best in every high school arts student.

Take the first step to the finest arts education.

Let's Talk