Audition Tips and Advice
Our mission is to train talented students preparing them to compete successfully in the professional musical theatre job market. Further, as is true with all Penn State undergraduate degrees, we aim to educate caring, knowledgable contributing members of 21st century society.
Musical Theatre Merit Scholarships:
Through the generous support of private donors, all applications who are offered admission into the School of Theatre’s B.F.A. Musical Theatre Degree Program are eligible for merit-based scholarships. As the name implies, these scholarships are not based on need, but on artistic merit. The Program holds out additional funds to reward advanced musical theatre majors for outstanding artistic performance, academic accomplishment, and service. For financial aid information, contact the Office of Financial Aid at www.psu.edu/studentaid.
Admission Into the Program:
Your first decision is whether you actually want to pursue a B.F.A degree. Our School of Theatre offers both the Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA) and the Bachelor of Arts (BA) degree. The BFA is meant for highly focused individuals who wish to train for the professional theatre. Our BA degree offers a student the opportunity to explore theatre as an art and as a reflection of society and also allows for concentrated study in acting for those performers not wishing to specialize in musical theatre.
At Penn State (and elsewhere) the B.F.A. in Musical Theatre is a competitive, challenging degree program meant for students with intense discipline, motivation, stamina, physical, mental, and emotional strength, and of course – talent. Admission is extremely competitive. Approximately 5% of applications receive offers of admission. Admission is based on academics and artistry. Academically, you need to be admissible to the Penn State university system. Artistically, you need to demonstrate professional potential at the audition.
During the year, there are several things you can do to help you prepare for success:
1. Focus extra time on lessons - dance and voice classes can only improve your readiness. Even if you have never had a dance class, you would be surprised what a few months of classes will do for you.
2. Choir, piano, and music theory will all help you increase your musicality.
3. Work out. We do not believe that there is only one appropriate body-type for work in professional musical theatre. On the other hand, strength, stamina, health, and flexibility are all important attributes for musical theatre students. Cardiovascular work and strength building can be of value. DON'T SMOKE!
4. See as much musical theatre as possible. The more theatre you see, the better. Besides musicals, seek out plays, dance, and opera.
Maximizing your chances of being accepted into the musical theatre program:
Since admission is based on a successful audition, it makes sense to thoroughly prepare and present yourself as your best. The successful audition begins with careful, intelligent material selection. Here are several hints:
1. Pick material that is appropriate for you. Do not try to impress us with your worldliness. Pick songs and monlogues that fit your chronological, emotional, and experiential age.
2. Pick material that you do well. And remember, material that you love is not necessarily the same material that you perform well. An audition is not the time to "stretch".
3. Think of the two songs and the monologue as an introduction to who you are. Remember, we aren't looking for the perfect "Maria". We are looking for students - people we will spend a great deal of time with and effort on over the next four years.
4. Pay careful attention to cutting and editing your selections. The audition songs don't need every repeat; the monologue should be 90 seconds at a maximum.
5. The up-tempo and ballad should contrast and demonstrate different aspects of your performance power. One song needs to have been written before the 1960s.
6. Find a way to rehearse with someone who can play the music that you will provide our accompanist. Singing the first time with an accompanist at an audition can be difficult and frightening. Remember, the accompanist will play what you provide.
7. Hopefully this goes without saying, but practice, practice, practice.
The day has arrived. Here are several things you can do to help yourself:
1. You are a busy person. You're probably juggling your Penn State audition with other auditions, school shows, lessons, a job, a valiant attempt at a social life, and even school work. HOWEVER, we can't over-emphasize the importance of the audition to your future. If at all possible, plan to arrive on campus the day before. That way you can familiarize yourself with the campus, take a tour, look for the audition location, etc. We invite you to observe classes and meet current majors. Above all else, arrive at the audition well rested and focused.
2. Understand the audition process. After a physical warm-up, you will be taught a short ballet combination. In groups of three you will present this combination to members of the musical theatre faculty. The process will then repeat with a jazz combination. After the dance portion of the audition you will be given an opportunity to change clothes if desired. After a vocal warm-up you will privately present your songs and monologue. You will present in the order that you reserved an audition spot. After you're escorted out of the audition hall, you will be told whether you need to stay for a callback interview.
3. Many people in our field think of auditions as difficult, frightening events and performances as exciting, fun events. So here's a trick - think of your time before us as a performance; "the James Smith Show" - made up of two dances, two songs, and a monologue. If you're able to do this, you'll find that nervous excitement (a constructive energy) will replace nervous terror (a destructive energy). Also, keep in mind that you and the people sitting behind the table want the exact same thing - for you to be fabulous!
4. We may stop you and work with you on a piece; we may cut you off and ask you to move to your next piece; we may vocalize you, or we may ask you to do something unplanned. Do not let these requests distract or upset you. We have a short time to get to know as much about you and your work as possible. If we've seen what we need to see, or feel that we need to see something different, our request will only help us assess you in the most complete and accurate way possible. This will be mutually beneficial.
As you prepare for this most exciting adventure, we wish you the best of luck!