Audition Tips and Advice

Follow Musical Theatre!

musical theatre anniversary logo

Image of Joe Iconis with current musical theatre students

Your first decision is whether you actually want to pursue a BFA degree. The BFA is meant for highly focused individuals who wish to train for the professional theatre. It is a highly 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 – and based on both academics and artistry. Artistically, you need to demonstrate professional potential at the audition. Academically, you need to be admissible to the Penn State University system.

Preparing During your High School Years:
Here are some suggestions on how you can best prepare for the rigors of a BFA Musical Theatre degree…
1. Focus extra time on lessons and classes – voice lessons, acting class, and dance class can only improve your readiness. Even if you have never had any classes in musical theatre, you would be surprised what even a few months will do for you.
2. Choir, piano, and music theory will all help you increase your musicality.
3. Be as healthy as possible. 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. 4. See as much musical theatre as possible. The more theatre you see, the better. In addition to musicals, seek out plays, dance, and opera.

The Audition Material:
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 suggestions…

1. Pick material that is appropriate for you. Do not try to impress us with your worldliness or edgy selections. Pick songs and monologues that fit your age bracket and experience.
2. Pick material that you do well and that you are passionate about. This is very different than picking material based on a belted high note or series of skills you are looking to showcase. You’ll notice that we don’t publish a list of “do not sing” material – we are happy to hear anything you prepare. We do suggest that you try to avoid material that is either currently on Broadway or has been “stamped” very specifically by a well-known artist.
3. Think of the two songs and the monologue as an introduction to who you are as a young artist and person. Remember, we aren't looking for the perfect casting decision. We are looking for talented and curious artists – people with whom we will spend a great deal of time and effort over four years.
4. Pay careful attention to cutting and editing your selections. The audition songs don't need every repeat; the monologue should be one minute at a maximum.
5. The up-tempo and ballad should contrast and demonstrate different aspects of your performance capabilities. One song needs to have been written before the 1970s.
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. Remember, the accompanist will play what you provide.

The Audition Day:
Here are several things you can do to help yourself on the day of your audition…

1. Give yourself the best chance for success. You are a busy person. You're probably juggling your Penn State audition with other auditions, school shows, lessons, a job, an attempt at a social life, and 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 group physical warm-up, you will be taught a dance combination. You can expect elements of ballet, jazz, and other physical storytelling in the combination. In small groups (3 or 4), you will present this combination to members of the musical theatre faculty. After the dance portion of the audition you will be given an opportunity to change clothes. After a group vocal warm-up you will privately present your songs and monologue. You will present in the order that you reserved an audition spot.
3. Manage your energy. Many people in our field think of auditions as difficult, frightening events and performances as exciting, fun events. We invite you to think about your audition as a great opportunity to share your work with us as it stands in your young life and career. A time to introduce yourself and your passions to a group of people who are on your side in that process. If you are able to do this, you may find that nervous excitement (a constructive energy) will replace nervous fear (a destructive energy). Also, keep in mind that you and the people sitting behind the table want the exact same thing - for you to do great and exciting work.
4. Be ready for the unexpected. 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.

Best of luck!


Logo for United Scenic Artists


Logo for Stage Directors and Choreographers Society


Contact Us

Address: Penn State School of Theatre, 116 Theatre Building, University Park, PA 16802 USA.

Office: (814) 865 7586

Fax: (814) 865 5754

Tickets: (814) 863 0255