As a musical theatre teacher at, I get the privilege of watching a hundred or more children from the age of five to twenty find their way on the stage, behind the stage, and in the wings. Between the flash of the costumes, the choreography and the staging, it is the day to day learning that makes my job so rewarding. With three or more shows to put up each season, it is easy to get swept up in the lessons, the rehearsals, the practices, and the “let’s do it again” muscle memory of theatre. But these endless practices lead some – a few- students to pursue theatre for more than just a season, and indeed a lifetime. I can say that I teach musical theatre to youth, but I am really teaching musical theatre for life. When my “babies” grow, I

Ashlling Shockey & Mrs Keely “Charlie Brown” 2013

get to see them taking on larger roles, leadership positions, and collaborative projects, and when they set their sights on career and college, it is a validation of their training and the direction I try to give them over the years. They come to college auditions armed with private voice lessons, acting classes, and a resume of performances, but it is more than that: they come armed with hope. This is what they were born to do, and what they chose. Like athletes, they have a field, a sport, a set of skills, but theirs is a different kind of game, and definitely a different sort of ball. The umpire is Broadway, the field the stage, and their tools are their feet, their voices, their hearts, and a whole lot of talent. Yes, like any athlete there is also the need to be lucky and be that face picked out of the crowd that stands out.

La La Land, the movie, understood this, with its emphasis on auditioning, auditioning, auditioning. I teach the students how to present themselves in the best light and how to perform. I teach them how to stand, how to move, and how to believe in themselves. I give them the foundation and a hug… and send them off to be the “better” face in the crowd: the one that gets hired. The one that works. The one the directors want to direct. Children’s Theatre gives youth a place to belong, and the theatre is the most welcoming home. Leaving that home in Monrovia to go off to different stages across the United States, from company to company or from high school to college is a scary proposition. But the students are all connected by song.

A musical theatre student has a difficult process to complete when applying for college. It is almost as if the gods of theatre are trying to make it as difficult as possible, but it is really the nature of our art. Triple threat. Sing. Dance. Act. All three at once, effortlessly. In preparing for college auditions, the student must gather videos of performed pieces in each of the three art forms, to a specific count, whether that is a 32-bar song piece, or the one-minute monologue. This can be prohibitive to gather since many colleges ask for specific things. One might have to record a song in sets of 16 or 32-bars, one minute, two minutes, or even the entire song. A monologue might need to be 60 or 90 seconds, or two-minutes. A dance selection may be required to show ballet only, or jazz, or a pre-assigned combination. Making lists, keeping it straight. Was that vertical or horizontal? Post-1990 or pre-1965? Does this need to be Shakespeare or modern, or classical or …. or…. the list goes on. Dizzying. Maddening. Exhausting. Surviving the audition process should earn the student a badge.

Add to this the demand for essays, insights, write abouts, and prescribed questions, and the student may write up to fifteen different pieces for the colleges. What movie would you make into a musical? What part do you see yourself playing in an existing show? Why do you believe this is the pathway for you? Why this program, this school, this dream? Why? Why?

Using the platform of , a gathering place for uploading videos and prepared pieces, many colleges are trying to make the process more streamlined. But not all. For many colleges, it is their site, their rules. And the student must juggle what to send, where, for how long, and by what date. Keeping lists is integral, and also keeping one’s sanity. Jump through the hoops and do it with jazz hands, a smile, and choreography! And like another popular musical advises: Just Breathe!

And this is all only Pre-Screening, which many colleges now require. One gets to do it all again in person at auditions. The Pre-Screen is there for colleges to sort through the thousands of auditioners to find the Face in the Crowd: the one that they want to see in person. It is the FIRST hurdle. They are ready. They’ve got this. Push send. Upload. Smile. It’s what they were trained to do. What they were born to do. Let’s make them think this is easy. And then get ready for auditions.

I will discuss those in the next blog, but we’ll let our musical theatre hopefuls breathe for a few days before we show them the demands of the actual audition process: Unifieds. College Tours, Interviews. Whew! And you thought this was going to be just a quick 8-count! #musicaltheatre #PrivateVocalLessons #ActingClasses