Transitioning into college can be a daunting experience. From adapting to a new lifestyle, to choosing classes, to meeting people every day, new students face a lot of adjustments. Yet, for student actors, auditions add pressure to an already stressful process of acclimation. Even during Wildcat Welcome, some freshmen spent their precious downtime rehearsing for the upcoming auditions.
“I prepared two monologues and two songs and I prepared for about a week, at least,” Communication freshman Clayton Lawhead said. “The weekend before the audition, I made sure that I had my monologues and my songs ready and intact.”
Finding out about all the opportunities in the arts can be overwhelming, but Northwestern values accessibility. Twist, an email list of all plays and musicals that students can audition for, along with backstage and managerial opportunities, makes participating in Fall productions easier for students of all interests and skill levels. The listserv, operated by the Northwestern Student Theatre Coalition (StuCo), sends out weekly updates about future shows and opportunities to participate, making the process a little less nerve-wracking.
The first auditions, however, were still intimidating for many incoming freshmen since the audition process is immensely different than auditioning for plays and musicals in high school. For some students, the high school experience was much more intimate and manageable.
“In my high school, we only had one director and you only auditioned for one show at a time,” Communication freshman Andy Johnston said. “Here, you’re auditioning for eight to 10 directors at a time for eight to 10 shows.”
With the initial auditions behind them, the freshmen are now navigating their first few weeks of classes while balancing the callback process, going to late night auditions and rehearsing individual songs or monologues for each callback they receive.
“I was really unsure if I was going to get a callback and if I was ready to do a show, but I also knew that I really love acting and wanted to be a part of theatre,” Communication freshman Claire Savone said. “I did not have any expectations of getting a callback at all. It’s a self-confidence thing. We’re all young and insecure.”
Northwestern may feel like a competitive academic atmosphere, and the theatre environment can amplify that feeling. Northwestern has an exceptional theatre program that attracts the cream of the crop from all around the world, which sometimes leads to a tougher time getting the desired lead roles.
“I’m nervous just about getting roles and competing with people that I think are my friends,” Johnston said.
Although the competitiveness can be intimidating at first, it comes with a greater reward in return: the chance to grow and develop with some of the best in the field. The prospect of joining the extensive network of staff and alumni attracts young actors looking to expand their skills and gain more experience.
“What I hope to gain from participating in productions at Northwestern is career experience,” Johnston said. “I’m interested in becoming a professional actor or at least involved in the theatre scene, and Northwestern is a great place to network and find people.”
Even if the audition process doesn’t result in a role in a play or musical, students can still gain valuable skills about auditioning for a competitive role and grow more comfortable in the high-stakes environment.
“I already feel way better. If I were to go in and do another audition now, I would feel way more secure because it’s always the first one that is the scariest," Scavone said. "I’m hoping to mature more in the audition process and become more confident.”