Selecting College Musical Theater Audition Materials: 4 Tips
Especially when you’re planning to pursue a performing arts education, choosing the right college is a major decision. You have to determine not only where your diploma will come from, but also what training will best prepare you to turn your passion into your profession.
To get to the point of making this final decision, you also need to make many smaller choices along the way. Once you’ve narrowed down which degree you want to pursue and identified several programs to apply to, there’s the matter of choosing audition materials. If you’re applying to musical theater programs, you’ll need to find a range of materials to showcase your skills in acting, singing, and dancing in a way that fits each program’s requirements.
In this guide, we’ll share four tips to help you find the best college musical theater audition materials:
- Follow Each Program’s Requirements Carefully
- Use Free Resources Whenever Possible
- Record Practice Runs Before the Audition
- Play to Your Strengths and Interests
Keep in mind that the more programs you audition for, the more materials you’ll need to find and practice. So, you’ll first want to be strategic in your program selections—narrow down a list of the colleges that you have a good chance of getting into and that will benefit you most in the future. Once you’ve taken that step, let’s dive into how to select audition materials!
1. Follow Each Program’s Requirements Carefully
One of the easiest mistakes to make when preparing for college auditions is to practice your monologues and songs until you can perform them in your sleep—only to realize that what you’ve rehearsed doesn’t match the program’s audition requirements.
An increasing number of colleges have streamlined their audition process by accepting the Musical Theater Common Prescreen (MTCP) criteria for virtual and in-person auditions as well as prescreen submissions. According to Acceptd, the MTCP requires musical theater applicants to prepare:
- Two songs in contrasting styles
- One to two monologues from published plays
- 30-60 seconds of dance in any style
- A “wild card” submission that showcases a special skill or aspect of your personality
Some programs that use the MTCP may include additional criteria for audition materials, such as requiring that songs and monologues be written within a particular time frame or asking to see additional ballet work in the dance portion. Others may not follow the MTCP at all. Before settling on specific audition materials, check each college’s website carefully to ensure you understand and follow that program’s requirements.
2. Use Free Resources Whenever Possible
It’s no secret that applying to college after college can quickly become expensive, not to mention the major investment of attending college itself. However, finding the best possible college audition materials doesn’t have to be a costly process, too!
When selecting college audition materials, try to find free repertoire and guidance wherever you can. There are plenty of resources available to help you decide what to use for your:
- Monologues. Browse your local library (either in person or online) to find plays you could pull monologues from. The Playscripts website also has many free scripts available to read.
- Songs. Many colleges post videos of their annual musical theater senior showcases on their websites or YouTube, which can help you get an idea of what song selections are most appropriate for the program.
- Dance combinations. YouTube is also a great place to find Broadway dance tutorials that you can follow along with to prepare for dance calls, as well as instructional videos in a variety of styles to help you sharpen your skills.
As you review each of these free resources, make a list of your top ideas. Narrow down the list by first eliminating possibilities that don’t fit the requirements of any program you’re auditioning for. Then, discuss the remaining options with your instructors, audition coach, and others who know you well to figure out which materials to use.
3. Record Practice Runs Before the Audition
Once you’ve identified your top choices for audition materials, it’s often a good idea to record one or two test runs to see how you look, sound, and feel while performing them. If you’re preparing for a virtual audition or haven’t made many performance videos before submitting your prescreens, this is also a great opportunity to try out your equipment and make sure you can take a quality video.
My College Audition’s guide to self tapes suggests these tips to help you refine your audition videos as you practice:
- Clear a decent-sized space and ensure the background isn’t distracting.
- Invest in a ring light or play with the positioning of floor lamps to get the most flattering effect.
- Only use a fancy camera if you already have one—a smartphone works just as well.
Watch each of your test runs back—no matter how rough you feel it is—to see where you need to make adjustments or swaps well before audition day. Also, pay attention to how long each piece is as many program criteria include time limitations that you’ll want to stay within. Plus, if you set up your space and equipment as you practice your materials, you’ll be even more prepared to record prescreens and audition virtually.
4. Play to Your Strengths and Interests
Just as you’re looking for a musical theater program that’s the best fit for you, colleges are looking for students who are the best fit for their program. They want to get to know you as a person as well as a performer. So, make sure to play to your interests as well as your strengths during the audition.
To choose audition materials that showcase your skills and personality at the same time, consider these ideas:
- Choose songs from your favorite shows or with meaningful lyrics, but make sure you can sing at least one of them decently if you feel under the weather the day of the audition.
- Show a wide range of acting abilities in your monologues, but pick ones about themes or ideas that interest you.
- Take wild card submissions seriously as an opportunity to show what makes you unique. For example, you could play an instrument, share your favorite hobby outside of theater, read an original poem, or even sing a pop song.
Lastly, make sure your audition materials coordinate with the portfolio and artist profile you submit to colleges. Showcase the skills you’re best at and have practiced the most—but look for opportunities to get creative!
College musical theater auditions can seem overwhelming, but selecting the right audition materials early helps alleviate some of the stress. Use the many available free resources to find materials that adhere to each program’s requirements. Then, let your personality shine through along with your strengths as a performer so you can successfully audition for the musical theater program that will best prepare you for the future.