You've picked your audition material, you've performed it to the wall in your bedroom two hundred times, you've filmed your prescreens, you’ve booked your audition dates, you bought that steamer on amazon and then returned it and then bought the one you meant to buy the first time, and now it's finally time to shine! So...what do you wear? Like every other facet of the college audition process and this crazy business called show, everyone has a different opinion. How you would dress for a first date or a dinner meeting with someone who you want to impress? Are we serving "smart casual," "Western business attire," "cocktail," “actor’s neutral,’ ”tasteful party vibes," or "jewel tone glamour"? What do any of those even mean?! Relax, you got this.
The key to dressing perfectly for your college audition is to find an outfit that makes you feel great, exhibits the professionalism that schools are looking for, and supports what you are presenting in terms of your energy and your material. Just as you did when you chose your songs and monologues, think about what message your audition outfit sends to the auditors/faculty. It should feel like an awesome extension of yourself. They want to see you, after all! And nothing feels better than striding into an audition room feeling fabulous. When it comes to auditioning in general, confidence is king (or queen, as the case may be). They can tell when you’re feeling uncomfortable in your clothes or shoes, or when you’re using your outfit to hide. Wondering what it looks like when someone is feeling great in what they’re wearing? Oh, look! Here’s a photo of your favorite MCA coaches doing that thing!
You get it, how you dress is important. But how do you go about searching for outfits? Start by looking through what you already have. I usually tell my students to dress as you would for a first date or a dinner meeting with someone on whom you want to make a great first impression. We’re looking for that sweet spot between formal and informal; something that shows your personality while keeping it neat, clean, and professional. If you have an outfit in your closet that you love and that feels right, go with that. If not, head to the mall and experiment with some different styles and colors. Make it fun! Maybe bring along a friend or two who can give a second opinion and tell you what message they’re reading from various outfits.
The 70s have come and gone, and so too have “actor blacks.” Don’t be afraid of colors! Matching the color family of your eyes is a tried and true way to go. There are also certain colors and fabrics that go well with different hair colors and textures. Find your power color that complements your skin tone and doesn’t wash you out. Patterns can be great too if they are working for you and are not distracting. Speaking of outdated audition fashion trends, most working actresses today will tell you that the days of the mandatory musical theatre audition uniform of a jewel-tone, fit and flare dress and a pair of nude pumps are over! Of course, if that outfit is you and makes you feel your best, by all means wear it! But do not feel obligated to fit that outfit mould if it’s not something you would actually wear. Some folks who might be auditioning you still love to see it, but many people are easin' on down the road to a brand new day. For all college auditioners, a nice, crisp dark wash pair of jeans and a semi-formal, flattering shirt is perfectly lovely. Here are some other great examples from recent MCA alumni!
My students these days are rocking everything from a funky jumpsuit, high-waisted patterned pants, a tasteful romper, a bold colored sweater with some statement jewelry, a well-fitted blazer with cool sneaks, a skirt and a solid colored top with some booties, black jeans and a patterned button down, a floral flow dress with some wedges, and more! Stay true to yourself and your style - if you’re a flower child, wear those bell bottoms and hoop earrings! If you’re a dark drama queen, get those black tights and plum lipstick! If you’re a flannel guy, you rock that flannel! Beware of following the latest trends too closely, as others will be doing the same thing, but don’t be scared to add your own personal spice to the mix. It will help them see who you are right away in the room.
Keep in mind a few notes on what not to wear. Remember to stay away from clothing pieces that are too tight, oversized, revealing, distracting, or physically constricting. You want to be able to move around freely in your audition without risking a fashion faux-pas or tripping over a baggy hem. Make sure whatever you choose is comfortable enough to keep you mobile, relaxed, and keep your mind off your clothes for a whole audition day. And save the risky necklines or hemlines for a different moment. Don’t let what you wear hinder rather than help your focus or theirs - the main event is your audition material! Again, your audition package should tell a story about yourself, and what you wear can be an important, helpful piece of that narrative. Your appearance is the very first thing they take in when you walk into the audition room, so use that to your advantage and make sure you’re dressing for the occasion (no yoga pants, sweat pants, or costume pieces), your age (plenty of time to be thirty, flirty, and thriving later on), and your general type (ask a mentor or coach if you’re not sure what this means).
And finally, don’t forget the footwear, y’all! Do not underestimate the power of a shoe that is not helping you. If you have never walked in heels a day in your life, forget them! They are not necessary, I promise, and the auditors will ask you to take off your shoes if you are clearly not comfortable in them. Some schools might ask you to kick off your heels even if you are comfortable in them! However, if you’re a cool heeled cucumber and can walk into and out of the room with ease and grace, heels can be a great way to give some people a confident, polished feeling. They also help some of us sing slightly better because of the way the spine aligns and our weight redistributes when we have heels on. Don’t wear character shoes - save those for the stage or for the dance call. But if you want the height without the flight risk, wedges or boots with a heel are a great way to go. A nice pair of flats or boots is also perfect. As with everything I have said in this post, to thine own self be true! For all of you guys out there, I would advise against awkwardly chunky or loud shoes, overly clunky boots, or sandals. Like your audition clothing, medium-dressy is the way to go. A pair of classic derby-style kicks, some groovy sneaks, or nice boots will be a shoe in! Wink.
You can dress yourself! You’re beautiful! Your monologues match your shirt and your shirt matches your soul! You’ve got 32 problems but a bar of music ain’t one! And neither is your outfit now. You’re ready. Go find something that makes you feel like the best, most comfortable, fiercest version of yourself and you will be perfectly dressing for the audition impressing. Happy closet hunting and break those stylishly-shoed legs!
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Ahh! I’m so stressed out! I still have applications to send out, audition season is fully underway, I have a test tomorrow, and my school show goes up in just a few weeks … why is this so stressful!?!?!
Does this inner monologue sound familiar? Stress is one of the biggest components of one’s life. We all experience and feel stress in different ways. However, many times, what we are calling stress is actually other emotions such as fear, worry, or anxiety; though these emotions relate to each other, there are differences. Fear is an untaught, instinctive reaction we have to danger. It is where fight, flight, and freeze comes into play. Anxiety is unwarranted or excessive fear. Both fear and anxiety can lead to worry, which is repetitive and reoccurring thoughts. Worry can then lead to stress, which is our perception that we are unable to meet the demands placed upon us. When we get clarity on what we are actually feeling, we can then choose to respond in a way that supports us. Paying attention to these emotions can help us to understand ourselves more deeply and therefore be able to manage the ever moving parts of our lives.
Most of the time, we view stress and similar emotions through a negative perspective. We find ourselves saying things like the inner monologue above. When not managed appropriately, stress can affect us in a negative way. It can lead to burn out, illness, and overall low performance.
However, not all stress should be viewed as negative. In fact, for us to perform optimally, research has shown that a certain amount of stress is needed. Psychologist, Kelly McGonigal, is known for her research on how our beliefs about stress have as much impact on us as does the actual stress itself. This means it’s good for our body and mind to understand how a certain amount of stress can actually help us to improve and be more successful in different areas of our life. For example, when training for a marathon, a runner needs to place a certain amount of stress on their body to build up the muscles and endurance to runs 26.2 miles. However, if the runner places too much stress on the body by running too many miles before they are ready or not taking the time to recover and rest, they will get injured.
In order to change this mindset about stress, neuroplasticity, which is the brain’s ability to change throughout an individual’s life, plays a critical function. To the extent that levels of stress remain moderate and are not extreme, or reach the point of trauma, stress can actually challenge our brains in a productive way. Neuroplasticity allows for us to create new pathways in the brain. These new pathways help us to grow and adapt to our environments. If we can re-define how we respond to stress, we can build a new relationship with it; one where stress becomes a facilitating partner in our lives, not a debilitating one.
So how do we do that? Just like learning a new song, a monologue, or a dance, there are tools we can practice. Below are three practices you can start to incorporate into your life on a daily basis.
In the yoga philosophy, our breath, known as prana, is our foundation, our life-giving force. Studies have shown that breath exercises can improve the sense of well-being and foster a sense of calm, balance, and grounded-ness. There are many different breath practices. One of my favorites is called Square Breathing. In this breath, you inhale through your nose on a 4 count, pause at the top of your breath for a 4 count, exhale out your nose on a 4 count, and pause at the bottom of your breath for a 4 count. Repeat this for at least 3 rounds. You can even close your eyes and visualize your breath making a square.
As humans, we are egotistical beings. We are always trying to prove (or justify) that our thoughts, statements, and actions are correct. Therefore, it is important to be aware of what we are thinking and the types of thoughts we consistently have. Self talk can be put into three categories: positive, instructional, and negative. When we become mindful of our self talk and learn to shift our thoughts to support us, we foster a growth mindset, which builds our resiliency. One of the many mindset practices we can do is create positive affirmations for ourselves. When creating positive affirmations, it is important to make sure the statements are in present tense and have a personal meaning. I like to start with “I am …” statements. For example, I am safe. I am capable. I am a gifted artist. You can venture out of the “I am” structure as well. For example, Performing brings me joy. I always think and talk positively about myself. These affirmations can also be statements you are working towards but remember to state them in the present. For example, instead of: I will be a confident dancer, simply state: I am a confident dancer. Once you have your list of affirmations (5-7 is a good amount), you then want to say them to yourself every day, multiple times a day. The more we say them, the more our brain begins to believe them, and then we embody them.
One of the manifestations of stress is tightness in the body. The shoulders, jaw, and low back are common places people hold their stress. When we get tense, energy gets stuck in the body. In order for us to perform optimally, we need the energy to flow freely throughout our body. Stretching and light movements can help to release these areas of the body. Specifically, twists and forward folds help to release tightness and toxins. A forward fold places the heart higher than the head which allows for the blood to circulate in a different direction. Coupled with some intentional breathing, this brings a calmness to the body and allows you to re-center yourself. Twists can help to wring out the negative toxins in the body which creates more space for the energy to flow more freely.
Stress doesn’t have to be the enemy anymore; it can be our teacher and even our partner. By deciding to engage in these intentional practices on a daily basis, stress can be our teammate in helping us to achieve our greatest potential.
If you want support in managing your stress throughout this process and learn more tools to help you, book a Mental Training session with Coach Stephanie!
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I was 4 years old when I played for my first violin contest. My parents were both music teachers, so it was very natural for them to help me during those stressful days. It didn't matter if I was four or fourteen, I was always nervous on contest days. If it weren't for my parents, I never would have made it as a musician. And, though I have great parents, what I needed from them to get through contest season changed as I got older. Sometimes, their nervous energy was too much for me. Other times, I knew I wouldn't have gotten through it without them there.
Auditioning for colleges isn't just stressful for the auditioner, sometimes it's just as - if not moreso - stressful for the parent or guardian. So, this one is for all of you. As someone who spent the better part of my adolescence auditioning, I hope to help ease your mind about how to handle audition season when you aren’t the one auditioning.
How do I help my kid prepare?
Preparing for the college audition process is rigorous. You have to research schools, visit campuses, prepare paperwork and essays, pay fees, pick audition material, prepare material, and the list goes on. Here are some ways you may be able to help:
If your teen seems overwhelmed, helping them simply start a list or a spreadsheet to keep track of college deadlines can be helpful. The spreadsheet can include school information, deadlines, fee schedules, audition dates, and to-dos. Save important deadlines to your online calendar with a reminder the day or even the week before an item is due. You can invite your teen to these “event” deadlines or send them a reminder. Marking these items off of your to-do list can make you and your kid feel accomplished.
Preparing Audition Material
Here are some things I personally found (and still find) helpful from my parents:
Staying Healthy and Focused
You, as the parent or guardian, know how to do this better than anyone. Eating nutritious food, drinking lots of water, getting some exercise, and plenty of sleep is so important during audition season. If your kid does get sick, it's okay. Help them stay calm and rest as much as they can. During this time, there are often not enough hours in the day to accomplish everything that needs to be done. You're not alone. If you keep calm and focused, your kid will pick up on that and, even when it seems it isn't helping, I promise you it is. Having Mom bring me a cup of tea when I was studying or Dad reminding me that I should take a break and go for a walk are things I still remember fondly today.
How do I help on audition days?
This one is really important. Our founder, Chelsea Diehl, recommends having a conversation to understand how you’re needed for the day. I remember my dad being great at auditions. He was around, but off to himself reading a book and only helping if I asked. My mother, bless her, had to be sent away by me because her empathetic energy made me more nervous than I already was on my own.
Have an honest conversation with your kid and don’t worry if they’d rather you not be around for the day. Sitting in a coffee shop reading a book, taking a walk, or resting at the hotel while sending them your positive energy may be just as helpful as being by their side. If they do want you around, do your best to remind them to breathe, keep focused, have some snacks and water on hand, and be a source of comfort. Please don’t talk about your kids’ auditions or acceptances to other parents or stick your ear next to the door while they perform. Audition monitors notice these things and can always report back to programs if they find a parent to be distracting.
How do I help my kid once acceptances and rejections come through?
Oof, this is a hard one. Every kid will get at least one rejection, if not several. When I get rejections, having my parents tell me I’m talented and something will come along soon is great. Having my parents get defensive or bitter on my behalf to try and make me feel better is actually not.
This is a business full of nos. Getting used to hearing no and being able to persevere is essential for survival. If you find your kid is getting a lot of nos, check in with your college audition coach if you have one and schedule a brush-up lesson. You could also consider adding some colleges back onto your initial list to increase their chances. Let them vent to you, let them cry, let them be angry, and just be there for it. Be that source of comfort again and they will know deep down that everything will be okay.
If acceptances come - yay! Tell them to keep up the good work and hopefully there will be a number of great choices available at the end of it all. Remember, a lot of kids who get into school change their majors or schools. There will be more opportunities for your kid to flourish. I have many friends on Broadway who didn’t go to the “right” school or even major in theatre and they still made it. This is all about the long game - persevering through rejection, exploring the pathways life gives you, learning from them, and coming out stronger and more focused. The easiest or “right” pathway won’t always happen and sometimes it works out better than you could imagine. Also, don’t be afraid to reach out for help. If you working with us at My College Audition, we are here to help guide you through this. We care about your kid and we will help in any way we can. You got this. Take a deep breath in, let it out, and trust.
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