I just returned home after two awesome trips for NY Unifieds and Chicago Unifieds to support my MCA students and parents. I love being there as a source of morale for my famlies and just simply getting the chance to connect with our students outside of a lesson.
I wanted to write a quick blog post regarding walk-in auditions as this has become a pretty hot topic. If you are new to the college audition process and haven’t heard the term walk-ins before, first, welcome to the process and second, buckle up.
Walk-In Auditions are essentially exactly how they sound. If a school or program has gaps or room in their audition schedule, students who are already there for Unifieds are able to try to grab a spot to audition. Spots become available when students are ill, weather makes it impossible to travel, students don’t show up (don’t get me started on that, folks! Always cancel your auditions to make room for someone else), etc. Most schools will post a sign outside their door to indicate they are accepting walk-ins, but some will offer up the info if you just politely ask. Most schools make you pay a fee to audition or require you to submit a portion of (or full) application on the spot or by a deadline.
While this isn’t a new phenonmenon, it has been by far the #1 question I have been asked about this year. I attritube this to a couple things, but mostly, social media. Walk-Ins have become sort of a right of passage or a “cool” thing to do while at Unifieds. Also, everyone else is doing them, so shouldn’t I? I always tell my students that I don’t envy them going through the process in 2019 – everyone knows everything. The onslaught of information can be helpful, but it can also be overwhelming and at times, crushing.
I have been a part of, and heard, many debates regarding whether or not walk-in auditions are fair. I have opinions on this, but I want to attack this from a different angle. I want to really speak to the students and parents to focus on what the point of walk-ins are and who should and should not be doing them. They are going to exist, in some capacity, always – so, let’s start to look at this from a different angle. Maybe by eliminiating the pools of people who should not be doing them, we can all have better clarity on the subject. This blog post isn’t to discuss if I agree or disagree if they are fair or not.
I have some thoughts I would love to share with you. Obviously, these are just my opinions and as always, to each his own.
“Which walk-ins should I do?!”
When a student asks me this, the first thing I try to respond with is: do you need to do walk-ins? I’m then usually met with a confused pause. Let’s break this down a bit.
I’m a huge advocate for early auditions (November/December early action and sometimes early decision auditions.) Get a handful done early, hopefully gain some acceptances (and confidence) or tweak any material that feels off after completing some early auditions. If you gain an acceptance to a school that you LOVE early…amazing! The pressure is off and you can have fun during the rest of the audition season.
So then cut to Unifieds: are you happy with the acceptance(s) you have? Is it a school you can earnestly see yourself going to? Is there any program that is doing walk-ins that you would go to over that school? If not, let it go, Elsa. Take a nap, girl! Go for a walk! Visit a museum! Don’t walk into a school you wouldn’t consider attending. Which leads me to my next thought…
If you are an MCA student, you have most certainly heard me speak about my good friend, Karma. Put good karma into the universe and I promise you, it will come back to you. Especially in this industry.
If you do a walk-in to a school that you have no intention of ever attending…why? For practice? I don’t think that is a good enough reason. You are taking a spot away from someone who might truly be interested in this program and would attend if accepted. If you are walking into a school you know nothing about, a coach or mentor has not advised is a good option for you, or upon research think to yourself “I’ll never actually go here” – I suggest you really listen to that thought.
The college audition process is a tiny morsel of what this industry will ultimately bring you. I am not making the comparison that college auditions are the same as professional auditions – they absolutely are not. But rejection hurts always. Being shut out of an audition call that you are absolutely right for because people decided to sign-up to audition for a character whose breakdown they don’t fit at all, hurts. We are in this together, guys. Practice putting good karma into the universe. You’ll be surprised by what comes your way.
Pre-Screen Schools Doing Walk-Ins
Again, I am not going to debate whether this is fair or not. But I do have a thought for all of you lovely students who are feeling frustrated that a student can potentially just walk into a school you didn’t pass a pre-screen for:
If you don’t pass a pre-screen for a school and you see them doing walk-ins, I have one piece of advice: try to advocate for yourself but you MUST be honest. If this remains a DREAM SCHOOL, I see no harm in walking up to the school dressed in your best suit of confidence armor and saying, “Hi! I see you are doing walk-ins. I want to be transparent that I did not pass the pre-screen here. With that said, this is my dream school and if given a walk-in slot, I won’t throw away my shot.” Cue Hamilton. The worst thing that could happen: they say no. Which, is completely fair. But they could say yes, and you’ve just earned a medal in self advocacy and transparency.
Who should do walk-ins?
Walk-Ins are an amazing opportunity for some folks. They are a tiny gift in this otherwise over-crowded, confusing process and without getting into the nitty gritty – I do want to mention that I think walk-in auditions are fabulous (and fair in these instances – fine, I said it!) for the following people:
So, to sum up this post on walk-ins: they are great for the right person. They might be a great addition for your friend, but not you. That is okay. Use your best judgement and lead with kindness and thoughtfulness first.
Sending everyone love, hugs and broken legs.
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We don’t like to talk about it, but we all think about it. Rejection is a big part of life, but almost seems like an even more integral part of the acting business. It’s never easy and it feels extremely personal. Am I good at it? My family thinks so. I know the truth, though… it still eats at me, even though I’m better at handling it than I used to be. I hope some of these tips can be helpful to you as you navigate your way through not only college auditions, but the rest of your life as an actor!
The other day, I had just signed onto a Skype lesson with a current MCA student. At that very moment, an email notification popped up on my screen… a rejection email. I read it and quickly told myself, “Eh, whatever.” Then as I started the lesson, I realized I totally didn’t feel that way at all, stopped my lesson, and told my awesome student… “I’m sorry. I just need a second. I just got a rejection and it feels really awful.” She knew how it felt and was so sweet. I took a minute to explain why it hurt and then told her, “This is good for you to see. It’s a teaching moment to see how your coach - who is supposed to be good at this - processes rejection.”
There you have it. We are all figuring this out. Your coaches - the people who are supposed to make everything better - still get hurt and still don’t have all the answers. If it bothers you, talk about it. It’s not a faux pas. Be honest with yourself that it hurt.
Then, move forward. Don’t let that hurt linger. You are already better today than you were yesterday because you are hard-working actors and good humans. Celebrate your accomplishments and keep working toward the next. Life is too short to wallow in it and there are too many opportunities waiting around the bend that require your specific talents!
“But my friends have already been accepted and are choosing between programs and I’m still waiting for just one acceptance!” Our MCA coach Justin Petersen says it best, “Comparison is the thief of joy.” While we spend time comparing ourselves to our peers, we rob ourselves of our unique qualities. What makes an interesting actor? An interesting person. If I’m trying to be more like my friend who is booking jobs left and right, I’ve become a photocopy version of my friend rather than a full color painting of myself.
Here’s a conversation I have with myself on a fairly regular basis:
“Why should I even bother? There are so many good people out there. No one wants me. I hate auditioning.”
“Then don’t. You can stop anytime you want. No one is begging you to be an actor. The world needs computer programmers. The world needs doctors. Go do that.”
“I don’t want to do that.”
“It may sound cheesy, but I feel like my purpose is to communicate something important to the world through art.”
“Okay… so your purpose is not about how much people like you or need you for these jobs?”
“Yeah, I’ll go back and audition. My ego was bruised. It’s not about my ego. It’s about something bigger. The right thing will come along eventually.”
We are inherently selfish people. How can we not be? Our only experience of the world is through our own eyes. BUT part of what makes being an actor so rewarding is that you can learn to make everything less about you and more about others. When you go into that college audition room, make those auditors feel something - joy, excitement, hope, pain, growth! They need to feel! You have a few minutes to give an experience to others that’s wholly different from anyone else.
“What happens if I make them feel great in the room, but they still don’t accept me?” Casting is a puzzle. I recently helped cast a show and it was difficult. Some people came in and killed it and technically deserved a lead, but you have to consider the whole. Some people can fit almost anywhere and others can only fit into specific parts because of voice type, acting ability, or dancing ability. The same can be said for colleges. If I have 12 slots to fill, I can only have so many of each type. If I have three amazing leading lady types who are all more talented than my leading man, I still have to have a leading man, so one or two of those ladies gets told no. It didn’t mean she wasn’t good enough to be in the program. This is why you audition for so many programs. You’ll fit somewhere in the puzzle; it just depends on the other puzzle pieces.
No matter what happens, you have a place in this world and in this business if you want it. The way I’ve learned to handle it over the years is to remember that if no one wants me for a while, then it’s time for me to create my own projects. I’m not good at just taking classes without a goal. So, I set myself a personal goal… create a gig for myself - forcing myself to write a script, sing, play my instrument, etc., or my friends and I create something together. The world needs inspiration. I can’t give the world hope if I’m hopeless. So, I let myself be sad and then I get to work.
Acting for the Song Coach - My College Audition
Erica is a NYC based actress and an Acting for the Song Coach for My College Audition. www.ericaspyres.com
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The Holiday Season is officially upon us, and it’s time to get creative about holiday gifting!
The obvious and ONLY choice? TICKETS TO HAMILTON ON BROADWAY, OF COURSE!
Just kidding … That’s impossible.
So … What do you get a theatre lover? Especially one in the throes of preparing for their college auditions!? Well, tickets to a show are always a great (and welcome) idea, but I have a few others you might want to consider.
Here are 10 awesome (and practical) gifts that will spread some holiday cheer and set your student on the path to success:
1. Vocal Steamer!
The value of a good vocal steamer cannot be overstated. Steaming relieves inflammation and congestion of upper respiratory mucous membranes, moistens dry nasal passages, thins and loosens mucus, and helps clear congestion. It can help ease symptoms of the common cold, sinusitis, allergies, and laryngitis, and it is an absolute lifesaver after spending hours in a dry airplane cabin on your way to auditions!
Vicks makes a great steamer that is super portable and guaranteed to get the job done. For an upgraded model, check out the MyPurMist I invested in a MyPurMist a few years back, and I absolutely love it. Best of all, MyPurMist is self-cleaning!
2. Belt Box
A singer’s best friend. Warm up anytime, anywhere, and never feel self- conscious. Belt Box looks like a little fabric face mask, but it has the ability to muffle your voice up to 30 dB. It’s an awesome way to keep your chords warm in public, and also to ensure that you’re singing by feel, rather than by sound (every audition space will resonate differently!). Plus, you’ll never be the cause of any hotel noise complaints during your travel!
3) Portable Speakers
Some schools now require that you provide your own speaker device and accompaniment for your audition. But never fear! A quality portable speaker is something you can reap the benefits of way beyond college (think every self-tape you will ever make). Pros recommend models like the Ultimate Ears Wonderboom and Cambridge SoundWorks OontZ Angle 3 Ultra. Or head to your local electronics store and find the model that speaks to you! Look for something with great sound quality, bluetooth capability, and enough volume to fill those auditions rooms. Invest now, and thank yourself later!
4) Mini Clothes Steamer
Wonder of Wonders, Miracle of Miracles! This may not seem like the most exciting gift, but the magic of this My Little Steamer cannot be overstated. Not only is it extremely portable, but it heats up in less than a minute, and it gets those wrinkles right out of your audition clothes! This is my secret weapon, and I cannot recommend it enough!
5) A Reusable Water Bottle
A great water bottle is a non-negotiable for any performer. Your body is your instrument, and one of the very best ways to stay in tip-top performance shape is to stay hydrated! I love S’well Bottles because they are super durable, never leak, are easy to clean, and have awesome insulation. Plus, investing in a reusable water bottle is a great way to cut down on personal waste. Hooray for healthy hydration and hooray for sustainability!
6) LaDuca Character Shoes
If your student has been extra good this year and you’re willing to splurge, consider an upgrade to their dance shoe collection: LaDuca Character Shoes or Boots. LaDuca’s are the Broadway gold standard, and for good reason: LaDuca’s have a flexible split-sole construction to allow for more foot articulation and better contact with the floor. “LaDuca shoes were created with the dancer in mind and position the body over the center of the shoe, alleviating unnecessary knee and back pain and creating a healthier dance experience."
If these are way over budget, consider a gift certificate to help get your student started and give them some motivation to save for the rest!
Pro Tip: LaDuca holds an annual sale at their Manhattan store (usually in July), which is a great time to snag a new pair. Keep your eyes on their Facebook page for more info!
A great way to make sure you can tune out and get in the zone! I swear by these Bose headphones for my daily subway commute in NYC. Absolutely a splurge, but the noise cancellation is amazing. These headphones make listening to voice lessons, jamming to your favorite tunes, or any type of travel a PLEASURE. Looking for a more budget-friendly option? Consider investing in an earlier model.
8) A Subscription to a Meditation App
As Coach Stephanie wisely instructs us, “peak performance is 90% mental and 10% physical.”
A consistent meditation practice is an incredible way to promote greater clarity, presence, and rootedness, and it can also help to combat nerves or performance anxiety - all positive things for acing an audition! Starting now and committing to a daily practice (even just 10 minutes!) can have a massive impact on your mental preparedness and audition success.
Meditation apps, like Headspace or Calm are GREAT for beginners and seasoned meditators alike.
9) A Subscription to Broadway HD
Auditions are exciting! But sometimes we all need a BREAK. If downtime for your drama kid still means Broadway, consider a subscription to Broadway HD. Broadway HD is basically Netflix for live theatrical performances - aka the stuff of every theatre nerd’s dreams! A subscription costs $8.99 per month.
10) The Academy at MCA
If you’ve spent time coaching with us, then you know how passionate and committed MCA is to the artistic and personal growth of our students! We are thrilled to now offer 6-week intensive courses in Musical Theatre, Acting, and Dance through The Academy at MCA. These courses are specifically targeted to challenge young artists by providing intensive, pre-professional training in essential performance skillsets, such as “Shakespeare 101,” “Improvisation,” and “Music Theory Bootcamp!”
Give your student the gift of continued learning and a jumpstart on their collegiate and professional success! Check out our site for more information or to see the other great classes being offered this session!
That’s a wrap! Sending love, light, and Happy Holidays from all of us at MCA!
Got any other great gift ideas? Sing out (Louise!) in the comments below
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