For the seventeen year olds out there, who love doing their high school musicals and for the parents who think that their child wants to pursue a career of waiting tables and pretending, you’ve come to the right blog post. Even for my friends and those I don’t know, who plan on re-auditioning this year, bear with me, as I go over the basic information, okay? I know Steve has written a bit about why he chose Fredonia and we’ve been reading about Zoe’s journey to re-audition but today, I’m breaking it down how the Musical Theatre B.F.A., the Acting B.F.A. and the Theatre B.A. admissions works for the people who just don’t know how it does work. Sorry, wanna-be Technical B.F.A.s, maybe someone (Theresa?) will post a blog explaining that process in better detail than I could.
Dear Parents: I know seventeen year olds can be the dumbest people on the planet, but take a breath, okay? Hakuna Matata. Majoring in theatre isn’t a terrible thing to do. Read this article and see what good can come of it! My parents thought I was crazy too. Three years later, they are now realizing how much they underestimated the work I put into applying and auditioning for colleges as they push and prod my sister to decide on a school. So, I’m sharing my research, in case you are anything like my parents or seventeen-year-old-me:
First of all, conservatory or university? This really depends on your personality and situation—Fredonia is a university, meaning that along with our theatre training, we have to take liberal arts classes, like Geology in order to graduate. A conservatory approach means that all the classes are focused on the arts but you don’t graduate with a traditional college degree. Some students will thrive like that and others won’t, just like a small school is better for some than a larger one. For the sake of it, we’ll pretend that you want to go to some smaller university that we’ll call…“Fredonia”.
Now, you’re looking at going to Fredonia for Theatre! Great! Now, BA or BFA?
BA? BFA? WTF? BA simply means “Bachelor of Arts” and BFA means…“Bachelor of FINE Arts”. What’s the difference? The letter F.
Joking aside, a BA is usually a more all-around degree while the BFA focuses specifically on one aspect, be it dance or costumes and is usually audition/portfolio and interview only (BAs tend to be non-audition). THERE ARE EXCEPTIONS. I say this in all caps because if I had known more about auditioning for colleges when I was seventeen, I might not be at Fredonia today. For the love that is good and right in this world, research each school and each school’s majors. In fact, I’d recommended having a minimum of five schools on your list, each thoroughly researched and loved: What programs are audition-only? If you audition and are not accepted into the BFA program, are you still allowed into the BA program? Do they even offer a BFA program? What classes do they offer (stage combat, commedia, film acting, tap dance, geology, how to sew sequins, scenic painting, auditioning)? Does this school do “cuts” (removing people from the program after a certain amount of time/lack of effort to reduce numbers)? Is there a Senior Showcase? What about the alumni, the school’s reputation? Do they look at academics/your SAT scores/volunteer experience/essay writing as part of your acceptance qualifications? Is taking a minor an option or even a requirement? What kind of shows do they put on? Is this school recognized by NAST?
All of these are good questions you should be asking, right along with how much it costs, location, what’s the student/professor ratio and the crime rate on campus, because it might be the best school in the world for theatre, you still have to ask yourself, is this the best school for you? And while you are thinking about what does these theatre departments offer you, as a potential student, what do you want out of being a theatre major?
What I wanted to do with a theatre degree when I was seventeen isn’t what I’m doing now. This is my one warning, a dosage of reality: I have seen many freshman come to be a theatre major and realize this isn’t they want to do with their lives. In some cases, they just came to the wrong school for them and they found somewhere else to go. But most of the time, they realize they just weren’t suited for this major, that they underestimated the work involved, or they found something else to do with their lives that they loved more and there is no shame in that. I wanted to major in Musical Theatre and be on Broadway but I also had in my back pocket, an acceptance to another very good school for Advertising Photography. Admittedly, I picked that major because it was the first one on the list and I was never serious about going there, but for the rest of my life, that was my “other”, the other thing I could have done. And you know what? Three years later, I’ve never regretted it, not for one day.
Yes, I was still rejected from the Musical Theatre program when I auditioned. Instead of taking that Advertising Photography major, I came to school here as a BA, planning to re-audition. And I never did. Oops. I changed my mind along the way, about what I really wanted to do and how I was going to do it and to tell you the truth, a good BA program should be as strong as any BFA program and have it’s own advantages. So for those of you who say yes, I’d want to be a B.A. Theatre major like this really awesome junior named Shelby, good for you! Go ahead and apply, check the little box (or write it in, I don’t remember what the application looks like these days) that says, YES, I want to major in Theatre. Provided that your academics are fine and dandy and accepted, you will be welcomed into our department with much hullabaloo.
“NO!” You say, stomping your foot a bit. “I want to do Musical Theatre, or Acting, or Dance!” Okay, okay! In that case, you’ll need to audition and there are different requirements for each major:
And just because the MT requirements essentially also cover the Acting and Dance requirements (also because I auditioned for MT), let’s talk about those requirements, shall we? You need 2 songs and 2 monologues prepared and you need to be prepared for dance and music skill testing. And if I were to give you any advice on how to prepare, even before you pick your audition pieces, it would be to start taking lessons. Learn ballet, pick up piano! It’s never too late to learn and even a little bit of experience could help you. I, who can barely read music in the key of C and just got her first ballet shoes last week, was clearly not a good candidate for the MT program. When you are seventeen years old, nobody expects you to be capable of playing Lady Macbeth or to be a Mozart prodigy but there still should be a degree of capability. And speaking of Shakespeare—when I auditioned, a classical monologue was a requirement (which isn’t so anymore, according to the website? That’s something to really research at every school!). Most schools will ask for classical and contemporary songs/monologues but they will also ask that the pieces relate to the auditioner’s own life experiences. Lady Macbeth isn’t very relatable for the seventeen year old but Juliet is. Do something age appropriate, but type-appropriate too. If you dye your hair black to match your clothes, Wednesday Addams from The Addams Family might be a good place to look for music, but if you are a peppy blonde, you should look more towards Legally Blonde. Auditioning is all about what can you do, what do you want to do with yourself right now. Yes, someday, you just might play Sally Bowles, but that won’t be today.
Your audition pieces is the one and only thing that is entirely within your control. Auditions can go any number of ways for thousands of little reasons (maybe the roads were bad driving there or your mom freaked out right before the audition and went looking for a Rite-Aid because apparently, you needed folders—true story!) and you don’t know what might get thrown at you in a dance audition, or for reading sheet music but what you bring to the table, that is your choice. Pick pieces you enjoy, that make you sound and look good, that make us want to know you better because you do such a good job with those songs and monologues. And even if you are rejected: life goes on. There’s still a school out there that you can attend next fall. I was rejected and I am all the happier for it. This career is full of rejection; what’s one more No? I don’t know anyone who was accepted to every school they auditioned for. You can always re-audition, if you feel this is really the place for you to be.
And that was my really long post on a very quick overview about how to major in Theatre! I hope all of you break legs (and special leg breakage to my friends re-auditioning!) and before I end this post, I’ll leave you with the random bits of information I learned whilst auditioning and applying that I just couldn’t fit in anywhere else:
- Yes, you should bring dance clothes to an audition. You never know when there will be a pre-audition movement warm-up…and if there’s a dance audition, you’ll really want dance clothes. And dance shoes.
- Ricolas are your friend. Re-usable water bottles are your BEST friend.
- Have back-up audition pieces, just in case, especially if you are like me and change your mind often.
- Winter weather sucks. Be aware, that if the weather gets really bad, you might have to reschedule your audition. Make sure there are still more audition dates available.
- Smile back!