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BWW Blog: College Auditions/Interviews During a Pandemic - An Interview With My Classmates

I decided to interview some of my close friends who also auditioned/interviewed virtually for college theatre programs to see what their experience was like!

BWW Blog: College Auditions/Interviews During a Pandemic - An Interview With My Classmates

This past year has been a rollercoaster ride for the theatre industry, especially for the high school students who are auditioning for theatrical programs. Instead of being able to travel across the US to visit schools and audition for different programs, they now had to do everything right in their homes. All they needed was a computer, a camera, and a ring light. I decided to interview some of my close friends who also auditioned/interviewed for college theatre programs to see what their experience was like!

Mia Allmacher
Concentration: Musical Theatre
Schools s) Applied To: 12
General Program Type(s) Applied To: Musical Theatre and Business

Heather Cruise
Concentration: Dance
School(s)Applied To: 12
General Program Type(s) Applied To: Dance BFA with a concentration in Choreography

Seth Greenberg
Concentration: Theatre
School(s)Applied To: 7
General Program Type(s) Applied To: BFA and MFA

Jaime Brustein
Concentration: Musical Theatre
School(s)Applied To: 9
General Program Type(s) Applied To: BFA Musical Theatre

Alena Serrano
Concentration: Technical Theatre Design & Technology
School(s)Applied To: 13
General Program Type(s) Applied To: BFA Design & Technology

1. What was the main quality that you were looking for in a college, both academically and artistically?

Mia Allmacher: An environment where I had room to grow not only as an artist but within the industries and a place that gave me many individual opportunities.

Heather Cruise: I wanted to find an equally rigorous academic and artistic environment with an honors program that would allow me to also study abroad and have many internship opportunities.

Seth Greenberg: I wanted a big college with a large population of driven students. Theatre-wise, I wanted a program that was backed by the school's admin and had a name that could carry me once I get to New York.

Jaime Brustein: Academically, the optimal draw to a university is a large student body; making connections is what will create future opportunities. I also am very welcoming of new relationships so this is a greater possibility at a school with a bigger student body. Artistically I really want to find a BFA program with a vocal technique concentration. In the musical theatre

realm, I pride myself as a strong dancer so I want to push myself to grow in different regards and become a triple threat

Alena Serrano: I was looking for a school with a good environment and also the flexibility to choose my own path in the classes I want to take.

2. Were you able to visit any of these schools or talk to any faculty in masterclasses before covid? During covid, were you able to do online tours of schools and join info sessions? Do you think these well supplemented not being able to visit in person?

Mia Allmacher: I had a few opportunities to speak to theatre schools during masterclasses which was a privilege I am very grateful to have had because it really let me feel the energy that those faculty members brought into the space and what they find important at their school.

Heather Cruise: Prior to COVID, I was only able to visit 3 of my schools including two summer programs and one quick walkthrough. I planned on receiving my acceptance and visiting after to help with the decision-making process. During COVID I was able to do virtual walkthroughs of all my schools as well as joining info sessions for the schools that offered them, but I personally do not think they helped in the process as much as it would have in person. Physically spending time with students and teachers at the schools cannot really be supplemented by a cold a forced info session with students.

Seth Greenberg: I did not do any online tours but I did many online info sessions. Before covid, I visited all of the Florida schools I applied to both on purpose and just because I was near them growing up.

Jaime Brustein: I did not physically visit any college campuses however I was able to make relationships with program heads at the majority of the schools I applied to. My school is really amazing and they are able to provide me masterclasses with these industry professionals. I personally prefer the masterclasses to a visit because I got acquainted with them and I got notes on my material before showcasing it for real. I can visit the college campuses if/when I get accepted.

Alena Serrano: Before covid, I was not able to visit these schools, but I have had a couple of masterclasses with the faculty of some schools through my school. During covid, I was able to do online tours and info sessions. It definitely was not preferable to do it online, but it was the best option available. If you get the chance, definitely go in person to visit.

3. What was it like applying to college online for the first time? Was it more stressful being in a pandemic or do you think it allowed for you to relax because you had more time?

Mia Allmacher: Using Common App made things a lot easier and less stressful for me and I somewhat appreciated the non-confrontational aspect of it. It was more stressful being in the pandemic but it allowed me to appreciate that I could apply to many more schools since I don't have to travel around the country.

Heather Cruise: I think it wasn't as stressful as the typical process because I didn't have to factor in flights and scheduling for auditions. Due to being in lockdown during most of the summer, I was forced to sit down and start the process early. I finished all of my applications by the end of August and felt much more relaxed going into the process. I do not think I would have managed my time as well if I had the summer I planned on having.

Seth Greenberg: Applying online made everything easier. Especially for me, the audition process online allowed me to have a sheet of questions, answers, and titles of pieces in front of me at all times. The professor's names were listed on zoom for me to read and refer to at any time and I could fake wifi problems if everything went horribly. Which luckily I never had to do.

Jaime Brustein: I think I was definitely more composed on an online platform because I was literally singing a yard away from my bed. At the same time, I feel like I "walk out of the audition room" less assured in myself because I can't gauge my performance through the screen. It was a daunting process in all honesty and I commend anyone who puts themselves through it. The grind is real.

Alena Serrano: The application process itself was not that different than it has been in past years since it's all computer-based applications anyway. The interview process, however, was so strange since I was at home in my bedroom. Interviewing from home was much less stressful since I was in my safe space.

4. Would you have done anything differently in the application process if you had another chance? If we were not in the pandemic? (Applying to more schools? less? different major?)

Mia Allmacher: I would have applied to more schools and more diverse majors in order to cast my net wider. If we weren't in the pandemic, I would have been able to attend UNIFEDS which would allow me to audition for more schools than I even applied to now.

Heather Cruise: If I had another chance, I would have applied to more schools because I found out about other really interesting programs during the process that I think I now would have enjoyed over some of the other schools I applied to.

Seth Greenberg: I would have applied to CCM and acting at FSU. Other than that I can't say until I find out what schools I do or don't get into.

Jaime Brustein: I think adjustments I would make were more in my approach and process compared to my major. I don't regret not applying to more schools; I don't see the benefit in applying to programs I am not truly interested in. I wish I were able to train harder with instructors but COvid-19 restricted me from doing so. Maybe I could have been more proactive in my time at home. I really am hoping my choices play out the way I anticipate.

Alena Serrano: I would have not procrastinated as much (says everyone ever). I also would have applied to a couple more schools just to apply to them.

Musical Theatre/Acting:
5. What was the process like for filming prescreens? Did you film them at home or in a studio? What would you have done differently if you had another chance?

Mia Allmacher: I filmed half of my pre-screen at home and half in the studio or my school. Filming was definitely a bit stressful since we have to make sure what we are sending in is good enough to pass but only just enough so we can do even better in our auditions. If I had another chance I would probably get a better ring light:)

Heather Cruise: Filming prescreens was one of the most humbling processes I have ever been through. I began the process by being very meticulous and judging every aspect of my performance and technique. This led to a cycle of spending hours filming and only getting 1 good video out of the process. Halfway through the process, after a particularly difficult day of filming,

I decided that I would no longer go by watching but rather how I felt after filming. If I felt good during the video, that was ultimately the one I selected in the end. This ultimately produced better results and I didn't drive myself insane by judging along the way. I was able to have open studio space whenever I pleased at my home studio, but I went through the audition filming and application process completely alone. I was offered help but I didn't think another person in the room and another opinion would benefit me. This allowed me to get into my zone and have a more efficient plan when I got to the studio. If I had another chance I honestly think I would have put less stress on myself throughout the process because I produced better results when I was able to go into the process less stressed and more excited to show the professors and admissions people what my strengths were.

Seth Greenberg: I filmed a majority of my pieces at home by moving mirrors and paintings from the wall. Dance was filmed at school and only because the theatre teachers took class time AND stayed after school for hours any day of the week just to help my friends and I film in spaces that needed adult supervision.

Jaime Brustein: Filming prescreens was laborious. My ruling on filming is that you have so much more room to be judgmental because your work is staring you back in the face. Though, I will credit that you can re-film at your leisure until you showcase work you are proud of. I think I filmed my solo videos about 20 times. But I ended up putting forth work I was proud of. My peers have always been my biggest allies and I wish I utilized their help more. They have access to different resources and are a second opinion and even could serve as a mental support system. I won't repeat the process but if I did, I would ask for help quickly.

6. Talk about some of your virtual auditions/interviews. Would you have rather done them in person? What was positive/negative about the experience?

Mia Allmacher: I think it is less stressful in some aspects for example I can really be comfortable in my own home or studio before an audition. This relieves some of the nerves rather than being in a foreign environment. On the other hand, I don't get to meet other participants and truly feel the energy in the room as much as I would if I were in person auditioning at a school.

Heather Cruise: One aspect of this process that was incredibly challenging was a specific school that tried to mimic the audition process as much as possible by providing a limited viewing time on the video that you couldn't rewind. I had a lot of difficulties filming for this college because the teaching in the video was very unclear and I was unsure of what exactly to film. I managed to produce a video but I definitely considered not applying to the school simply because of the unclarity in the directions. In my virtual audition for another school, we started with a basic modern warmup and moved into a combination, however, I was unable to see the teacher most of the time because the connection was very glitchy. I missed parts of combinations and was very defeated because the connection was simply out of my control. One of the only schools I had a full audition for consisting of ballet, modern, and jazz was for one of my top New York schools and it was a great process. The teacher taught the combination briskly but still with intention and specificity to ensure we all understood. For the callback interview, the faculty seemed super engaged and it was overall a great process because the school was super organized.

Seth Greenberg: The experience was described in the previous question. I'm very busy lol.

Jaime Brustein: I would have rather done them in person solely because that is the standard experience. I like to believe I am a charismatic person and I don't know if that translates over the phone. I would say the downside of virtual auditions is that I don't really get to connect with the adjudicators. And even though I am auditioning, I am judging them as well and questioning how I connect with them. How am I supposed to know if I should be around a group for four years if I don't connect with the people? A positive takeaway from the virtual auditions is that I spent $0 on airfare. My family may not be financially supportive of all the flights so I am glad I didn't have to travel.

7. Do you think artistic colleges are handling the virtual application/audition process well?

Mia Allmacher: Some are and some aren't, I have heard some scary stories about school organization and patience with the new format, although the schools that I auditioned for handled it very well.

Heather Cruise: Some schools figured the process out very quickly and had everything clearly explained in terms of what they expected from the process. This would have been great if all schools decided collectively on a process to go by to make it easier for the auditionees but unfortunately this was not the case. Many schools refused to make the process simple and added many steps that were unnecessary such as time limits and a lack of clarity in what needed to be filmed.

Seth Greenberg: I do. The info sessions for every program helped me make a final decision on which programs were the best for me.

Jaime Brustein: That is a case-by-case basis. Some schools would email me consistently and make me very aware of my audition status. And then other schools were very vague and I struggled to find information. The schools that were best about the virtual auditions were the schools that were actively replying to questions. Obviously, this audition season was unanticipated so each program did the best they could but I hope they reassess for next year. Keep patient y'all.

Technical Theatre:
8. What was it like making a portfolio for your applications/interviews all at home? What would you have done differently if you had another chance?

Alena Serrano: It wasn't too different than I imagine it would have been because I was still doing it on my own. I think it's much easier to do an online portfolio than a physical portfolio. Interviews were a lot more relaxed and comfortable than I would have been in person since I was in my own space. If I had another chance, I would have made my portfolio look prettier for when I submitted it.

9. Talk about some of your virtual interviews. Would you have rather done them in person? What was positive/negative about the experience?

Alena Serrano: I am a firm believer in the fact that you are interviewing a school as much as it is interviewing you. It really is a conversation between you and the faculty to see if you want to learn from each other. I think that online interviews were sufficient in helping me make that decision. However, doing it in person would have allowed me to witness the school, facilities, and vibe of the rooms. Overall, I think I have to say that I would have rather done them in person, but online was not the worst thing ever.

10. Do you think artistic colleges are handling the virtual application/interview process well?

Alena Serrano: I think that they are handling it as well as they can. The flexibility, patience, and understanding that everyone has been demonstrating throughout this whole process have been amazing.

11. What is one piece of advice you would give students in the future who could possibly be doing virtual auditions/interviews again next year?

Mia Allmacher: Make sure you have a good ring light, Take advantage of the fact that you are in your own space, and remember that in the end, even if it doesn't seem like it, you may not end up where you want to be but you will always end up where you need to be.

Heather Cruise: Just know that whatever videos you may need to film are not going to be perfect and colleges aren't looking for perfection. College is meant for growth so don't get too caught up in perfection

Seth Greenberg: One piece of advice for parents is to be quiet and let your kid have the house when their audition is that day. Don't be the reason your son or daughter feels their audition went poorly or had to apologize because of a dog bark or sibling scream. And second, to the kids, give it your all so that you don't regret anything after it's all over.

Jaime Brustein: Find your brand. I think each college is trying to find a unique individual. So take the time to access what makes you unique. And if you can bring that into the audition room, even better. For me, I decisively wore my leather jacket for every audition because that's the kind of guy I am. Find confidence in yourself. Also, buy a ring light.

Alena Serrano: Make sure that you have your space and lighting set up and tested beforehand! Try for natural light or a ring light if you can afford it. Don't stress yourself out! Everything will end up okay.

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