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Theatre auditions: Cold reads and contrasting monologues

A hopeful student walks into the lowly lit room in the Center for Performing Arts. She checks in at the table up front, has a headshot taken out in the hallway, then finds a chair and sits down with a sigh.

A handful of students sit in various spots around the room, quietly reading through their monologues. The wall opposite them is covered in mirrored panels, reflecting their nerves if they dare to glance away from their printed scripts. A cartoon Shakespeare is drawn on a whiteboard, holding a skull in his outstretched hand.

The 9:00 group is taken downstairs, where they will wait until being called in, one by one, to audition for the fall theatre productions.

Last week, 65 students auditioned for roles in the first three productions in the College of Creative Arts' 2015-2016 theatre season. There were only 24 roles available.

"My heart's still beating," said sophomore Jordan Gravely right after she auditioned.

Despite being involved in theatre for over half her life, Gravely still gets nervous about her auditions.

"It's just because you're putting so much of yourself out there when you go and do it," Gravely said. "And you're being like, "Hey, like me!" And there's no guarantee anyone's going to."

At Miami, the audition process for theatre department productions is condensed into a single week. This semester, the first round of auditions took place over two nights, Wednesday and Thursday. The callback list was posted on Friday morning, and those asked back were given a time for that very night. After a long weekend of uncertainty, the final cast lists were posted on Monday. Rehearsal for the first production, One Acts, began Monday night.

Auditioning students are asked to prepare contrasting monologues for first round auditions, meaning that they perform two vastly different pieces. One dramatic monologue and one comedic, one strong character and one weak character - anything that will show the directors an actor's versatility. If, by chance, students don't want to prepare monologues, scripts for cold reads are available at the auditions.

"I don't think anybody walks in in an audition and says, 'Oh, yep, I'm totally getting a part,'" senior Karly Danos said.

Danos prepared pieces from "Spike Heels" and "A Chorus Line" for her Thursday night audition. Choosing monologues is easily the part of the process she stresses about the most, so much so that she actually began preparing for the fall auditions last May.

Once their name is called, those auditioning have only a few minutes to prove to directors they should be cast in a show.

"Auditions are hard because they're only really two minutes of what you actually can do," Danos said.

The auditions can be especially difficult since no feedback is given during the first round auditions. Danos explained how nerve-wracking it can be to audition in front of the typically silent panel of directors, saying that it's hard to simply perform the monologues, say thank you and walk away. She's used to it, but often finds herself wishing she could correct everything that went wrong or ask the directors what they thought of her performance.

First-year Lauren Racela sees the process a little differently. As assistant director of 'Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat' in high school, she understands what it's like to be on the other side of the audition.

"I've been sitting in the seats while someone stands up and does their audition," Racela said. "But the people sitting there are not there to scare you, they're not there to judge you or make fun of you. They're just there to see what you have. They're not out to get you."

But for some, the actual audition can be somewhat of a blur anyway.

"I can never really remember how I did," said Caroline Avolio. "People always ask me and I can honestly not remember what happened in the room."

Avolio, a first-year, auditioned on Thursday night during her first week of college. Despite the added stress, for her, it was just another audition.

"It actually kind of calmed me down because it was something so familiar," said Avolio, who auditioned to be a theatre major in January, before she even committed to attending Miami.

"Auditioning is just a part of life for someone like me who's going to be performing all the time, so it's really good to have as much experience in that as possible," Avolio said. "I always like auditioning actually. I think it's nice to have something to prepare for and something to work towards."

Lauren Racela did not receive a callback. Jordan Gravely and Caroline Avolio received a callback, but did not get cast in any of the productions. Senior Karly Danos was cast in "The Last Cigarette," part of the One Acts production, as Angela.