Wednesday, February 8, 2012

UR/TA Experience

The past couple weeks have been consumed with thoughts of The UR/TA Auditions. Dun dun dunnnn. For those who do not know what UR/TA is, it is basically a cattle call audition for grad schools.

Here is a better explanation of what they are and purpose they serve taken from their website: UR/TA website

The University/Resident Theatre Association (U/RTA) advances theatre by connecting educational theatre programs with professional theatre and performing arts industries, promoting professional practices and artistic excellence in higher education, and assisting students with their transition into the profession.
U/RTA is the nation's oldest and largest consortium of professional, graduate (MFA) theatre training programs and partnered professional theatre companies. U/RTA provides a variety of services and informational programs to its members, and to non-member students, theatre professionals and producing companies.
Services include the U/RTA auditions (NUA/Is), which assist theatre artists (actors, designers, directors), stage managers and administrators pursuing professional training at graduate programs. The U/RTA Contract Management Program (CMP) is the largest not-for-profit contract management service of its kind in the country.  In addition, U/RTA maintains important agreements with major theatrical unions that provide contracts for use by universities and other institutions in employing professional artists.

Pretty cool, right? There is  a long list of schools that are UR/TA members, but not all grad schools attend this audition either. This is just one of the many ways to be seen by grad schools and to start marketing yourself. One of the coolest things i found about this audition, was that auditions for undergrad programs were also going on. It was awesome to see so many people who are interested in theatre and passionate enough to put themselves through one of the most nerve wrecking three minutes of their lives. Those high schoolers, although none of them knew it, inspired me so much. They inspired me to just keep plugging forward and to BE HAPPY. I just wish I could have inspired some to NOT wear heels because they had a hard time walking in them.

So, here is a brief run down of how the audition process went down. If you have any questions, please email me! If you are at all interested in going through this process, I do not want you to go in blind!

Signing up: The form is online and extremely simple. You have to name a nominator and a coach that you will be working with, name your school, and everything else that would go on a normal application. And then you pay. That's all. I signed up on the last day which was mid-December. Start looking when the Fall Semester starts. There are limited spaces, so look early...I was EXTREMELY LUCKY I received a slot. You will then receive a bunch of emails and a packet of information in the mail from a woman named Sara Falconer who HAS to be a superhero. She was amazing. She is similar to a stage manager who not only coordinates the Chicago audition, but the Los Angeles and New York ones too. There was a mix up on my original application that I emailed her about and she responded almost immediately and fixed it! SuperWoman. The packet you get and emails you recieve are so very helpful too. It lays out the schedule for the week, places you can stay/eat at, and some Do's and Don't's in regards of what monologues to do, whether or not you should sing (very much encouraged NOT to), what to wear, etc. They lay everything out for you.

Pre-Audition: The auditions this year in Chicago were in the Palmer House Hotel. I am not sure if it is there every year or not, but it was a super nice hotel close to Michigan Ave. The people there were nice and tried to be helpful. A few times, I got lost in the labyrinth of the hotel and had to ask a lot of questions...I got a couple blank stares and some people had NO clue WHAT I was talking about, which made for some funny conversations. I always found where I needed to go and had a good chuckle and adrenaline rush along the way! So, my advice: get their early so you have time to explore and find out where you need to go. There is an orientation at 8:30am on the day of your audition. Here they explain EVERYTHING to you. How the day is going to go, more Do's and Don'ts, and where to go to see your results.

Audition: Ok! So, the AUDITION! Here is the thing, there are several rounds to the audition process. The first is the screening audition. You audition in front of two screening judges. These judges decide whether or not you get passed on to the finals. At the finals you audition in front of tier one grad schools. I am still unsure about how they rank the schools....but that's that. You have three minutes to introduce your pieces and perform them. They do cut you off, if you are over. The stage managers I found were all really nice and encouraging. They tell you in the orientation that these judges WANT you to be THE ONE so they are totally on your side from the second you walk in. And I really felt it.

My audition was very quick. As soon as orientation was over, I checked in, they called my name and I performed. That was it and it was perfect. I didn't have time to scare myself or overthink things. It was really nice! You have to do two pieces: one classical piece and a contemporary. I did one from Othello as my classical piece (although you CAN use other classical playwrights, not just Shakespeare) and one from Love Song.

After your audition you are free to go. There are schools all around the hotel. The majority were undergraduate programs, but there were a number of grad schools there too. They had flyers and info packets everywhere. Some of the schools had walk in auditions. You can sign up and audition for them. Some of them cost money though. I spent the time after my audition looking around and auditioning for three different schools. A couple schools worked with me; gave me adjustments, talked through my pieces...or had me sing (woof). Two then had an interview with me, where we talked through my resume, why I wanted to go to grad school, they talked about their programs...and one asked me why I found myself in theatre and why I love it (BOY did he get a passionate earful).

Results: SO...after a day of marathon auditioning, we all gathered together to get our results. We each received a comment sheet where the judges made comments on our audition pieces and other things they saw as well as whether or not we advanced to the finals. If you do not advance, you automatically are registered for the Open Call. Open Call meets the same day as the Finals and gives you the opportunity to audition for many different grad school representatives at once. The finals and open call were held the day after the screening audition.


Scramble: So...I MADE IT. However, I was totally unprepared. I didn't have a hotel room, any change of clothes, anything to shower was a mess. But on the happiest day of my life, it didn't matter! After talking to Steve Snyder and my Mom I came up with a plan. I got a room at the hotel the auditions were being held in and made a trip to Walgreens. That night, I ran and ran and ran my monologues, trying to keep the adjustments I was given and comments in mind. 

Finals: ....were terrifying. We had an orientation in the morning again. But this time in a smaller room with far less people...and a lot more eyes. We walked through the space which had a nice stage set up and bunch of chairs. This time after the orientation I had about 3 hours to wait. I walked around the block a bunch of times warming up and running my monologue. I then spent some time in the building playing the ukulele and hanging out with my friend who came for moral support. When I went in to the auditions I felt good. Nervous...and maybe they got the best of me...but I felt like I did what I needed to do and the best I could have in that moment. Most of the people in the finals were older then me and really good, but I hope I at least held my own. 

I talked with a couple schools afterward, passed out headshots/resumes and came home. It was a long two days....and it was hard to believe it was only two days. I have my eyes set on a couple schools...and hopefully they have theirs on me, so now it is just the lovely waiting game.

UR/TA auditions were an amazing experience. Even if the only thing I got out of it was the opportunity to perform several times...THAT in itself made it worth it. Being surrounded by people who are passionate made it worth it. Seeing the different paths that are available to me made it worth it. 

I want to thank everyone for their prayers and support. If anybody has any questions or wants advice on the process and weekend, please shoot me an email. I would love to help you out! 

OH! and UR/TA isn't just for actors, but for designers and stage management as well! 

.....and in the spirit of putting myself out there and trying to get my name and face out in the is my headshot and resume! Please pass it along to anybody who would like to cast/enroll me! ;@)

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