So You Want To Be a Theater Major?
The college admission process can be stressful and time-consuming, and this is especially true for students seeking to pursue theater either as a major or minor in college. Not only do these teens need to research, visit and apply to schools, they also need to prepare an audition. Over the years, the performing arts professionals at Lundstrum Performing Arts have helped many young students move on to top college and conservatory programs around the country. We recently spoke to Joe Price, Program Director of the University of Minnesota/Guthrie Theater B.F.A. Program, who speaks to high school students around the country about how to select the right college program, and how to stand out in the application and audition process.
According to Price, the first step is to find the right fit. Do you want to pursue acting or musical theater as a major or a minor? Do you see yourself at a large university or in a smaller conservatory program? Perhaps you want to consider community college or certificate programs that might be right for you.
Second, do your research. During a career that has spanned acting, directing and teaching at the college and university level, Joe has first-hand experience with acting and musical theater programs that range from Carnegie Mellon University to Juilliard to North Carolina School for the Arts—as well as the University of Minnesota B.F.A. program with its unique partnership with the Guthrie Theater.
Third, take the time to train and prepare. When Joe was a theater kid at Spring Lake High School in suburban Minneapolis, he was both a theater kid and a basketball kid, and he believes strongly that discipline is the key to success in the field. “Athletics taught me discipline, and many young artists don’t understand the importance of fundamental technique. Certainly, acting can be fun, but if you want to have a life in it, you need a daily commitment to your work. Theater professionals need to train daily in their craft, whether it’s tap, vocal technique or characterization.”
Price had a chance to see Lundstrum Performing Arts students in a recent show and remarked, “In the short time that I’ve known about Lundstrum, I can tell their program involves a lot of discipline and technique. These students are skillful, sharp and focused.”
Junior year is the time to make your list and visit key schools, and research the benefits and unique characteristics of various theater and dance programs. According to Price, students should also consider a summer intensive program before senior year to really build the fundamental skills that colleges will be looking for in the audition process. “I never had an acting class in high school - often high school theater programs simply don’t have the time to focus on specific technique related to dance or acting, yet these core skills will really help you stand out in your audition.”
Finally, after applying to schools in the fall of senior year, you will need to nail the college audition. Here, Price suggests students pay close attention to what various schools request as part of the audition process. “If the audition asks you to prepare two contrasting monologues and an up- tempo or ballad, be sure to deliver that. I’m surprised that so many teens walk into an audition and haven’t prepared what we’ve asked.” Also, don’t forget to research the school and the community, so you can be knowledgeable in your conversations with faculty.
While the college search process can be mystifying, Price gives one piece of advice to all students: don’t give away your power. “Remember that when I audition you, I need to solve a problem and I’m hoping for you to succeed. Don’t be nervous; instead let your potential and your personality show. And what’s the best way to be confident in an audition? Great preparation.”
Lundstrum Performing Arts is Minnesota’s premier training program for dance, voice and drama and offers year-round classes and coaching, as well as summer intensive programs for ages 8-18. For the latest listing of classes, schedules, and costs visit www.lundstrum.org.
Register for Lundstrum Performing Arts Master Class: So You Want to Be A Theater Major? with Joe Price, Sunday December 4, 2016.