by Tom Smith, Associate Professor and Chair, Theatre & Dance
When I first began teaching my Auditions class a decade ago, standard professional theatre auditions were held in-person in the theatre that was casting. Actors wishing to audition for theatres in other states were expected to fly in and put themselves up (on their dime) and wait in line with other hopefuls, sometimes for days, in hopes of getting a callback. It was stressful, expensive, and out of reach for most struggling artists.
While this is still the practice most theatres adhere to today, more and more are realizing that the technologies that were once so cost prohibitive—high definition video recording with a quality microphone—is now within the fingertips—and phones—of most actors. Because of this, and wanting to entice the greatest number of auditioners possible, many theatres now allow actors to send in high-quality video recordings in lieu of in-person auditions. In fact, Theatre & Dance, as a department, also made this change for our scholarship auditions.
This past Spring, I taught a half-semester Auditions class for 20 students and, thanks to a generous PLUTO Teaching with Technology Grant, I was able to purchase and provide high-quality recording equipment for the class: a 4K video camera with light and microphone, a tripod, a Snowball microphone with wind guard and stand, quality headphones and a Yeticaster broadcast bundle. These technologies opened up a full range of possibilities to revise the course and to offer new units designed to make our students more competitive. This year, the class not only included a unit on best practices for filming auditions, but also offered units on film/television acting and voice acting. In fact, for part of their final for the course, students used our new equipment to record prepared readings for television auditions.
The technology I purchased is not difficult to use; in fact, it’s so straightforward that students were off and running with very little instruction. But the quality of the results that came from using it was consistently high—dramatically different than when they used their phones. Students who felt that some of these technologies were either too expensive or too difficult to use started inquiring about purchasing their own microphones and cameras. Others discovered that the PLU library has its own recording room and quickly rushed over to check out the equipment there.
The greatest outcome of this grant was that it inspired students to invest—in every sense of the word—in their own transition to their profession.