Giving it their all
They didn’t line up outside the door. They didn’t wear numbers on their chests. They weren’t going out for a part.
But when they walked to the center of the large, brightly lit room, there was a big-time director sitting behind a desk, waiting to evaluate every word.
As he looked over the dozen preteens and young teenagers about to audition for him, Steve Umberger had words of encouragement, words that he said are applicable to any audition.
“You hold all the cards,” he said. “Everyone behind the desk is rooting for you. Once you realize this, it makes it a lot easier.”
On Friday, the North Carolina Shakespeare Festival hosted a teen Audition Workshop. For three hours, the aspiring actors worked with teaching artist Michael Huie before performing a monologue for Umberger.
The resident director with the N.C. Shakespeare Festival, Umberger has in the past few weeks seen almost 200 professional actors – many of them in New York – audition for the organization’s upcoming performance of “Macbeth.”
“Everybody starts like that. It’s how I started” Umberger said, explaining why he believes workshops for young actors are important. “They could potentially be auditioning for me in 10 to 15 years.”
Huie, the Outreach Education Director who also has played Scrooge in the company’s “A Christmas Carol,” agreed that it’s important to pass on the craft.
“That’s a big part of N.C. Shakes: to teach and make Shakespeare more accessible to kids,” he said.
During the workshop, Huie assured the young actors that even some of his students at High Point University, where he is an adjunct professor of theater, struggle with some of the same concerns as they do.
“Don’t worry that you’re not interesting enough,” he told them. “Every actor in the world is afraid they’re not interesting.”
In addition to speaking to the group about auditions, Huie had students break off into pairs to give each other feedback.
The students had a wide range of experience, some of them veterans of school and community theater.
For Aishah Sires, though, it was her first experience acting. She said she learned a lot from that will help her prepare for drama class at High Point Central next year.
“I have a tendency to feel like I’m going to mess up if I look up,” she said of her audition. “But I learned how to look up and not just sit there and read.”
When polled, all of the students said they enjoyed the day, even the more experienced performers like Ella King.
Ella, who has performed with Community Theatre of Greensboro and the City Arts Drama Center, said she signed up for the workshop to learn tips on how to give the best audition she can. Ella said that characters are her favorite part of acting.
“I like pretending to be someone you’re not,” she said. “I like to go on stage and act silly in front of everyone.”
Here’s a glimpse at the insight the teaching artist gave his students:
1. Only choose a monologue if you like it.
2. Down the road, you’ll need a head shot. Make sure it looks like you.
3. Remember you are being evaluated every moment. It’s important to be friendly, to try and have fun and also to be yourself.
4. The day of the audition, don’t be on time. Be early.
5. Be ready if the director asks you to read it a different way, especially if the text was provided to you at the audition.