Dreaming of continuing your theatre education in college? With so many schools and programs to learn about, and the need for countless auditions, it can be challenging to know where to start. Luckily, you can get all the info you need plus opportunities to audition for many of these programs at the International Thespian Festival (ITF).

The ITF college audition program is designed to connect rising seniors with more than 50 colleges and universities. But before you head to Indiana University this summer, here’s what you’ll need to participate and some advice from the university professionals you’ll be meeting.

What You’ll Need to Participate

To participate in the college audition process, you must meet a few criteria, including:

  • You’re an inducted Thespian graduating in 2025.
  • Your troupe director, teacher, or parent/guardian has registered you for ITF and selected the college audition add-on.
  • You’re preparing to submit your audition materials by the May 15, 2024 deadline. Note: you’ll receive a separate email after registering with the link to a secure platform to submit your materials.

When submitting your audition materials, you’ll have the chance to choose your preferred category, including performance, technical theatre, or theatre education – be sure to visit our site for more details on the specifics you’ll need to submit based on your selected category.

Your College Audition Materials

A Thespian recording their college audition

There aren’t many opportunities to get in front of so many colleges at once, so making the most of it starts with preparation. Regardless of the category you’re applying for, you’ll need to submit materials ahead of time. These materials are available to all participating colleges for review and are often the criteria used to schedule their callbacks.

Depending on the category you’re applying for, you’ll need to submit:

  • Performance Auditions – An audition video with two monologues for students pursuing acting, or a monologue and song for students pursuing musical theatre, a current headshot, and resume. (Performance Audition Tips)
  • Technical Auditions – Three samples of work, an audition video of you speaking about your work, a current headshot, and resume. (Technical Audition Tips)
  • Theatre Education Auditions – A current headshot and resume, written responses, and either a performance or technical audition tape based on your strongest skills. (Theatre Education Audition Tips)

7 College Audition Tips from the Pros

Paul Steger, Dean of the Leigh Gerdine College of Fine Arts at Webster University, and Sharla Cowden, Department Chair at University of Evansville, have been attending ITF and college auditions for over 50 years combined.

In that time, they’ve seen the evolution of the audition process and shared seven tips to help seniors make the most of their experience.

1. Ask for Help

Your audition tape is often your best opportunity to make a first impression, so make sure it’s a good one. While you may be tempted to do things on your own (and you totally can), don’t hesitate to ask for help.

“Encouraging students to ask for help from their high school teacher, counselor, or upper classmen could be really helpful,” says Cowden. Asking someone to operate the camera also “[gives] them someone else in the room to play to.”

Whether they’re checking the framing, spotting distractions in the background, checking audio to make sure you sound your best, or “watching it with them afterwards and redoing it (if needed),” another set of eyes is never a bad thing. Using them as an off-screen scene partner can help inform acting choices and line deliveries, even though the other person should remain unseen and unheard.

2. Be Authentic

The materials you choose for your college audition are always going to be important, but so is your delivery. While you may be tempted to be as elaborate or animated as possible, Steger says authenticity is more important.

“[We] don’t have to see extreme characterizations in your body, speech, dialects, or any of those things. Just be as natural and close to you in real life as you can imagine,” says Steger. “You don’t have to costume it up or use props or anything like that. If you want to sit in a chair, go for it.”

And the same goes for Cowden. “I always encourage the kids to start with a piece that is the most like themselves,” she says. “We’re looking for honest and truthful work, so let me see a little bit of who you are through each character.”

3. Understand Your Material

Showing your range is important, and it’s why most Thespians opt for performing contrasting content like comedy and drama. However, having a deeper understanding of your material can make a bigger impression on colleges. One strategy Steger suggests is choosing a monologue from a play script rather than a monologue book.

The folks watching your auditions likely have read and have a deep understanding of the material you’ll perform – and you want to show you do too. Often, that contextual knowledge can shine through in a performance and allows for less time spent establishing the character’s dynamics and conflicts, instead showcasing the material and performance skills.

Thespians participating in dance auditions for colleges

4. Be Coachable

Once schools have reviewed your material, they may want to meet you in person. This can happen either at their booth in the exhibit hall or in dedicated callback rooms, with many participating schools bringing multiple staff members. For example, the Webster University team often includes design tech or stage management faculty, design students, and additional senior staff.

Why? To get an opportunity to work with students in their discipline.

“We want to give everybody we think has a talent and that might fit with the program an opportunity to explore it,” says Steger. “It might be to give a direction, like upgrading what their relationship is with the person they’re singing to or doing the monologue with, or we might give a vocal adjustment,” he says. “I always say, just come prepared with the monologues you did as polished as possible… that would be a place where we would start the conversation.”

For Steger and many colleges at ITF, this is also a chance to see how you work with others and your coachability.

5. Remember to Schedule Time for Callbacks

Participating colleges have limited timeslots to meet with students. And if everyone is aiming for the same spot, you may not have an opportunity to visit the schools you’re most interested in.

“Workshops are an important part of [ITF], but you also need time to really do your callbacks,” Cowden says. “All our students have to audition and interview, and this is a place where they can do both.”

Colleges will contact you directly if they want to schedule a callback, so be sure the email you use is one you have access to and check often. And if there’s a school at the top of your list and you get a callback, don’t wait to schedule your meeting. It may be tougher to find a convenient timeslot towards the end of the week.

6. Have an Idea of Your Interests

While you don’t have to be settled on your degree (i.e. BA vs BFA) or where you’re planning on going, having some expectations or goals for your education can help. For example, knowing how many shows you’d hope the program does each season or what your responsibilities behind the scenes might be can help narrow your choices for schools you want additional information from.

“Do the research to see all the different programs, because there’s usually general information about what kind of plays we’re doing or have done in the past, plus all the audition requirements, degrees that are offered, the faculty, and kinds of classes you might take,” says Steger.

Students getting information from colleges at the ITF exhibit hall

He also suggests thinking about your college experience. Whether that means schools with huge sports programs and stadiums or smaller private campuses where there may be 5,000 students total, knowing what you want out of your time at a school is equally as important as what the school is looking for in you.

“It’s [has to be] the right fit for the student and the right fit for the program,” he says. “That’s the difference between looking at the auditions versus doing a callback; who’s going to show up for four years beside their talent.”

7. Open Your Mindset

Finally, relax and have fun. Like most things in your theatre career, college auditions will be a learning experience. While it can be intimidating to perform in front of new people or interview with schools you’d love to attend, it’s important to remember the schools are just as excited to meet you too.

“They want you to be great and I think a lot of kids forget that when they walk in a room. They want you to solve the problem for them and they’re rooting for you, so take away the judgment part,” says Cowden. “I always tell kids, don’t close doors. Enough people are going to close doors on you. Use ITF to walk through doors that are opening to you.”

Explore Your Theatre Future

There’s plenty to do at ITF, but if continuing your theatre career into college is on the list, applying for college auditions can be an amazing opportunity. Not only is it an opportunity to get in front of wonderful theatre programs from around the country, but it’s also a chance to explore what the next four years can potentially look like.

But before you arrive in Indiana this summer, be sure to get your application completed, remember the materials you need to submit, and focus on our helpful tips to make the most of your experience.

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