Meet Michelle Evans, who taught the College Auditions Cheat Sheet workshop at the 2021 International Thespian Festival (ITF). Michelle shared her own experiences in theatre with us, including how she became passionate about the college auditions process. And how she helps students and parents/guardians successfully navigate the process. (Check out the 2021 College Guide, too. It’s full of tips for tours, and great questions to ask your recruiter. Plus, links to colleges looking for students just like you!)

Michelle Evans with Students

Michelle Evans says, “I admit college auditions are my thing! I love the whole crazy process.”

How did first-grade Michelle Evans get hooked on theatre? 

My first taste for the stage was in first grade in my elementary school production of the Marlo Thomas classic, Free to Be…You and Me. I got to play a tiger. The big thrill of doing that show was that I got to wear a cool jean skirt. This was in the late ’80s; it really was a really big deal to 6-year-old me.

It was also around that time that I was exploring improvisational songwriting. Most everything I wrote had something to do with my cat that had run away. Good stuff, as you can imagine! If only there wasn’t already a show about cats…

Are you a Thespian alum?

Yes, I’m a proud alumni and former president of Troupe 5368! The best thing about being a Thespian was the camaraderie. Just being around like-minded people with a common passion was great. Time with the troupe helped me know that theatre was the community I wanted to spend my life with.

Being with Thespians is still the thing I love about teaching at festivals around the country. No matter what state I’m teaching in, it feels like home!

Participating in Thespian leadership as a student helped me learn to think about the good of the whole; to look past my wants or desires. That experience was the birth of my desire to teach and direct. I wanted to be a good leader for all the people looking to me to guide the troupe.

What do you hope workshop attendees will learn?

I hope more than anything that students feel more confident about college auditions after they take my workshop. There’s so much college audition information swirling around that it can seem overwhelming.

No two students are exactly alike, even if they’re pursuing the same degree program. I’m passionate about helping students create their best path to the future they want. I want students to see that there are so many ways to have a great college audition process. The key is finding what they need and not trying to fit into someone else’s mold.

I also want to help workshop attendees understand the most current information about the 2021-22 college audition season. This will give them stress-management tips for the process. And, ultimately, I want them to know they have someone to help them throughout their journey, so they never feel alone!

What workshops you’ve taken made the biggest impact on you?

I took a master class with Sam Shepard when I was in college that had a big impact on how I saw myself and my path in the industry. It was the first time I realized a person could be good at many things. I mean, Shepard was a brilliant playwright, actor, and director. We know him best for his plays, but he’s equally respected for his other efforts.

Something clicked for me that day. I’d always thought I could only be good at one thing. And that if I tried to do something besides my one good thing, then everything would suffer. After that class, I threw away my old thinking and fearlessly pursued everything I was passionate about. That approach led me to where I am today. I’m so happy doing work I hadn’t even remotely considered originally!

What makes you particularly well suited to teach this workshop? 

I’ve been a private acting coach for 17 years. When the college audition process changed about eight years ago, growing more competitive each year, I shifted my focus. Auditions were especially competitive for musical theatre students. So, I partnered with colleagues that specialize in other disciplines (Dave Clemmons, Camiah Mingorance and Pat Valleroy). Together we built the College Audition Project (CAP).

Now, I help students and their parents/guardians prepare for college auditions. I do it for 12 months a year, on a constant loop. I help them tackle everything from acting training (of course) and material selection, to school selections, prescreen preparedness, auditions, interview, and everything else in between. As a co-owner of CAP and in running my own studio (MJE Acting Studio), I work with 100+ students every year. My sole purpose is helping them thrive through the college auditions process.

Through the CAP United Auditions, I work with 40-60 collegiate Acting and Musical Theatre Programs in the U.S. and Europe. I know firsthand what they’re looking for in the students they recruit, and how their processes work. Schools aren’t one-size-fits-all. I help students realize they don’t have to pick/audition for a school just because it’s on a list.

I admit: College auditions are my thing! I love the whole crazy process. The best part is when I get that text from a student saying they just committed to the school of their dreams. It’s particularly great when that school wasn’t originally their dream school, and by working together, they found even better opportunities they hadn’t known existed.

And, just for fun, choose one for each:

Hamilton or Hadestown?
That is hard, but I’m going with Hamilton. Even after all these years, that show still amazes me.

Ballet, Hip-Hop, or Tap?
I’m a ’90s kid, so Hip-Hop. Although no one wants to see me do Hip-Hop, unless they want a good laugh!

Hero or villain?
It could be because of my character actress days, but I love a dynamic villain.

The one most impressive performance you’ve seen?
In 1996 I saw Ragtime when it opened on Broadway with Brian Stokes Mitchell, Marin Mazzie, and Audra McDonald. I had no idea what it was about or even who was in it. I was completely obsessed with the show after I saw it, and to this day it’s still my favorite musical! 

Patty Craft is Content Manager for She lives and writes on 10 acres in southwestern Ohio where she also hikes to her heart’s content.

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