Auditions! Auditions! YAC takes shape

12 Apr
YAC selection process

How will we choose from so many great candidates?!?!?!

Whew! Auditions are over for the Young Actors Conservatory…and now the hard part really begins! Selecting a small ensemble from the many talented students who audition….

At the start of each year, as early as January when summer vacation is a distant dream for students, I get to begin the process of recruiting and preparing for the summer Young Actors Conservatory. At Stages, we do a middle school conservatory session for two weeks, and then we do the high school, super-intensive four-week program! The high school YAC is FREE to participants, and is completely unique in the city (and in the nation, honestly) because we bring in  professionals to teach master classes in almost every facet of dramatic production…and it’s all without cost to the student, ensuring that the talented student may study here without financial barrier.

Most young actors think of “acting” when they think of the theatre, and we do a lot of that: working on stage movement, dance, voice and diction, dialects, and singing. Master classes in audition technique and scene study further prepare young actors for future auditions or college. We even have college recruiters come in to teach and scout!

Students work for four weeks in YAC, Monday to Friday, 9am – 5pm, toward an original theatrical production; they learn playwriting and the structure of a story; study design and build their own costumes, props, sets; hang their lights and create their own sound landscape; and they get to do really fun things like stage combat, and special effects stage makeup (that’s a great day, sending the students home to their unsuspecting families with burns, bruises and nasty, oozing scars!).

At the end of this 120-hour program not only am I completely exhausted, but I am also always surprised and delighted by the depth of understanding and skill integration that the ensemble has acquired. Each summer is completely different because the ensemble drives the whole process.

So, in addition to hiring and scheduling over 35 master teachers, I begin to go out to schools to share info about YAC and do audition workshops to prepare students for the competitive process of auditioning for YAC! I visit schools in HISD, in Fort Bend, Katy ISD, Spring Branch, Cy-Fair, and see students as far as Baytown and the Woodlands. I share with them what materials they need to prepare for their application; each student must write a personal statement and submit two teacher recommendations and a resume or list of experience so I can learn more about them.

Finally, in early April the audition weekend arrives. For summer 2012, we had more students apply than ever before, they came from everywhere! (Are you ready? From homeschoolers to Humble high school, Cristo Rey Jesuit, Kinkaid, Awty International, Seven Lakes, Klein, Rosehill Christian, Klein Oak, Bush, Cesar Chavez, Elkins, Clements, Oak Ridge, DeBakey, Cypress Christian…and that’s not counting the incoming freshmen from great middle schools across Houston!) Each student has prepared two one-minute monologues, comes in and does their stuff, and then has a short interview and a group improv session.

So what do I look for? Talent is something that is not quantifiable really, and I know that the “talented” student will have many opportunities in their path, so I’m looking for something more. I look for a student who is generous, with themselves and others, who is courageous and can take risks, and who has a maturity to handle new ideas and new people easily.

This year, former YAC-tor Luis Gonzales, 18-year-old graduate from Seven Lakes High School, will be my production assistant. Luis worked with me on his college auditions, and has been accepted to the incoming class at the North Carolina School of the Arts; he knows four languages and plays eight instruments, but mostly, he’s a cool guy. He helped run auditions and observed the process. He said, “I was surprised to see that on this side of the audition, all we want is for them to succeed, and it gave me a clearer idea of what people look for in an audition!”

And now…off to the hard part of the process for me…looking at my folder-littered floor trying to narrow down all the wonderful candidates into a small, complete ensemble. Here’s the challenge: They all deserve to come to YAC, they all want to, they are all prepared, and they could all benefit from the work we do over the summer. In the end, just as it does when a director is casting for a specific show, it comes down to finding the best possible mix of people for this year’s program.

So, my parting words: Young Actors! You are brave and you are talented! You inspire me! You did great work to prepare for YAC, and if this isn’t your year, there are many great opportunities in theatre for you this summer. Fear not, you shall not have a theatre-free summer! Please audition next year, and feel very free to continue to chat by email with me and to prepare for next year!

Stage makeup "injuries"
Stage makeup bruises

Eeewww! (fake) Bruises!

No, really Mom, I’m fine….
(adventures in stage makeup)

2 Responses to “Auditions! Auditions! YAC takes shape”

  1. Brandon Richardson April 18, 2012 at 2:24 pm #

    I’m looking to attend an auditions I’m 15 email me any information

    • evalaporte April 18, 2012 at 2:52 pm #

      Hi Brandon,

      This year’s auditions for the Young Actors Conservatory took place the weekend of April 7th, the ensemble is now selected. Check our site next year in March for info about auditioning for YAC. Also, houston’s theatreport.com has info about auditions in the community if you’d like to check that out!

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