The Theatre College Audition Journey, Part 2: Coaching. The Secret Weapon In Preparation.


College Preparation

10 minutes

Are you curious why collaborating with your MTCA coaches is such a critical part of your audition process? Leo Ash Evens shares his wisdom and advice.

The most important reason why high school students benefit from college audition coaching is growth in confidence. Being a teenager and committing  to a career in professional acting is very difficult.  At MTCA, we believe that college prep is the beginning of your career. 

Working with your coaches gives you the confidence to trust your instincts. Teenagers have incredible instincts and original ideas on how they want to represent themselves in the audition room, the kind of material they’re attracted to, and language with which they connect. However, trusting themselves as individuals can be difficult.  

Coaches provide support to help you decipher and listen to your true authentic self. During the college audition process, it’s never about creating characters.  Yes – You’re selecting songs and monologues from published plays and musicals, but you’re not auditioning for those roles or shows.

You’re auditioning yourself!  You must understand the importance of versatility within your package of material; and MTCA coaches are excellent at getting students to really make bold, fearless choices. 

As a teenager, it’s hard to trust yourself to make those bold, fearless choices. That’s where coaching is an incredible asset. Coaching also gives you the opportunity to have unique material at your fingertips. It’s hard to find resources for good material. Our coaches are professionals who have gone through the college audition process and have developed an encyclopedia of audition pieces.

MTCA coaches are really wonderful at bringing material to the table. Not just because it’s a well-written piece, but because we get to know the individual and then bring competitive, active pieces to the table that are in sync with the student.  

Coaches help connect you deeper with your material, which can be vulnerable!  But that vulnerability is also where the magic happens. 

For many of you, it’s often a challenge to live inside yourself as a 16 or 17 year old. Who at 16 or 17 knows who they are? I know I didn’t know who I was back then.  That is why the stakes feel so high during preparation for college auditions— you don’t have the support of a book or cast members. 

When I audition for Broadway shows, I have a reader in the room whom I can connect with.  In college auditions, you have to imagine everything. So yes, the stakes ARE so much higher. Coaches help to build your confidence to a level that prepares you for prescreens and auditions with joy. 

What Schools Are Looking For

The more versatile you are as an artist, the better! When I first started coaching students for college audition preparation, schools were known for either acting, singing or dance.  While that does still exist at some schools, the majority of them really want to have a versatile class. They’re going to have strong singers, actors and dancers together in one class. The goal is a diverse, versatile class of many different talents.  

My advice? Run towards your weaker areas while you have time.  It’s not enough just to focus on your strengths.  In coaching for college auditions, your coaches encourage you to run toward those weaker areas so you can improve as much as you can with the time that you have before your big auditions.  However, once you get to your auditions, you’ve got to be great!  Don’t showcase something you do not do well.  

College Auditions Have Evolved

One of the more rewarding aspects of being a Director of MTCA today is that I meet students earlier and earlier in the college preparation process — rising freshmen, sophomores, and juniors in high school. They’re coming to us so that they can increase their skill sets.  They are taking acting, singing, and dancing classes so that they’re technically improving their skills before they even begin selecting material.  At the end of the day, all of these colleges have heard these songs and monologues. You are not reinventing the wheel with your pieces.

What’s really exciting is that the more artistically competitive you can be, the more you increase the probability of acceptance. You’re giving more reasons for those schools to say, “We’d be crazy not to take that guy… He’s great!” or “Look at that girl. She just scored high in all three disciplines!”  The more artistically balanced you can be, the better.

This process requires time. A short window of time to prepare makes the college audition process a challenge. It’s like cramming for a test. You might get a couple of answers right, but overall, it wasn’t a good process. Same thing with college preparation. Get yourself into class. Do the hard work. Classwork isn’t always as fun as performing, but it makes you significantly better. 

Virtual Training.  The COVID-19 Pandemic Required Change, and Opportunity.

Our students who consistently took MTCA dance classes twice a month virtually for example were much more competitive than they ever were before. When you put in the time and you do the work, you see the results. Proof is in the pudding!   Virtual auditions will exist for schools moving forward. They are here to stay. 

Of course, many schools are excited to get back to in-person auditions on campus and/or at Unifieds, but now virtual auditions are here as an option from your bedroom or living room!  Virtual auditions are time efficient and cost-effective.  Application fees, travel expenses, hotels, airline tickets, coaching services, etc.  It all adds up.  You have to create a schedule and budget that works for you.  

There isn’t a replacement for that energy you feel in a live audition, but these teachers know what they’re doing. I always say to students: Let teachers do their job, and you do yours. If those teachers accept you from a virtual audition, you can always visit in the spring.  It would be silly not to take advantage of virtual auditions (for at least some of your auditions) from home.  Perhaps you are an international student and do not have the money to travel extensively around the United States.  Now colleges get to see people from all over the world. Even inside of the United States, if you live in Miami and want to audition for a school in Portland, Oregon, now it is possible without the travel and expenses. 

What To Keep In Mind

It’s really important that you allow mom and dad or your adult support system to help you. It’s extremely difficult to go through this process by yourself.

So when you have the ability and the support of trusted adults, you’ve got to let them in. It’s a lot of work, and there are certain aspects of the process they can help with.

Parents cannot do the artistic work. However, in regards to organizationally guiding you with the applications or helping you with a timeline of setting goals and time management, they can certainly lend a hand.  That’s a really difficult one for some teenagers. Parents just have a better sense of time management. They’ve been living longer!

I also give strict advice to the parents to back away and let their child work through the stress and anxiety of this process. Meet them where they are. If your child has a bad audition day or they get a rejection on a prescreen, let them work through it.  They’ll bounce back. 

Parents need to remember to honor their child’s fragility and their fears of what possibly went wrong.  Parents have to let their child face rejection.  It’s part of Show biz.  I tell students all the time, you only get twenty four hours to mourn that loss… maybe forty eight hours. And then you’ve got to dust yourself off, get up and move along. 

Why MTCA Coaching? 

The biggest benefit here at MTCA is the support system. Mom and dad can only do so much. Your local theatre director or teacher is great, but may not understand the scope and complexity of college auditions. What’s great about MTCA and our team is that it’s going to feel like your secondary family. You have an extended family to support and cheerlead, advise and facilitate important information to you.  

However, MTCA doesn’t do it for you. It’s still your audition. As much as I’d love to be a fly on the wall, or your mom or dad would love to be a fly on the wall, we’re not going to be there. MTCA will never direct you and tell you what material to do.  If someone in your life ever does that….run in the other direction.  

We don’t “type” students from the outside and say “you are an ingenue, you are a character woman, or you are the villain.”  We don’t do that.  We want to find out who you are from the inside out, not the outside in. 

Final Thoughts

Students and parents entering the college audition journey often ask me: What is the key to success with college auditions?

You want to strike the balance between your artistic preparation, your organizational preparation, your strategic preparation, and then, the big one, your psychological preparation.  You have to strike a balance between all four.  When you get to the audition, if you don’t believe you’re good enough to get in…why should we ask the schools to believe it?

The first step in the college audition process with MTCA is scheduling an Initial Consultation so I can meet you!    From there, the process opens up and you can begin your preparation.  This process can be a really fun one!  As you work with your MTCA team, you’ll learn to master that magical balance of preparation!

Working with MTCA is easy! Take the next step by scheduling an Individual Consultation with Leo Ash Evens. You can learn more here.

About Leo Ash Evens

Born and raised in Pittsburgh, PA, Leo is a Carnegie Mellon graduate with a BFA in Musical Theatre. Entering his 13th year with college prep, Leo balances and integrates a diversity of artistic disciplines, drawing from years of professional experience as an actor, voiceover artist, and educator. Leo infuses his students with the tools and confidence to prepare for successful college auditions. Most recently, Leo completed a year and a half long run with School of Rock on Broadway. Other B’way credits: Shuffle Along (starring Audra McDonald) and Jesus Christ Superstar. Off-Broadway: Jasper in Deadland, Finks at the Ensemble Studio Theatre, Wanda’s World, & Ionescapade: The Works of Eugene Ionesco at The York. He’s played Riff in West Side Story on The West End, 50th Anniversary US Tour, Houston TUTS, Barrington Stage, & NCT. National Tours include 42nd Street, Disney’s On The Record, & Casper The Musical, starring Chita Rivera. Select credits: Black Stache in Peter And the Starcatcher (Pioneer), Emcee in Cabaret (Houston TUTS & The Arvada Center), & Tulsa in Gypsy, starring Patti LuPone (Chicago Ravinia Festival). National Voice Overs: Siemens Technology, Monster, Sharp, Foster Grants, JC Penney, V8, & more. IG: @leoashevens. www.leoashevens.com