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Auditioning for an Arts High School

There are various requirements for acceptance into an Arts High School Drama program or certain drama conservatories. There are also requirements for applying for scholarships in college theatre programs.

Almost all of them require an audition with two contrasting monologues.

Auditioning for an Arts High School

I can only speak from experience about the Los Angeles County High School for the Arts (LACHSA), but they require two contrasting monologues, both contemporary, and adding up to no more than five minutes in total time (this includes your introduction and transition between monologues). The Los Angeles County High School for the Arts also publishes a list of suggested plays to find monologues.

Generally speaking, I would not suggest choosing from those particular plays, but find plays that are similar in tone.

The bottom line in choosing the two monologues is to find pieces that help give the instructors a sense of who you are.

The bottom line of the whole audition is to go in and have fun.

This is not an audition for a play; this is an audition for you to spend four years with these instructors in an intense program. Given how little time the auditors have to spend with you during the interview and audition process, they have to make big decisions made on little information. How you behave before and after the audition tells them as much about you as the audition.

If you are too worried about doing your audition 'right' or 'perfect', your worrying may come across as you being afraid or withdrawn. Everyone is nervous at auditions. The instructors know that. It's whether the nervousness gives you energy or causes you to close down. If it causes you to withdraw into yourself, they may feel you are not ready for the rigors of an arts high school. However, if you have an abundance of energy, they might think you'll be a lot of fun to teach.

The problem is how do you avoid being so nervous that you can't audition or interview as well as you know you can?

The answer is passion and discipline.

Having discipline at 13 years old is not easy. But if you work at it, and work hard at it, walking into a room of high school teachers and auditioning can be fun.

As you reach the last year of middle school you probably have had some experience at working at something very hard, something that took a lot of time and concentration. Maybe it was some sort of paper you had to spend a week or two researching and writing. Maybe it was a project that you had to build. Now you have discovered that you really like doing theatre, specifically, you really like acting. If you have been in a play or musical, you have already had some experience in memorizing lines or a song. You have also discovered that acting is a lot of fun and you want to do more of it.

That thing about 'having fun and wanting to do more' is the beginning of passion. Passion is when you find yourself thinking about the play you're in a lot of the time. It's when you don't care as much about your school work as you do getting to act in a play. Be careful, because there is a very fine line between having a passion for something and being obsessed.

Having a passion means you're doing something that excites and involves you more than anything else and it is fun to do. It helps create a fulfilling life.

Having an obsession means you're doing something that captures your mind so completely that you don't want to think about anything else. It can destroy your life.

The line between the two gets blurred a lot. That's where discipline kicks in. You have to continue to work hard in your classes. An arts high school is very picky about a student's grade average. They won't ask you about it, but they will look at your grades.

All of the theatre classes you take in an arts high school are above and beyond your regular classes. That means two things. One: you will be going to school for longer days than normal. Two: you will have close to a year's worth of college credits by the time you graduate (because the theatre classes from your Junior year on count as AP classes).

That said, discipline is also about how hard and continuously you work on your audition pieces. If you play piano (or any instrument) think about how much practice it takes to play really well. It takes hours and hours. The same can be said for learning the lines of your monologues. It's going to take a long time to memorize all of the words. The trick to memorizing the words is not to memorize the way you say them. It is like the piano in that you can learn the timing and finger placement for all of the notes but it is not until you have memorized the technical part of playing does it become fun. You start messing around with it a little bit. You play. The same is true for memorizing. You have to practice the words over and over and over and over. And when you are sick of them you have to work on the words over and over and over. Once you can do them in your sleep, then you start to play.

I strongly suggest you work with a coach so that the words don't sound like you're reciting them. A coach will guide you into finding out how you feel when you are saying the words. That's where the fun begins. This person could be a professional acting coach. It could be a teacher at school. I would suggest not having a parent coach you. There is too much personal history between you and your parents. If you have picked the right monologues, your parents should feel slightly uncomfortable with you doing them. Not because they are obscene or filled with bad language (though they could be), but it means you are starting to grow up and most writing in the theatre deals with mature subjects. Most parents want you to grow up and not grow up all at the same time. Most students your age want to be independent and not independent all at the same time. It's a difficult time when it comes to that stuff.

I would advise getting your parents to help you find a trusted adult to help you. Your parents can be better guides to finding someone trustworthy than you. You, of course, have to feel comfortable with your coach. Most dramatic monologues-if they are any good-will touch on some strong emotions and you have to feel safe with the adult you are working with. If you don't feel safe with your coach find another one as fast as you can. Get the hell out. This is important.

You are auditioning to get into an Arts High School, not an Entertainment High School. The arts get into some serious stuff. Yes, a lot of it can be entertaining. But the Arts also explore very seriously everything we feel and think.

I suggest you should have your monologues chosen and begin work with a coach two months before your audition for the High School. Give yourself a month before that to find the best two monologues to perform.

My suggestion is not to find two monologues that show off two different characters but find two monologues that show you in two different situations. Remember, the arts high school instructors are trying to figure out who you are in a short interview/audition session. Help them do that by choosing characters that feel like you. Ironically, by picking two monologues that are very different you will appear to be two different characters when you perform them.

Find a comedy monologue that is someone close to your own age and makes you laugh. Even big bookstores like Barnes & Noble have a theatre section with monologue books. Go to used bookstores, go to libraries. Take the time to find the monologue that says to you: "This is hilarious. I can do this."

Find a Drama monologue that is someone close to your own age that makes you feel empowered. Usually good drama says the stuff we're afraid to say ourselves. They give words to feelings that make us nervous, sad, or angry. You'll know when you find the right one. You may have that gut feeling that says, "This is scary. I can't wait to do it."

Two months before your audition, whether you have a coach or not, pick one monologue and spend an hour a day working on it, every day, six days a week. Seriously. This is the discipline I've been talking about. One hour. Six days a week. You can choose your own day off. After a week, switch monologues. If you are working with a coach, work the monologues as your coach suggests.

Once the day of auditioning comes you have to make a decision: you have to decide to trust the work you have done. When you walk in the room and say hello to the instructors you are not worrying about remembering the words or how your performance is going to go. Instead, you make eye contact with the instructors, listen to what they have to say, answer their questions, and when it is time to start your monologues, you start.

I'm assuming the passion is already in you. It's the discipline you have to start developing now. Once you graduate high school, once you graduate college (if you go), once you are out in the business of acting, it's the discipline that's going to help keep you sane.

By Richard Gilbert-Hill. Richard is an instructor at iActingStudios.com. You can learn more about him and sign up for one of his classes here.

Article printed with permission from iActingStudios.com and Rick La Fond. Copyright 2013. All rights reserved. - iActing Studios is a premiere provider of Online Acting Classes. They feature hundreds of hours of in-depth classes; hosted by professional instructors and coaches who've taugh some of Hollywood's most famous A-listers.