If you’re a young person, and you think a life of footlights, dress rehearsals and curtain calls may be for you, the judges are waiting.
On March 9 at the Crest Theatre at Old School Square, four esteemed professionals from the South Florida theatre community—actors Barbara Bradshaw and Jeffrey Bruce, director Gail Garrison and Palm Beach Dramaworks cofounder Sue Ellen Beryl—will rate actors age 18 to 28 in categories such as characterization, voice and speech, and movement and stage presence. The event is part of a nationwide scholarship search from the National Association of Arts and Letters, and applications will be accepted through Feb. 22 at nsalfloridaeast.org.
Applicants for this National Drama Competition must prepare two monologues that cannot exceed a combined eight minutes, and they should illustrate contrasting characterizations and display vocal and physical ability. The winner will receive a $2,000 first prize and an all-expense paid trip to Washington, D.C. for the National Competition, which will award a $12,000 first prize.
We asked Barbara Bradshaw, seasoned South Florida thespian and multiple Carbonell Award winner, for advice on how to prepare the best audition, and here are some of her insights.
- The monologue should be age-appropriate—within 10 years of their age range. I hate to see a young performer do some old lady. It should be something they’re familiar with, the entire work. Know the preceding moment before the monologue, and the moment following it. I’ve judged three local district competitions, and I’m always surprised at some of the choices the teachers allow them to make. There are certain things in life you just don’t understand at 15 or 18. Keep it within your realm of knowledge and comfort. Know it inside and out—know it like you can say the pledge of allegiance. Be prepared.
- Everyone has different methods for overcoming stage anxiety. Breathing exercises are good. When you’re standing at the wings to go out and audition, just calm the world around you. Ground yourself so that as you walk out onto the middle of that stage, with every step you’re feeling the ground beneath your feet. If you let the nerves carry you out onstage, you’re not going to be grounded. Don’t let the outside world in. Build your world around you.
- I can tell pretty quickly if an actor has “got it.” You got to the point where you could tell by the way they walked from the wings to the center of the stage. There’s a surety that comes with a really good auditioning. Also their vocal quality—everybody’s so used to wearing microphones these days that I can’t hear them across the stage. What good is your audition if the judges can’t understand you?
- Some common mistakes include trying too hard, picking the wrong material and not telling the story. We’re storytellers—that’s what we are. To be an actor, you have to have a deep love of that storytelling. So many young people, in trying to impress, will go over the top of the material. Be a storyteller. It’s a very noble profession, and it needs to be treated with respect.
The NSAL’s 2019 National Drama Competition will be judged at 9 a.m. March 9 at the Crest Theatre, 51 N. Swinton Ave., Delray Beach, with an application deadline of Feb. 22. For information, call Joy Banton and 561/573-6990. The NSAL is also hosting the 2019 Dorothy Lincoln-Smith Voice Competition for opera singers aged 23-31, and videotaped applications are accepted through Feb. 15. For information, email Marilyn Nelson at email@example.com.