Theatre department adds a new class

Pablo Belloso Chavez

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CSUN’s Theatre Department has added a new upper division course which aims to help graduating students enter the industry by coaching them with auditions and helping them participate in theatre programs and festivals.

Peter Grego, chair for the department, said adding the class was not difficult even with university budget cuts.

“We’re offering less sections for non-majors and it’s only one unit so it wasn’t expensive,” Grego said.

Theater 449, Tutorial and Performance Skill was created in order to better prepare students for these auditions, which are usually held in February, Grego said.

Students who demonstrate potential during a school play have the opportunity to be invited to the Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival (KCACTF), which is being held at Dixie Theatre in Utah this year, Grego said.

With school support and sanctioning, chosen students also can participate in the University/Resident Theatre Associations auditions (U/RTA) that helps them get connected with industry professionals, Grego added.

Professor Christine Menzies, who teaches Voice for Theatre, said students have a rare opportunity when participating in these theatre festivals.

“They get a little window into the industry, what it feels like to be in that industry, and that’s fantastic,” Menzies said.

Among the things the KCACTF auditions hope to achieve, according to their official site, are to encourage and distinguish the finest work produced by college theatre programs and perfecting the quality of their skills to prepare them for professional work within the industry.

Menzies said CSUN stages a maximum of 11 productions per year and KCACTF sends respondents to any one of the plays. She added that only two students can be chosen at a time per production so there are a maximum of 22 people from CSUN that could go to the auditions.

“Not all are willing to put in the work,” said Menzies. “I’m a volunteer in the class, so are the students. They’re willing to work in spite of the fact they may not get credit for it. But the good ones do that all the time.”

Olga Aguilar, 21, who is taking the auditions course, said the respondents come and critique the shows and contact the director about who may be nominated as an actor.

“So if you’re nominated you go to the competition with your chosen scene,” Aguilar said. “If they like you, you move up to round two, and then if you’re chosen you go to round three, which is a solo monologue of up to two minutes.”

Grego said the few minutes of monologue to him are like “taking someone with four years of medical school and judging them by three minutes of brain incision.”

“By offering the class, the students that were nominated by the Kennedy Center have a better chance at the auditions,” said Grego. “It’s a tutorial to best prepare them for the competition and the graduate school auditions. It formalizes the audition process and haves them better prepared as opposed to the last minute.”

“Its more one-on-one, a little more insight on how to perfect your skills,” Aguilar said. “If I don’t go to the second round, if I don’t go to grad school, if I don’t get
accepted, I still have that extra time with the acting coach to perfect and improve my acting skills.”

Menzies, who mentors and works with the students directly in the auditions class, said she chooses monologues that will suit them culturally and personally.

“This class is so much more integral for auditioning seniors,” said Menzies. “They see something else ahead, something to look forward to. They can see that they have a future beyond the semester and that makes them work really hard.”