Minnetonka Theater And Its Adaptations to COVID: Online Student Auditions

Sara Pender, Staff Writer

In the wake of the pandemic, video and taped auditions have soared in the theater and acting world. The switch from in-person to videotaped auditions presents a set of new, unprecedented variables to the auditionee. In-person auditions are designed so each person gets one chance to present the materials for their audition — they must be prepared enough to do it well on the first try. Auditioning online, on the other hand, presents new challenges. With the opportunity of endless takes, the stakes are raised as every last detail is able to be perfected. Each medium of auditioning presents its own challenges and benefits. 

Minnetonka Theater, the theater organization at Minnetonka High School, has moved its auditions partially online for the last two years. Initial auditions are online, and callbacks — second-round auditions where the directors may request specific scenes and songs — tend to be in-person. Dance auditions, typically held for musicals, were previously held online but have recently moved in-person.

Minnetonka Theater’s season thus far has been quite an eclectic selection of shows. Starting off the year with Chicago, a musical set in the 1920s about the lives of two women who had previously murdered their lovers, Minnetonka Theater held initially-videotaped auditions, followed by in-person callbacks and dance auditions.

After running Chicago, Minnetonka Theater planned two winter plays: the One Act and the winter play held in the Studio of the Arts Center. The One Act is a 35-minute play where students compete against other Minnesota high schools, going through several stages of competition to hopefully participate in the state competition. The winter play this year is Clue, inspired by the famous board game surrounding six characters and a night full of intrigue, deception and murder. When these productions come to an end, auditions for the spring musical will begin. This year, initial auditions will take place online, while dance auditions and callbacks will most likely be in person. 

Backstage.com is a great resource for tips and tricks on acting and the audition process. Some tips specifically geared towards self-tape auditions are to “do a test to check the lighting and sound” before recording and to “read and follow all instructions for taping and sending.”

“Triple-check [recording rules],” the website also emphasized. “You don’t want your audition to be eliminated for a silly reason.”

In preparing for auditions, Minnetonka students have different strategies and tips for getting the perfect take. Celia Salita, ‘22, explained how she has prepared for taped auditions.

“I prepare by putting on my typical audition outfit, getting my computer connected to my Echo dot and making sure the rest of my family and dog are quiet,” she said. “I work with my singing teacher on the song I choose and a monologue myself. I also try to film it on a day where I am feeling positive and healthy.”

Marin Busselberg, ‘22, who has participated in Minnetonka Theater for all of her four years of high school, detailed a similar preparatory process.

She said, “I practice my song or monologue over the course of a couple weeks, and when I feel like I’m ready, I’ll get ready to record it. I’ll set up a camera, lights, do my makeup and get dressed into something flattering that I feel comfortable in.”

Both Salita and Busselberg agreed that online auditions offer a completely different perspective compared to in-person auditions. 

Salita said, “It’s different to do an in-person audition because you can re-film things a few times to get the best version to send in. It’s less overwhelming in the sense that you aren’t nervous and aren’t surrounded by others. However, it can be tough to watch yourself perform on camera, and sometimes you take so many takes.”

Busselberg agreed and said that, “It’s different than an in-person audition because you don’t have the stress of performing in front of other people. If I mess up, I’ll just do it again. This also means that video auditions generally take more time and energy. There have been times where I couldn’t get a good take, and I’ve spent hours re-recording the video.” 

Elliot Lee O’Halloran, ‘24, said, “To me, it’s very different [from] an in-person audition in the sense that you don’t have the luxury of being able to film your audition multiple times to make sure the one you send in is perfect. It’s also less nerve-wracking for me just knowing that I am able to have multiple tries when singing or performing a monologue for a camera, instead of the director. I know in-person auditions are very stressful for lots of people, but being able to video an audition really reduces the amount of stress.”

Furthermore, all three students agree that online auditions are preferable to in-person auditions. 

“I prefer online auditions simply because it’s less stressful for me, and I feel like I have more time to prepare and perfect my performance,” said Lee O’Halloran.

Although this change in audition format is definitely an adjustment, the Minnetonka Theater community continues to be an open space that always welcomes new talent. As Mamma Mia! auditions are around the corner, students are encouraged to audition and see if theater is something they could be interested in. 

Works Cited: 

“10 Tips for a Winning Self-Tape Audition.” Www.backstage.com, 1 Jan. 2018, www.backstage.com/magazine/article/tips-winning-self-tape-audition-13472/.