SETC: The Reality of Auditioning as a Freshman



          Auditioning for professional acting work at the Southeastern Theatre Conference (SETC) as a freshman was a surreal experience. Since I did the North Carolina SETC pre-screen auditions back in October, it has been a roller coaster of an ordeal. I was freshman acting major auditioning for the opportunity to audition at the biggest theatre convention in the nation. Somehow, the judges gave me high enough marks to be an SETC alternate, meaning that if someone dropped out I would be able to take their place in the audition. Luckily, that happened.

What followed was months of preparation as I worked on my audition package (my monologue and song) and set up late night practice sessions with my friends (special shout out to my study buddy Karley Renee). Then, day before my audition, I felt myself coming down with a cold. Thankfully, the nurse was able to give me some medicine, and I managed to keep the worst of the illness at bay with water, tea, and drugs.

The day of my audition I had to get up super early to get to the briefing at eight o’clock. Afterwards, I had several hours to kill until the actual audition, which I filled by reading a script to zone, drinking a Mountain Dew to keep my energy up, and listening to the Bioshock soundtrack in order to stimulate my imagination. Obviously I did something right, since oddly I did not feel like I was dying of nerves. I was nervous and excited, but my anxiety was not eating away at my heart.

I was tenth in my audition group. I watched the actors before me, went up, performed, and went back to my seat. I was satisfied with what I did, but honestly those ninety seconds are kind of fuzzy. Later, when I was watching everyone else, I had a lot of things running through my head: worrying about my audition results, enjoying the other pieces even while noting how silly and absurd most of them were, trying not to let my perfectionism ruin the day, and daydreaming about alien invasion movies. In the midst of all this, it finally dawned on me that I had actually auditioned. This was the space, these were the people, these were the casting directors, and here I was. There was so much build up, so much passion, so much love, so much discomfort, so much stress for only ninety seconds.

Afterwards I learned that I’d been selected for a callback, went to it, and left the convention center. I felt relaxed, at least until the next day when I started reflecting the audition. I thought about my piece this year, what my piece next year would be, whether or not I would get passed on next year, whether I should sing next year or not, and how big it was. I realized that this was, for better or worse, was going to be my life: an endless journey of attempting to stand out from the crowd, to show them what I am capable of greatness.

One thing that stands out about this experience is others’ reactions to my relative youth. Whenever I was feeling down about the whole process, people would always end their encouragement by saying something along the lines of: “… and you’re a freshman. You’re doing this your freshman year. That is awesome. You are already strides ahead of many others.” Even though I do take pride in auditioning at SETC as a freshman, I never saw myself as special. Maybe I was ignorant to it, or I just assumed that there would be other freshmen auditioning.

In conclusion, auditioning at SETC as a freshman was a great experience. It was eye-opening, thought provoking, and kind of fun. Although I am still wondering about that callback and worrying about what I can do to ensure a more successful conclusion next year.

Article by Guest Writer Benedict Burgess.


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