By Eliza Partika
There is one word that causes an immediate rush of fear and adrenaline in an actor and makes even the best of performers cringe: auditions. This is especially true for those who are brave enough to perform two monologues in just two minutes — an extra 30 seconds for those who are singing — in front of a panel of directors and other production staff from the UCI Drama Department — a terrifying experience affectionately referred to as “Megas” by the drama community.
Excluding “hell week,” a term to describe the week of rehearsals before a show opens, Mega Auditions are the most hectic time for drama majors. While chaotic, the auditions are also a way in which students can show how they’ve “grown in their craft” while at UCI, as third-year Megas veteran and drama major Christopher Liu said.
“You have two minutes and thirty seconds to show these directors what you’re made of, so people can spend the entire year [or] summer preparing for just this one moment. When you walk into the audition room, you can definitely see the nervous grins, the toe tapping. It can get very intense.” said Joshua Seco, who has been auditioning for Megas for two years and has done theater his entire life.
Besides being a tool for actors, directors use Mega Auditions to determine which actors suit the roles they need to fill, what type of training actors may need to achieve their best performances, and with whom, out of the hundreds of auditioners, it will be easy and enjoyable to work. “You want to have this big fun group that’s willing to do everything. It doesn’t matter if you’re super talented; if you’re a diva, no one’s going to want to work with you,” Seco continued.
Mega Auditions take place over three days at the beginning of each school year and are open to all students at UCI, regardless of major. All students are encouraged to audition and everyone has an equal chance to shine in their limited time slot; however, Drama majors and other majors within the School of Arts inherently have a leg up. Because directors have more opportunities to see drama majors perform on both their best and worst days and, consequently, witness how they work through inevitable problems that arise during a show, directors have a better idea of how the drama majors will operate under pressure.
All the same, there are opportunities for non-Claire Trevor majors to make the cut. This year an English major received a callback for one of the main roles.
In my own auditioning experience, directors are generally not looking for the next big shot; instead, they seek someone that best fits their vision of a role or could bring something new to it. In high school I got several callbacks for roles in “Seussical: The Musical,” but at the end of callbacks, the director asked me to sight read the Mayor’s part. I never imagined I could fill the part for Mayor of Whoville, but I went with it. Performing as one of the main supporting roles ended up being the best character I’ve played, even if it was far from my original vision of myself in the show. Directors often know you better than you know yourself. They’ll find a place for you if they see one, even if it’s far from anything you imagine yourself as.
However, despite your efforts, you can never truly wiggle yourself into the mind of the director, which is why it’s important to present yourself well from the moment you walk in the door. They’re looking for someone good to work with, so it’s best to relax, be authentic, and let your skill speak for itself. Many actors are too busy worrying about what the director will think of them and whether they will be right for the role instead of regarding auditions as an opportunity to have fun and share their work with others.
Ultimately, auditions like Megas are a chance to exhibit your talent and your best self to a world of people eager to tell stories. The possibility of not getting a callback shouldn’t deter you, but rather inspire you to reflect on your performance and use your experience to grow as an actor, so the next time an audition rolls around, fear will not stand in the way of success. Auditioning for something like Megas is the first step towards a beautiful exploration of emotion and of humanity. Don’t be afraid to take a leap of faith.