Advanced Acting - The Actor Prepares for College & Career (Grade 12)

by Matthew Travisano

This capstone-level course is designed for students who have completed Intermediate Acting Concentrator: Acting for the Stage and for Life. The course progression emphasizes skill development for the career strands in the Performing Arts, Theatre Sub-Pathway.

Students will be exposed to practices and skills that they can rely on during an audition process, either for admission to a post-secondary training program or in an industry context. Students will learn how to curate, plan, produce, market, present, and reflect on a Capstone Showcase in which is the summative assessment for this two-course sequence. Under the advisement of industry professionals, students will explore ideas, themes, and concepts related to obtaining post-secondary admission or employment. Students in this course will develop observation, discussion, and writing skills relevant to interpretation and evaluation of acting, lesson planning and digital portfolio development.

NOTE: This course is broken up into two long inquiries (units), one per semester.

Program Information
Course Certification Elements
Course Competencies / Outcomes

This course has been developed to meet competencies and outcomes reflective of specific skills expected within industry as those found within the professions listed below.  Click any of the professions listed to view skills, knowledge and abilities expected within this role.  

Performing Arts27-2011.00Actors Bright Outlook
Performing Arts13-1011.00Agents and Business Managers of Artists, Performers, and Athletes
Performing Arts27-2032.00Choreographers
Performing Arts39-3092.00Costume Attendants Bright Outlook
Performing Arts27-2031.00Dancers
Performing Arts27-2012.02Directors- Stage, Motion Pictures, Television, and Radio Bright Outlook
Performing Arts27-2099.00Entertainers and Performers, Sports and Related Workers, All Other
Performing Arts39-5091.00Makeup Artists, Theatrical and Performance Bright Outlook
Performing Arts27-2041.04Music Composers and Arrangers
Performing Arts27-2041.01Music Directors
Performing Arts27-2041.00Music Directors and Composers
Performing Arts27-2042.00Musicians and Singers
Performing Arts27-2042.02Musicians, Instrumental
Performing Arts27-2012.01Producers Bright Outlook
Performing Arts27-2012.00Producers and Directors Bright Outlook
Performing Arts27-2012.03Program Directors Bright Outlook
Performing Arts27-3012.00Public Address System and Other Announcers
Performing Arts27-2042.01Singers
Performing Arts27-2012.04Talent Directors Bright Outlook
Performing Arts27-2012.05Technical Directors/Managers Bright Outlook
Course Work Based Learning Activities
  • Guest artists (theatre company artistic directors, casting agents, professional actors).
  • Field trips to three types of theatres (union, semi-professional, amateur).
  • Audition videos (critiquing others that have been uploaded to YouTube)
  • Interactions with local theatre companies/arts organizations (correspondence, booking audition appointments)
  • Meeting with industry professionals and learning best practices - at school and at work sites
  • Going out on actual auditions. 
Standards
California's 2013 CTE Standards (21)
Course Materials

The following sources inform this course. Instructors can opt to develop a two year course reader or select from the following resources for core text(s).


UNIT ONE

  • Audition - Michael Shurtleff
  • Auditioning: An Actor-Friendly Guide - Joanna Merlin
  • The Monologue Audition: A Practical Guide for Actors - Karen Kohlhass
  • The Actor’s Audition - David Black
  • Acting Professionally: Raw Facts About Careers in Acting - Richard Cohen
  • Acting: Making It Your Business - Paul Russell
  • Creative Colleges: Finding the Best Programs for Aspiring Actors - Elaina Loveland 


UNIT TWO

  • Producing Theatre: A Comprehensive and Legal Business Guide - Donald C. Farber
  • Play Directors Survival Kit - James W. & Wanda C. Rogers
  • So You Want to Be a Producer - Lawrence Turman

Links to Other Materials
https://admissions.methodactingstrasberg.com/file/sides/Shurtleff.The12Guideposts.pdf

Course Units (180 hour course)

Unit 1: The Actor Auditions

Unit length: 100 hours total
Career Path:  Actor

[Guest artist possibilities: Local artistic directors/casting directors; career counselors and human resource specialists; local news reporters (interview skills); local college theatre professors] 

[Work-based learning possibilities: Sit in a day-long "cattle call" audition (observe casting discussions); going out on auditions

Unit is broken down into 4 areas of focus (sub-units) and combines rigorous academic study with experiential study:  

  • Before You Get to the Audition (30 hrs)  
  • Once You Get to the Audition (20 hrs) 
  •  Inside the Audition (30 hrs) 
  • After the Audition (20 hrs)


BEFORE YOU GET THE AUDITION: PREPARING FOR THE AUDITION (60 hrs)

[The final summative course assessment is going on a series of actual auditions; this first course exercise will front load skills for that

Students will explore how to apply to get an audition appointment for 3 different theatre companies or arts organizations. Later in the year students will actually go on 3 auditions, so this practice will get them ready to book actual appointments.

  • Students will put together an audition toolbox of monologues and songs (if applicable) and get training in how to assess which performance pieces (a) best show off their particular talents and (b) stretch them enough to show casting directors and college auditors their range of acting skills and techniques. Students doing a musical theatre audition will learn how to create strategic 16-bar and 32-bar cuts of songs that show off their skills.
  • Students will understand what their audition toolbox should consist of. They will acquire the literacy needed to decode and understand a post-secondary training program’s list of audition requirements or in an industry audition notice. They will be able to decode terms like contemporary, classical, serious, comic, and contrasting and be able to read carefully and understand specific directions.
  • Students will learn how to create an introduction (or slate) that can be tailored to the type of audition they are preparing for. They will learn how to create a slate for the presenting of multiple audition pieces, and the adjustments to the slate necessary for introducing songs.
  • Students will return to Michael Shurtleff’s seminal text Audition (introduced in the concentrator coure) this time interacting with it as the practical guide to auditioning that it is. Once they have built their audition toolbox of monologues and/or songs, students will apply the 12 Guideposts to their audition pieces. They will create an inventory that demonstrates how they have applied the guideposts.
  • Students will learn how to create a resume which captures both their training (since students may  have more training than productions) and their work in productions inside/outside of the school site [https://www.pace.edu/career-services/sites/default/files/files/pdf/theatre-resume-guidebook.pdf]
  • Students will learn the purpose of a headshot and the tips for an effective one, even if it needs to be taken in a low-tech manner (with a phone, for example) [https://www.backstage.com/backstage-guides/everything-you-need-know-about-headshots/].
  • Instructor will go over the appropriate clothing for an audition, depending on they type:
    • Acting audition w/ no dance or movement (business casual)
    • Acting or Musical Theatre audition with movement (athletic apparel)
    • What do avoid: busy patterns, neon, colors that clash with skin tone, wearing all-black, big jewelry.
    • Hair and Make-up: Hair out of the face; make up is natural   


INSIDE THE AUDITION ROOM: THE AUDITION ITSELF (40 hrs)

  • Students will rehearse the basic (but important) best practices of an audition performance, using Michael Shurtleff’s ‘Guideposts’ as the jumping off point. These will include where to place the invisible person the character is speaking to, volume, diction, pacing, and so on. For the musical theatre audition, students will also learn about these skills/practices in addition to how to ensure proper intonation, phrasing, and how to deal with an accompanist who knows/doesn’t know your audition song.
  • Students will practice how to accept and incorporate feedback if they are asked to perform part or all of a monologue/song. Students will role play how to incorporate feedback that is vague or even unhelpful.
  • Students will practice how to handle a situation where the auditor(s) asks for additional songs or monologues to be performed after the initial audition performance.
  • Students will practice a post-audition interview and be exposed to the norms of that process (our executive coach/corporate recruiter would also assist here as well). Students will learn about open body language, appropriate eye-contact, how to conduct an interview sitting down or standing up, and how to answer questions authentically and in an appropriate amount of detail. Students will learn how to explain information that appears on their resume if asked about it.
  • Finally, students will learn about warning signs/red flags that can appear during an audition (more so in an industry setting). This will include requests for pay-to-play, signs of sexual harassment, and more. Students will learn about the basics of employment law and as it concerns an audition (such as it being illegal to be asked one’s age).
  • Students will learn about how to leave the audition room, similar to the norms they’ll have learned about entering an audition room.


AFTER YOU LEAVE THE ROOM: POST-AUDITION AND CALL BACKS (20 hrs)

  • Students will learn about the etiquette of post-audition follow-up, including thank-you cards or emails and informing prospective employers of current productions or showcases the actor/auditioner is in. This will include following the conventions of written English including tone, diction, and formatting.
  • Students will learn about the skills/practices that lead to a successful callback (but may/may not lead to being cast or accepted into a post-secondary program), including:
    1. how to re-present a monologue presented in the initial audition and how to incorporate feedback
    2. how to do a cold reading of a script with the following potential variables:
      1. script sent in advance
      2. no access to the script in advance
      3. an established play that can be located
      4. a new work in development
      5. a script written in dialect
      6. whether or not to memorize
      7. how to handle a difficult scene partner
      8. how to make your scene partner look good
      9. how to read with a reader or the stage manager
      10. how to make ‘big choices’
      11. how to incorporate feedback


Unit Competencies/Outcomes

On completion of this unit students should:

  • Be able to put together an audition toolbox of monologues and/or songs appropriate to their age and other demographic profiles
  • Be able to create a slate and be able to deliver it cleanly and as part of the entire audition performance package
  • Be able to apply the Shurtleff ‘Guideposts’ to an audition piece (a Level 2 assessment would be to give the student an audition piece they’ve never seen before)
  • Be able to enter an audition space and be aware of what their body is communicating (through self-reporting) and be able to ‘read’ the body language of others.
  • Be able to perform an audition piece (Level 2 for those doing post-secondary auditions would be two audition pieces) and be able to reflect on their performance.
  • Be able to take and apply feedback based on their initial performance.
  • Be able to engage in an interview and critique the interviews of others.
  • Be able to write a thank-you card and a thank-you email following the conventions of written English and the formatting of formal correspondence.
  • Be able to engage in script-reading based callback (and apply similar skills to what required demonstration in the monologue/song portion).

Unit Assessment

Students will engage in a mock audition for a panel of teachers and local industry/post-secondary stakeholders. The auditors will work from a rubric created for the various summative assessments and skills-demonstration tasks, which also will include metrics common in post-secondary and industry auditions. Students must then create a significant audition reflection as the final ‘chapter’ in the PAJ (Personal Audition Journal). Student will receive feedback that speaks to their mastery from the teacher and from the panel via written notes (the teacher can offer the student in-person feedback). 

Unit 2: The Actor Showcases

Unit length: 80 hours total
Career Path: Actor

Unit is broken down into 3 areas of focus (sub-units) and combines rigorous academic study with experiential study: 

  • Planning and Producing a Showcase (60 hrs.)  
  • Debriefing a Showcase (20 hrs.).

[Guest artist possibilities: Local artistic directors/producers; PR/Marketing professionals who specialize in social media; Human Resources or organizational specialist for how to hold effective meetings]

[Work-based learning possibilities: Observership/internship of arts or non-profit
office - observe meetings and project management (need not be theatre-specific); potential collaboration with local middle/elementary schools to assist them in producing a showcase/show; observership/internship with local production companies (film, corporate)]

PRODUCING A SHOWCASE: THE PRODUCERS' TABLE (80 hrs.)

PLANNING (35 hrs)

  • Students will establish benchmarks for assessment (e.g., off-book date, program bio due, marketing due [see below]) .
  • Students will take their course schedules and decide how many weeks/days they will need to rehearse the Capstone Showcase (assuming that students will have class time to rehearse). Students will decide which pieces will rehearse on which days.
  • Students will create a professional/email to their school’s PTA (or similar organization) announcing the Capstone Showcase.
  • Students will learn how to write a professional email inviting local theatre professionals (artistic directors, agents, etc) to the Capstone Showcase.
  • Students will research how to license productions for performance from Samuel French [https://www.samuelfrench.com/]; Dramatists Play Service; [https://www.dramatists.com]; or Playscripts [https://www.playscripts.com/] and go through the process of requesting performance rights for one of the plays in the Capstone Showcase (the instructor can always cancel it with no fee). NOTE: Schools do not need to license plays for showcases, but this is an exercise that looks to career/industry norms for producing live theatre.
  • Students will learn how to write a professional email requesting the performance space for their showcase (sent to the school site’s activities director or facilities director or similar) and listing out in/out times and particular needs (sound, lighting).
  • Students will decide on a unifying theme for the showcase that is as inclusive of student repertoire as possible.
  • Students will learn how to create a showcase program that balances different types of theatre performance (comedy, drama, monologue, scene, song) and the industry norms around the order of pieces within a showcase (begin with comedy, end with uplift, etc).
  • Students will understand the purpose of a capstone showcase by researching the various types of showcases (Bachelors of Fine Arts programs, Masters of Fine Arts programs).
  • The instructor will establish for students the norms for a productive producers’ table discussion. The instructor will hold students accountable for contributing ideas or offering feedback in a professional and positive way.
  • Students (student-actors) will meet as a group to decide on the repertoire for the Capstone Showcase. NOTE: This unit pre-supposes that students will have a toolbox of prepared performance pieces gained through the first unit listed above.

[Work-based learning opportunity: instructor can invite an artistic director or do an e-mail interview with them to ask questions about season planning].

Students will explore the season offerings of these three theatre companies - understanding the difference between general audience companies and companies whose focus is more narrow (LGBTQ, cultural/racial/ethnic, disability, new works, classical/Shakespeare).

PRODUCING (35 hrs)

[Note: This part of the unit pre-supposes the Capstone Showcase being in a space without lighting or sound] 

  • Students will put together a final running order and show program (using Microsoft Word brochure maker or the instructor’s preferred program)
  • Students will learn how to write a bio for a playbill/show program [https://www.meronlangsner.com/blog-taking-note-and-taking-notes/how-to-write-a-bio-for-a-playbill]
  • Students will create an Instagram/Snapchat/Facebook marketing profile for the Capstone Showcase.
  • Students will create their own personal (professional) Instagram/Snapchat/Facebook/Email accounts specifically for their work as an actor.
    • Instructor will help students choose professional names for each of these and students will cross-reference each.
  • Students will create a Wordpress blog/site [https://wordpress.com/] for their work as an actor [this is the step before creating a standalone website but will serve a secondary/post-secondary student for a few years).On this site they will promote the Capstone Showcase.
  • Students will create promotional content (on their phones) that can be uploaded to these platforms to promote the Capstone Showcase.
  • Students/class will meet for part of a period either during the first/last course day of the week to do a weekly debrief and planning session to be organized as follows:
    1. Upcoming deadlines and deliverables
    2. Logistical issues/concerns
    3. Rehearsal progress (pieces that need more work, etc)
    4. Concerns that only the instructor can handle

CAPSTONE SHOWCASE REHEARSAL LOG (to be used in Producing Section above)

  • Rehearsal (this would happen in the middle of unit but it’s been placed here for clarity)
    1. Student will create a Rehearsal Log in which they enter the feedback they receive during the rehearsal of their Capstone Showcase piece(s). This journal could be structured as:
      1. Notes/feedback I received
      2. Acting goal for next rehearsal
      3. Practical needs (obtain costume or prop)

CAPSTONE POST-SECONDARY REFLECTION

  • Reflect on the two courses in this sequence (Intermediate Acting Concentrator: Acting for Stage and Life - and this course).
    1. Where have you grown during this CTE acting course sequence? Consider both theatre-specific and more generalized skills.
    2. What would you like to explore next that you were either introduced to in these courses, or that these courses didn’t cover?
    3. What is a specific skill or mindset that you believe you have successfully developed during this course sequence?
    4. What are careers outside of acting that you feel you personally could consider doing with the training you received from these two courses? [https://www.thebalancecareers.com/salaries-for-jobs-a-z-list-2063402]
    5. What are college majors that you feel you personally could consider doing with the training you received from these two courses? [https://collegemajors101.com/]


Unit Competencies/Outcomes:

On completion of this unit students should:

  • Be able to write professional correspondence (email in particular)
  • Be able to conduct a planning meeting using the norms around productive and constructive discussion and feedback (offering/accepting).
  • Understand the role of a producer in the theatrical production process.
  • Understand the difference between professional, semi-professional, and amateur theatre companies.
  • Be able to read and decode standard acting contract language.
  • Be able to create showcase program and balance the content to produce a unified performance (order of the pieces, etc).
  • Be able to work/interface with school staff to organize and plan an event/showcase.
  • Understand the licensing process for stage plays and musicals.
  • Be able to write a production program bio.
  • Be able to create a rehearsal and benchmark schedule.
  • Be able to create and maintain an online/social media presence - for their own work and for a production/performance.
  • Be able to coordinate and execute regular production meetings and create rehearsal schedules.
  • Be able to reflect on their own artistic practice.
  • Be able to apply course competencies into post-secondary careers in and out of the arts.

Unit Assessment:


[Note: The Capstone Showcase is the unit assessment for this unit. The Summative Assessment for the course is the assessment for this unit as well.]

Course Summative Assessment

Students will go out on three actual auditions and go through the process of (each of these steps is assessable):

  • Booking the audition appointments and writing a professional email requesting them.
  •  A complete/updated resume and headshot
  • Audition piece(s) requested by the theatre company/arts organization
  • Appropriate audition attire
  • Effective execution of the audition slate (assessed through the mock audition at the end of Unit 1 and the student's self-reflection since instructor won't be in the audition room).
  • Effective execution of audition piece(s)  
  •  Effective execution (if applicable) of the post-audition interview 
  • Creating and sending of a thank you e-mail or card to the companies student auditioned for.
  • Post-audition reflective journal/paper.
  •  A short reflective essay of advice for next year's senior-level actors offering them perspective and advice that will be given to them.
  •  Final entry of PAJ (Personal Acting Journal).