Mashpee Students To Perform 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling B

The Mashpee Middle High School Blue Falcon Theater Company presented “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee” in 2019. From left to right, Lillian Wieden, Sydney Pinhack, Noah Bellevue, William Henley and Hannah Phu.

This year has brought about many unique challenges in the college application process for students. We’ve been unable to tour campuses, watched SAT testing get canceled time and time again, and have had to deal with the chaos of this process along with the chaos of our whole current situation. Needless to say, it’s been stressful, and as someone with a love of theater who plans to study it in college, there has been a whole other layer of challenges I was forced to adapt to very quickly. Between Zoom auditions and an obvious lack of opportunities to perform, this process is certainly different from the one for which I had prepared.

To summarize the traditional college audition process, the first stage of it involves everything one normally does when applying to schools, along with sending headshots, putting together a resume and, for many schools, sending a prescreen audition, which is a video that generally consists of you introducing yourself and performing two short monologues. After all this is done, you send it to the school, and if they like what they see, you’ll get a callback. Fortunately, this part of the process stayed mostly the same. The actual audition, however, is where the challenges came in. I applied to 10 schools (theater programs are generally very competitive), and the one consistency in all my auditions was that they were held on Zoom. Beyond that, each one was a completely unique experience. Sometimes I’d be on the call for a quick 15 minutes where I simply performed my monologues and was asked a few questions. In other cases, the auditions would be two to four hours. That’s several hours I would spend talking to, and performing for, whatever face was on my phone attached to a tripod.

This of course had the potential to go wrong in many ways. I worried about issues with WiFi, my dog potentially crashing an audition and many other possibilities. Luckily, things generally went fairly well, except for one major mishap. It was a few minutes before my audition, and I was checking my lighting and how I was framed to make sure everything was in place. I went to angle my tripod down, and the entire top piece broke right off the stand. Thus, I found myself frantically wrapping it in as much packing tape as I possibly could as some student ambassadors in the virtual waiting room expressed their sympathy. Fortunately, I got it to stay together long enough for my audition, and I was very lucky to have that be my only major issue throughout the process. Moral of the story: If you’re buying a tripod, it might be worth it to spend more than $10.

One other major hurdle I’ve had to work through is trying to find ways to keep acting during the pandemic. For the past few years, I have continually been in shows, with the gap between them never being more than roughly a month. However, by the time I had to get the ball rolling on this process, live performances had been on hold for more than seven months. As a result, I was pretty out of practice and was very concerned that it would show in my auditions. While nothing compares to the exciting and rigorous process of putting on a live show, I was lucky enough to find little ways to act again. I’m a member of a group called the Cape Cod Playwrights Lab, which has continued to hold meetings via Zoom, I participated in some virtual readings at Tilden Arts Center, and the MMHS theater program has found ways to stay active. Earlier in the year, we did a podcast-style reading of “A Christmas Carol,” and we are working on a short Zoom production. Because of these opportunities, I was thankfully not too rusty by the time auditions rolled around.

Overall, this whole process has certainly been challenging and has thrown a lot of curveballs my way, but I’ve learned to roll with the punches. This is certainly a hard time for anyone in the performing arts, but we know all too well that no matter how much we prepare for something, sometimes you still end up having to improvise, and once we can return to the stage we’ll be stronger than ever.

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