Summer Homework for the Musical Theatre Performer

Photo: Roberto Araujo

When I was young, my mom and dad would get a huge sheet of white poster board, which would be hung in my room at our camp in the Adirondacks. On it, in big black sharpie letters, would be written GREAT EXPECTATIONS and underneath would be a list of things I needed to complete before the end of the summer.

It was a very smart parenting technique. Anytime I said I was bored (which, admittedly, was less often than my sister…), they would say, “Have you crossed everything off your Great Expectations list? Maybe you should do one of those today.” Like I said, smart.

That Great Expectations list has served me very well because, to this day, I continue my own list of things I want to accomplish each quarter in various areas of my life. It’s helpful to keep track of what I’m trying to accomplish and nice to know I have something to look at when I feel like I should be doing something.

I have many clients who tend to get listless in the summer. There aren’t as many auditions, it’s nice outside… they can sometimes lose direction until Labor Day rolls around. By then, the auditions are coming fast and furious, and they wonder where all the time has gone.

The summer is a perfect opportunity for singing actors of every age to prepare for a productive theatre season ahead. Here are some thoughts on what you can do while you’re poolside or taking a moment away from the sun.

If you’re a musical theatre professional…

  • Update your book – If you get in the habit of updating your book twice a year (July and January), you will have everything you need come the big audition seasons and ensure you’re not bored with your selections. This is also a great time to look at what’s coming to Broadway/Off-Broadway in the coming season and make sure you have songs that fit the styles of the shows you’d be right for.
  • Take lessons – Most teachers’ schedules tend to slow down in the summer months. This is a great time to get in and master some of those little technical gremlins that are standing in your way.
  • Develop artistic goals for the year – What do you want to accomplish in the next year? Do you want to put together a solo show? Be cast in a tour or cruise production? Perform regionally? Focus on work and taking classes? This is a great time to make sure you’re heading in a particular direction.
  • Go see theatre – During the theatre season we’re usually too busy to see shows. Tickets go on sale during the summer as people flock to cooler, breezier locales. This is a great time to get inspired.

If you’re in college…

  • Research roles – In the comfort of your air conditioned room, go online and start researching shows you feel might be right for you. I always recommend clients think of an actor who they think has their career, then go to IBDB and look at their show history, who has understudied them, and what those actors have also played.
  • Take lessons/classes – This is a great opportunity to study with other people outside your program. It’s a good idea to get different perspectives on your work (so long as you’ve researched the teacher and know they have an excellent reputation). Sometimes the way one teacher says something will help build a bridge to something your regular teacher has said. Taking lessons in this more relaxed time allows the brain to make those connections in a way it might not be able to do during the hectic schedule of the semester.
  • Develop other non-theatre related interests – Theatre may be your life, but it’s important to be well balanced. What else do you love? Spend some time developing other interests so you keep your love for theatre alive. Also, if you’re good at other things, there’s a chance of you monetizing that skill to support yourself later in life.
  • Go see theatre – You’re swamped with classes during the year. This is the time to go see theatre and remember why you like it so much.

If you’re in high school…

  • Prepare for college auditions – If you’re in you’re a rising Junior or Senior, you should be preparing for college auditions with the help of your voice, drama, and dance teachers. Not sure about the next steps to take? Check out our book.
  • Talk to college students – You’re beginning to research which programs you’re interested in. This is a great time to talk to college students – who are home on summer break – about their experiences.
  • Take a class or workshop – Keep your developing skills sharp over the summer so you’re ready to get back to work when school starts. This is also a wonderful way to meet new people and build your personal theatre community.
  • Go see theatre – You’re at a very exciting and impressionable time in your development as a musical theatre artist. You need to see everything you can and begin developing your personal taste for theatre. There’s not a single theatre production you see that won’t teach you something – even the worst show. Get out there and be an active participant as an audience member.

Whatever age you are, the summer is a perfect time to leisurely prepare yourself for a successful year ahead!

Check out our new book “Mastering College Musical Theatre Auditions: Sound Advice for the Student, Teacher, and Parent” now available on Amazon.

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