Audition with Theatre Arts Training for The Laramie Project

In the summer and fall, Theatre Arts Training’s most advanced performers take the stage in audition-based, intensive programs that give students in grades 9-12 demanding material that challenges them as artists, educates them in a professional setting, and inspires them to be active voices in their community. This fall, Senior Company tackles The Laramie Project by Moises Kaufman, a play which asks both actor and audience to examine their ideas and opinions about community, identity, and acceptance.

The Laramie Project is the story of the 1998 murder of Matthew Shepard, who was killed in Laramie, WY because he was gay. Shortly after the crime, members of Tectonic Theatre Project, led by Moises Kaufman, arrived and began interviewing local residents. The result is a collection of transcribed real responses from a traumatized community.

“I’m excited to push these young actors to find an honest and empathetic representation to every character – the ones they align with and the ones they do not,” said Ellie McKay, Director of Theatre Arts Training. “Each actor will play a variety of characters – speaking the real words of real people living through community crisis – and confront and explore several different political and social viewpoints.”

Auditions take place Thursday, September 10th from 4:30-6:30pm and Tuesday, September 15th from 4:30-6:30pm. Please prepare a one-minute memorized monologue from a play. Sign up for auditions here.

We spoke with high schooler Atlee Jensen about her experience with Theatre Arts Training. She recently performed in the Senior Intensive, Spring Awakening. Atlee is an understudy in Akeelah and the Bee, and was a student actor in the 2012 and 2014 productions of Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas

CTC: How did you hear about TAT’s Senior Intensives?
ATLEE JENSEN: After performing my first show with CTC in 2012, I decided I wanted to get involved with their educational program, Theatre Arts Training. This would allow me to do some of my favorite things: to be immersed in theatre and to hang out with a bunch of adorable kids! One day, as I was walking through the TAT office, I saw the script for bare: a pop opera. It was one of my new favorite shows at the time and so I wanted to know if I could get involved. I did my research which led me to information about the Senior Intensive that TAT offers to high school students. Luckily, auditions were right around the corner and so I prepared something really quick, auditioned, and was cast.

CTC: What made you want to audition?
AJ: I was drawn to the senior intensive due to the challenging material they were offering and continue to offer to teenagers. Much like the themes from Spring Awakening, teenagers are at an awkward point in their life: they’re not children anymore, but they’re not yet adults. This becomes difficult when our high schools pick shows they deem suitable for us. Let’s face it: as young adults, we often don’t identify with the content of the characters and the shows chosen by our high schools. It’s hard to fully grasp the problems that a 40 year old character faces when you haven’t even gotten your driver’s license. Yes, that’s why it’s called ACTING, but it’s hard not being able to tell YOUR story; what problems YOU’RE facing and how they make YOU feel. That is why I come back to the Senior Intensive every year. I want to tell my story with my peers and I want to be challenged not only as a performer, but also as a person.

CTC: What is the audition process like?
AJ: Auditioning is scary in general. It’s really hard as an actor, especially a young actor, to get up in front of professional adults and allow yourself to be open and vulnerable, but auditioning for TAT is such a different experience. The circumstances are the same, but the atmosphere is so welcoming and safe. You come in and sing a small portion from a song of your choosing, learn some amazing chorography, and chat a little with the artistic team. I remember after I auditioned for bare, I told myself that even if I didn’t get in, I was glad I came that day because I learned so much from watching my peers take risks and listening to the artistic team talk about their passion for theatre. That’s why I always encourage myself and others to audition. No matter the outcome, you gain experience every time you step into an audition room and it makes the next time that much easier.

CTC: How is an intensive at TAT different or similar to a production at your high school?
AJ: I attend Saint Paul Conservatory for Performing Artists (SPCPA), which is a little different than a normal public high school. Instead of a season of shows, we have a thing called J-Term, which is when we are cast in one of the 20 different productions available. We’re directed by a professional artist, we’re in rehearsals for three weeks and then we perform at a professional venue in the Twin Cities. Fortunately, that is almost the definition of the Senior Intensive! You have 1/3 of your summer to learn and work with amazing professional artists on a show you identify with and then you get to show off all your hard work on a professional stage.

CTC: What is the rehearsal process like? How do you like to work with your fellow actors?
AJ: The rehearsal process is intense. Since you have such a short amount of time, the pace is quick and the expectations are high, but that’s something I enjoy. As an actor in the Senior Intensive, the artistic staff has professional standards and believes that every single one of us is capable of meeting those. They push you and sometimes it’s hard, but they help you through whatever hurdle comes your way. You learn every day from not only the adults, but your peers. Through the discussions you have about the piece, your scene work, or just observing them as they explore their part in the show – there is never a day I walked out of the rehearsal room and told myself that I hadn’t learned something.

CTC: Would you recommend TAT Senior Intensive/Company to others? Why?
I would recommend the Senior Intensive/Company because:

  • I have learned so much about myself and my art
  • I was excited to wake up and get to rehearsal every day- no matter how early it was
  • I have grown so much confidence from being surrounded by such a safe space and crazy talented people
  • I have met some of my closest friends
  • I have learned that my peers and I are capable of a lot more than we are told we are
  • I look back on these productions and can’t describe how proud I am of the work that we as a cast created

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