Senior theater students are preparing for what most with drama interests dream of: the chance to audition in New York City.
Every spring, the theater department takes a select group of students to the New York City Showcase, where they participate in a rigorous week of auditions and workshops to spring their careers forward.
Matthew Nesmith, associate professor of theatre at USD, brought the program to USD and helps students prepare for the trip.
“We spend a week in New York after months of preparing for auditions and workshops. We audition for agents and talent scouts,” Nesmith said.
Auditions include Broadway shows, cruise lines, voice-overs and film productions. Students prepare an audition portfolio filled with their best repertoire of songs and monologues. Since this is a rigorous program, senior students must apply to participate in the showcase.
The department is taking ten students this year, one of their largest groups in the nine years since the first trip.
Senior performance major Jackson Whitaker said the NYC showcase was one of the things that drew him to USD.
“One of the reasons I chose to come to USD was because we had the opportunity to perform in the showcase at the end of our senior year. I decided to apply for the showcase because NYC is a place that I hope to start my career as an actor,” Whitaker said.
Once accepted into the program, students partake in classes that introduce them to the real market of auditioning. In those classes, students learn how to market themselves and balance finances in New York.
Nesmith said the trip has proven to be one that produces success for those that participate.
“Every year we have had students get one and more often than not multiple callbacks,” Nesmith said.
Multiple USD alumni are Broadways show or television program. Ebrin Stanley, a 2017 graduate, is currently performing in Chicago in Hamilton and 2012 graduate Cody Strand is in The Book of Mormon on Broadway.
The success of the trip is a catalyst for students to participate in it, said Brett Ries is a senior political science and criminal justice major with a minor in theater who is attending the trip in the spring. Ries attributes his interest in the program to its past success.
“The New York trip could open up significant doors for me,” Ries said. “It will also give me some insight into what it is like auditioning in New York and trying to get roles, agents, or gigs, which will help me determine whether or not I want to move to New York upon graduating.”
The ten students are holding a GoFundMe fundraiser, applying for grants and holding performance fundraisers in the spring. The theater department funds part of the trips, but the cost depends on how much money s
Both Whitaker and Ries said they feel ready for the challenge ahead and are excited for the opportunities it presents.
“I am excited for New York City and I am especially excited that I get to experience the showcase with my friends that I have met over the past four years,” Ries said. “We will all be supporting each other as we take a big step toward establishing a future for ourselves.”