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This post is really in response to realKEVPs post in the overdone audition thread about Shakespeare and classical pieces. I started a new thread because I wanted to focus the discussion on the more narrow question about whether or not a student should do a Shakespeare piece or looking elsewhere. I know this topic is perhaps in danger of being overdone but I'm hoping to maybe draw in some new voices especially from alumni or college reps if we have any who can weigh in on this.
realKEVP has been advocating that students should generally look for something other than Shakespeare when required to do a classical piece. I am sure realKEVP will chime in to defend his views :) but I wanted to raise this to a larger group as well. Has anyone heard anything from college sources supporting the view to pick pieces other than Shakespeare where possible? It seems to me that colleges almost go the other way since many of the colleges requiring a classical piece note that they prefer Shakespeare for the piece. At a minimum, it would be mean that a student who picked a non-Shakespeare piece, would have to prepare a Shakespeare piece in addition to a non-Shakespeare piece since it cannot be a good idea to do a non-Shakespeare piece at a college that states a preference for Shakespeare.
In addition, as I understand realKEVPs arguments, the main points appears to be that the person doing the Shakespeare piece is going to be compared to well known actors who performed the piece as well as more applicants. But if a student picks a more obscure piece, the student can be the best at that more obscure piece. I would think an auditor can easily separate what a professional actor can do with a Shakespeare piece versus a student so the exercise is just about comparing the students between themselves. If you happen to do a Shakespeare piece that 10-15 other students do, why is that necessarily a negative? If there is a certain skill set a college is looking to assess by asking for a classical monologue, such as the ability to handle heightened language, maybe it works against the student to do something that makes the comparison difficult? For example, my daughter has previously worked on a monologue from the Country Wife, a restoration play. She'll brush it up to have it on the list of monologues she does if someone wants to hear it but I don't think she will use it as her main classical piece though it would have the advantage of her being likely the only one to do it. Its a very funny piece as well. But its an entirely different class of writing and I think it would make a very difficult comparison with kids who did the standard Shakespeare pieces.
One could argue well why wouldn't the same logic apply to contemporary pieces? Why do people advocate for finding less known pieces for contemporary plays? My guess would be that there is so much contemporary material available that auditors want to see that the student has actually done some real thinking about a piece that fits rather than doing something that everyone knows. If a school says it wants classical, I think it fully expects that the majority of kids are going to do Shakespeare and I don't think that is held against anyone. Yes, the students will be compared with other students doing the same piece but that seems to me the point of the process.
I'm not arguing the opposite. I have talked to people who have done very well with non-Shakespeare pieces. I'm just not at all convinced that a student should shy away from Shakespeare is the correct one when it comes to college auditions. A college is not looking for the one person to play a role like in a professional theater, which is the perspective realKEVP brings. They are looking for many kids -- 8 to 230 or so depending on the school -- who are most qualified. That there may be one or two kids that do the same monologue and do it better is not a guarantee that student will not get in. In fact, the two that do it better may end up choosing entirely different schools or all three might get in. And doing something non-Shakespeare could have some downsides as sell as plusses because it might make the comparisons more difficult. I suspect that is why some schools say prefer or even require Shakespeare as to make the comparisons easier to make.