Inside Theatre and Dance auditions

McKenna Scherer, Features Reporter

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While Winona State University’s theatre and dance department’s debut productions of the 2019-2020 academic year are still weeks away from opening night, the department has already begun preparations with auditions throughout the first week of classes.

Auditions were held Aug. 28 and 29 from 6-8 p.m. in the Robert A. DuFresne Performing Arts Center with a turnout of nearly two dozen students, led by Professor Heather Williams-Williams and Professor James Williams.

Returning students were to audition in front of the entire auditioning group with both a prepared monologue and musical piece. Students new to the audition process, or those who had not prepared a monologue, still had to sing on stage in front of the group and professors with either a song of their choice without piano assistance or “Happy Birthday.” Following these initial snippets, students would then interact onstage in front of the professors.

The auditioning group had a mix of grade-levels and majors, which included sophomore biochemistry major Kaitlin Johnson.

“The talent [at Winona State] is crazy-good,” Johnson said. “The directors are amazing, everyone that works crew is incredible, [and] the people who come support are incredible too.”

The auditions were held for the department’s upcoming fall productions: “Little Shop of Horrors” and “The Wolves.”

“Little Shop of Horrors” has an all-in-fun atmosphere, described by Professor Williams-Williams as “playful and campy,” while “The Wolves” focuses on the many relationships and personalities within an all-female high school soccer team.

“The characters are unique,” Williams-Williams said, “Yet recognizable and very relatable for a college audience.”

While auditions have already been completed, call-backs are the next step in the audition process if necessary, and from there the rigorous rehearsal schedule begins for those who have landed roles.

In the weeks of rehearsal leading up to an opening night of a Winona State production, students and directors  rehearse Monday-Friday from 6-9 p.m., as well as Sunday afternoons.

“Theatre teaches, among other things, self-discipline, time management and communication skills,” Professor Williams-Williams said about the intensive rehearsal schedule.

Professor Williams-Williams is in her eighth year of teaching and directing at Winona State University with a BA in Acting, an MA in theatre, and a PhD in theatre and performance studies.

Alongside the theatre and dance department, both Wenonah Players and Alpha Psi Omega Theatre Honor Society attract many theatre students to the THAD community as well, including third-year theatre arts major Rachel Maron.

“Theatre has always been an extremely welcoming environment growing up, and this department is no exception,” Maron said. “I have met some of my closest friends and biggest cheerleaders through my experiences in WSU theatre.”

Maron continued to encourage any other students with interests in the arts to join the community provided at Winona State, expanding on all of the clubs, relationships and opportunities that await within the program.

“I am truly grateful for [theatre] and don’t know what I would do without this platform,” Maron concluded.

Even within the first round of productions for the 2019-2020 year, first-year students already were aware of and putting themselves into the mix of auditionees, including first-year music major Katie Aldred.

“I wanted to keep performing in college because I’ve really only ever felt completely comfortable once I hit the stage,” Aldred said of her motivations to join the theatre community on campus. “My anxiety just dissipates.”

Aldred expanded further, explaining how the theater communities she’s been a part of have been very low-drama and create close friendships. Having started classes during the week of auditions as well, Aldred added that she had also enjoyed her music and arts classes thus far.

“The students involved in the WSU Theatre and Dance productions really develop into a family,” Williams-Williams said. “They also have a lot of fun in the process!”