People act out here.
The Knox College Theatre Department is a growing and enriched program full of stuff to do from acting, to building, to managing, to sitting around the theatre office talking to the secretary and Doc Bob, or stumbling by Craig's and Liz's office for a lot longer than you intended to for pleasant conversation. There are number of oppurtunities in the department and they aren't all acting.
The Scene Shop is where the tools live that build the stuff that goes up on the stage. This shop is run by Craig Choma who also teaches Intro to Tech and the lighting and scenic design classes. Employees here have a great time screwing for three hours until they just can't screw anymore. No really. They're paid to do that. Volunteers are always welcome in the scene shop to help do anything and everything. Be advised, if you volunteer, you will be put to work and it might not be pretty, but it will possibly get you a job if you prove yourself a hard worker to Craig.
The Costume Shop is where we clothe the people we put on stage. This shop is run by the beautiful and fun Margo Shively who also teaches the costume design class. Employees here do everything from organization, to fittings, sewing, making patterns, etc. They also do a lot of the affectionately termed "stitch n' bitch" not to be confused with the club of the same name. They talk while they work and gossip and all that, but it's a really good time. Again, volunteers are always welcome and if you prove yourself to Margo and her assistants, you might be able to get a job and be paid for sittin' and sewing.
Studio Theatre is our own little black box theatre that is entirely student run. Load-ins are Sundays at 1 and there is a big Studio strike at the end of the term. This is where students get to experiment with design, directing, acting, and managing with critiques from their faculty and peers at the end of the term. It's also where friendships are born and forged through late night paint calls and light hangs.
The mainstage show is the creme de la creme of the theatre term. Faculty trade off who directs each term. Students are welcome to assistant direct and design if they get to the director and designers fast enough and if they, of course, approve. This is also the biggest chance for acting students to have a real learning experience while doing something they hopefully love because most of the faculty see directing the mainstage show as an opportunity to fine tune their acting students' talents.
The Theatre Office is in the lobby of CFA and currently houses Doc Bob, Neil Blackadder, and Visiting Professor Kelly Hogan. The current secretary of the office is Eden Newmark and she's generally willing to kill some of her o so busy time working by talking about the theatre goings-on. There are nice cushy chairs in here under the call board so lurking is something that is not only possible but expected. Liz Metz and Craig Choma also stop by from time to time as the microwave is also in the theatre office. Otherwise their offices are just a few doors down. This is the main hub of Theatre Department as you can catch everyone coming and going from its convienent location in sight lines of the CFA entrance. Because it's also the call board where studio rehearsal schedules, cast lists, and information about shows and alums are. If you didn't hear it in the Costume or Scene Shop, you probably heard it in the theatre office as that is generally it's originating point.
The Green Room is another fabulous place to lurk in the theatre department and most often ends up getting you sucked into the costume shop as the favorite couch is situated outside the Costume Shop door. This place is suitable for naps, talking, running lines, read-thrus, and an all around good time. They are also rumored to be used for flask fridays but this has not been confirmed by the participants of theatre department as it is quite underground. Rest assured if you want to kill an hour, you'll be able to no problem.
BE AWARE: CFA has the same effect that created the term SMC rat, for science students, but without a name. You will get stuck in CFA if you committ to theatre or music. You will spend way more time in it than most people think is necessary. And you will, for some reason, feel compelled to visit it when you have nothing to do because there is inevitably someone, usually a group of someones, who have the same problem and will be more than happy to talk about things with you on the CFA patio because they don't know what to do with their time away from CFA either.
Aside from all that though, the Theatre Department is the best place for those seeking to make friends and do something they love and want to learn more about. It's one of the only departments that can really say that it has a rich co-curricular atmosphere as the co-curriculum is just as important as the curriculum. We work hard but we always have a good time.
- Neil Blackadder Department Chair, Associate Professor
- Elizabeth Carlin-Metz, Associate Professor
- Craig Choma, Associate Professor. Scene Shop Supervisor.
- Margo Shively, Instructor in Costume and Make-up Design. Costume Shop Supervisor.
- Kelly Lynn Hogan, Visiting Instructor of Acting
- Kathleen Ridlon, Lecturer and Artist-in-Residence
- Jennifer Smith, Assistant Professor
- Robert Whitlatch Robert A. and Katherine M. Seeley Distinguished Service Professor (Retired June 2008)
Cooperating Faculty from Other Programs
See department page
Auditions at Knox College are similar to professional auditions and sometimes coming in from a high school environment, you aren’t exactly sure what to do. This is a different environment all together with generally a bunch of actors who are older and have been around each other longer. It’s very similar, most likely to the sense of community you felt in high school, walking into an audition where you knew everybody. Only now you’re on the other end. They can be very intimidating but I promise that the theatre department, as a whole, are wonderful, kind people who are inclusive and warm and want to get to know you.
However, since you are coming into this cold, here are some things that you might want to keep in mind at auditions, mainstage or otherwise.
-Do try to read the read the play you are auditioning for. There isn’t always time but if you don’t get a chance to read it in full, at least look it up online for a synopsis. It’s one thing to walk into an audition and do a cold reading, it’s another coming in not knowing anything about the play or characters and then doing a cold reading.
-Do ask questions of the director if you have them. It’s better to ask for clarification of a moment or even a specific question about a character than just assume you get it. The directors have emails as well, so if you have a question that you want clarified before auditions don’t feel afraid to send it to them. Believe me, they will be happy that someone is so interested in the play that they have questions.
-Do keep in mind that you have not spent months with the script analyzing it and going over every word fifty billion times by the time of auditions. Your director has.
-Do show up on time, early if you can. If an audition time reads 4:00 – 6:00, for example, that means that the audition starts at 4:00 not five after 4. Showing up late can really turn your director and stage manager off immediately. Also keep in mind that you will need to fill out an audition card and warm up, so compute that time into when you will arrive.
-Do remember that the audition is almost an interview and begins as soon as you are in front of the director. That means that any observation of rudeness to other auditionees or general unpleasantness will get noticed. Think of it in terms of auditioning the entire time you are in the room. While you may not be reading, your director is also auditioning you to see how well you interact with others. This does not mean that you have to talk to everyone, but it does mean maintaining a certain amount of professionalism. And, the director, while not always there, has other means of knowing if you are rude to others. Her stage manager, friends/students who are watching, friends/students who are auditioning, all are more trustworthy than the new student.
-Do move while you’re reading. This is a big mistake a lot of cold readings produce. You have two people in a scene that have come up to do a cold reading, perhaps only running it once out in the hall. They get up there and then stand three-quarters just gesturing the whole time. This is not interesting. MOVE! If the director has done their job, they will have sides that have depth and inner cues of movement. This does not mean to keep walking or pacing the entire time (unless it’s a waiting room or something) but what it does mean is that you should be aware of places in the text that call for movement. (This is easily done if you think of the side in terms of attack and retreat.)
-Do be aware of levels on the stage and vocal range you are presenting. It’s not the most important thing to try to perfect during auditions cause it will drive you crazy, but it’s something you will start to learn during you’re beginning acting class.
-Keep in mind that while it’s good to ask questions, make sure you aren’t just trying to sound smart and all knowing by asking a leading question, or try to get into a debate about the character or moment with the director because you see it differently. This is not the time. If you get cast, you and the director can debate that till next Sunday.
-Don’t get snippy if the director asks you to do something differently while you read. It’s not necessarily a bad thing. It could be because they’ve just seen something interesting and they want to see how far they can push you with it in audition. This is also a good gauge of how easy you will be to work with. Getting snippy does nothing but prove that while you may be a good actor, you will not be an enjoyable person to have around and may not take direction well.
-Don’t wear bulky clothes that you can’t move in. I don’t know how many times I’ve seen people get up in front of directors with huge coats or bulky sweatshirts that completely conceal their body and also make it hard to see how their body moves. If it’s particularly cold outside, just make sure that you take off all of those layers before auditioning. Again this seems like common sense, but I can remember several actors not thinking of it as they are about to get on stage and then have to be stopped by the director to take it off.
-Don’t go in acting as if you are God’s gift to theatre and that your ideas must and will be listened to by everyone. I have sat in at auditions before where actors literally come in analyzing the script and people’s performances and then bragged about the amount of experience they’ve had to the director. This is not impressive and is actually quite rude and obnoxious. You won’t impress anyone with that but will most likely turn your scene partners and director off.
-Don’t come into auditions in a bad mood. This sounds like common sense, as I’m sure a lot of this does, but you’d be surprised how many times this has happened and cost talented actors their shot at the show.
-Don’t panic about performance values in a cold reading. A director is looking for actors who make choices. So it’s okay if you stumble over a few words or take a minute to find your place. This happens. Don’t worry. Just try to think of ways of conveying the text that shows you are trying, even at the surface level, to analyze the character through actions.
-Don’t pressure your scene partner to do the cold reading “your way.” This is an audition for both of you and while you may think you are being helpful, don’t push your scene partner to say a line a particular way or critique their acting while the director’s not looking. There’s a fine line between being helpful and being obnoxious. And what you may be doing is making them more nervous because you’re telling them all the things they are doing wrong. If you feel the temptation to “correct” your partner, try and think of something that you could do better instead.
-Don’t get bent out of shape if you aren’t cast in the first shows you audition for. There has been a trend over the past two years for first year students to take casting very personally and then accuse the directors of being biased or unfair and usually this is right in front of the call board where everyone can hear. Coming out of high school, you will not be a brilliant actor. Coming out senior year of college people still aren’t Oscar-worthy brilliant. The truth of the matter is that sometimes first years don’t get cast but had a really good audition. You have a few ways to deal with this
1) keep auditioning until all the cast lists are up
2) if you don’t get cast at all fall term, volunteer to do other theatre related things so that people will get to know you
3) you can also ask the director if there was anything in particular about the audition that you could have done better. I personally think this is the best way to deal with not being cast as long as you do it in the right frame of mind. If you want to improve, you will ask and take their responses to heart. If you approach it from an accusatory place you will have effectively turned off your director and everyone they know because EVERYONE WILL TALK ABOUT IT.
4) just be moody and blame the director and their biases for not casting you. This is of course not the way one should deal with it, but it’s been the way a lot of first years have acted in the past. The truth is, I guarantee that your director has a very good reason for not casting you and it’s not personal. It mostly comes from not taking any acting classes, but it doesn’t mean you’re horrible. It means that you need a little more training than the director is willing to give in the limited amount of time it takes to put up their show. And then there are people who are brilliant but didn’t really fit into any of the roles. When this happens, it’s sad, but if you handle it well, people will talk about you in a very good way and look forward to seeing you at their audition the next term.
-Above all, try and loosen up and have fun. Shows are fun. Meeting people is fun. Learning from your peers is an amazing experience.
Theatre Student Problems
When you're delivering a house manager's speech and Liz Metz is watching you, and all you can think of is her thinking: "I should do that next time, I'd be so much better at it."