Tag: student

The Audition Process – One View

An audition might well land a student on stage. Too often when looking for a part in a play, a student might focus far too much on the role and not the director’s prerogative. Any director would be willing to say their goal is always to cast someone. In fact, there is a truth that a director would like to give every individual an opportunity, but cannot always achieve that ideal. The student needs to understand the final cut is most often not about them personally, it is about casting the right person for the role. There are many variables that play into that decision.

I remember one of my first year’s as a director a young woman came in to audition and presented herself as a serious candidate long before she read a monologue or any cold lines. Instead, it was her approach to the process that was far more appealing. That student came into the room and with her paperwork found a quiet space to await her opportunity. During the afternoon, I observed her remaining alone just working on her piece, ignoring those around her. It is not that she was anti-social, she was there for a purpose. She wanted to knock her audition out of the park and when she got up for her moment, did exactly that.

Another student came running into the audition late, having just gotten out of soccer practice in uniform and catching her breath. She took a lead role from many people that expected a far different outcome. She was a 9th grader going up against many upperclass peers, but she had the look and attitude I was hoping for with the role.

I think it is very valuable for students to understand the audition process is as important as playing the role on stage. One aspect that can bend the rule is knowing a student’s talent and history from previous productions. That can certainly be an advantage for deciding roles. What the student as a whole needs to understand and accept is that at the end of the day, it is the director or the production team’s final opinion that generally determines received roles. So in that light, sometimes a person’s past performance may not guarantee the role. I have had students with great talent come in to the audition process with a casual flair that clearly indicated their work on their monologue or sixteen bars of music was not well thought out, and presented an air of expectation without effort. That mindset will carry over into the rehearsal process. Only once in my career did a student present a bad audition and receive a lead. That’s a story for another time.

A director is watching all aspects of a student’s approach. Whether they are there to work on their piece as was the case for my first student, or they are simply talented enough to fit or take a chance on the role have big impacts on the process. In the case of the student with the lousy audition, they had prior experience and commitment that indicated their ability to play a role. So if that is the case, then might you ask how do you distinguish from one past history to another? It is simple really.

What I looked for in an audition was often a student’s approach to the visible process. If a student sat in a corner and created a ruckus with their fellow peers then I might question their commitment. I would much rather have a student show up with a focused agenda. That attitude will show the director, the student knows exactly why they are in the room in the first place.

So then, what happens with a last minute audition? The student fit the role. It was a no-brainer to cast a person in a role that seemed fitting to their persona. I once picked a show – a musical – specifically around a person who had tremendous acting skills. She was funny and tragic at the same time. The problem? She could not hold a note musically, and therefore I couldn’t take a chance when the voice took precedent over acting skills in a musical. Ideally, a student auditioning for a musical has acting, singing and dancing skills that all measure at the same level.

The difference sometimes between the student who auditions well and the one that does not contains other variables. The question is how will this student match up with their peers as a focus in the role and production. We have all seen the student who auditions well and then unfortunately can become the “rotten apple in the cart.” As a director that poses us with often difficult decisions.

The ideal of the audition is not only finding the right character or person for a role, but is also measured by the ability the student may show as being a team player. Much like the precedent of a lead character’s ability to rally the team around them, it is the audition that also tells the tale of a student’s commitment and passion for what they wish to bring to a rehearsal process.

Walk into the audition space and be the character, no matter the role. This is a student’s first challenge.


© Thom Amundsen 4/2022

A Teacher’s Lament

I think of my former colleagues today,

~

Walking into a world around me

inexplainable

yet show up we will.

We walk in the classroom,

we hold your student’s lives near our heart.

We will be there waiting for them

the students

the inspiration

the reason no matter the circumstance

outside of our control.

We do show up,

to help your students,

lives will be successful,

despite the arrogance of

Tik Tok

Facebook

Instagrams

the instruments of a society

no longer welcome in the classroom.


© Thom Amundsen 12/2021

First Days

There is a certain pull

a potential

a need to feel

that rotating wheel

of some significance

the quest, we guessed,

in first days

the moment of truth

perhaps

or better suggested

that moment when opportunity

strikes that initial fever pitch

~

Let’s hang on

gonna be a roller coaster

doesn’t mean you’ll fall off

just scare the hell out of you

scare the hell out of you,

unless

of course there’s always that

a choice, a recall, a desire,

passion

to keep those steps

moving forward on these, our

first days.


© Thom Amundsen 9/2021

My Dear Friend, Our Inspiration

IMG_1680
Coffee with Antonio Elias

Ah summertime. It is true. Many times in our lives, as a teacher, we would like to retreat toward that which would make life easier. Perhaps we choose to fall into a string of Netflix series, or our favorite crime show rather than take care of the busy work of maintaining our home, both the physical and mental. I’m guilty of that as I find myself in mid-summer, recognizing only too soon a school year ahead, whereby my focus will be on new students, new projects, new ideals. I feel fortunate that I have moments of clarity that are provided in my world to allow such priority to return.

Not a day ago, I was imagining the coming year, and felt great trepidation, a sometime normal response from a teacher sitting on their deck on a hot summer day watching the birds. The sun finally dropped, and I moved from the natural habitat of a backyard to my home, and turned on a baseball game, watched a Netflix series, flipped on my favorite crime show. Are you following the pattern? The reality is, I was actively trying to ignore the coming school year, knocking at my door as it does every summer right around the end of July. Today is July 27th, such perfect timing to have a coffee with one of my favorite alumni. That young man on my left is a former student who by his own actions  truly helps me and many of my colleagues recognize exactly why we chose our profession as teachers.

Since graduating high school in 2013, I have been fortunate to enjoy a coffee with Antonio at least once, maybe twice a summer. To give you a little background, this gentlemen was an exceptional student in the classroom, earning a modest scholarship to help solidify the start of his post-secondary education. Once out there, he realized a world existed that he needed to adjust to rather than let it mold him. He made difficult choices, took on wonderful challenges and today finds himself reaping the rewards of genuine effort and perseverance in ideal and dream.

When I first met Antonio he was a student in a writing class I had the honor to teach. We over the course of the semester became friends, he shared pieces of his life that were remarkable to me given the current state of our political demographic. I showed a movie in class once, and he later came up to me afterward, and in his polite demeanor, looked at me with a nervous smile and said, ‘Mr Amundsen, this movie, it is about my life.’ I was stunned. What began from that day was an opportunity.

I am grateful this young man was the product of a burgeoning English Learning program at Shakopee High School, whereby he would touch the lives of many over the years to come. I could not speak upon his merits without lauding such an incredible EL team that guided his education along with many other students under their tutelage the entire way.

Fast forward to today, a young man who has given graduation speeches both in our high school, and the University of Minnesota Twin Cities campus, taken on non-profit projects that have only been met with success to together with a partner starting a challenging Spanish language only podcast that supported honest discussions around social justice and education. Currently he holds a position with the largest school district in Minnesota, Minneapolis Public Schools,  that continues to support growth and success in measures that are designed to provide educational and societal benefit to student and family alike.

When I first met Antonio, his main goal was to finish his education so that he could provide for his own family. He wanted to be that person to right the wrongs, or simply engage people’s lives in a positive direction. As we drank coffee today, it was evident in his smile and candor that that work in progress continues forward, as does his own idyllic outlook on life. What a delightful annual conversation with an intriguing and optimistic young man. I continue to be grateful to his willingness to share his life choices, and have an ongoing dialogue together around purpose and philosophy.


© Thom Amundsen 2019

photo permission – Antonio Elias

I Teach While Learning

There is a humbling reality

while we try to understand

how our own brevity

can impact our command

~

Last night I dropped acid

on textbooks in minutia

my anger erupted an acrid

forced freedom in Ischia

~

We can so easily fall away

the choices will fuel martyrdom

I remember that one day,

I felt the earth in my kingdom.

~

but it slipped away as any

ego driven desire will go

I’d forgotten my way many

days before I’d begun to know.

~

Perhaps I’ll settle in the knowledge

We can bring them in off the ledge.

Why Do We Teach?

We measure our lives for the children,

whether we advocate

whether we understand

whether we accept

whether we gratify

whether we acknowledge

our own defeatist frame of mind

while trying to change lives along the way.

~

I faced an obstacle today, one that turned out

represented a state of mind,

a clear example of the human condition,

the reason I stand in a classroom everyday.

~

I watched as stubborn pride evolved into humility,

I listened as pain turned slowly toward humor,

even a chuckle that powdered the room,

an energy suggested we can return again,

to where it is we once stood,

that place we felt secure,

an opportunity,

a new door, that when respect

steps through with confidence,

becomes the road forward.

~

I faced an obstacle today, one that turned out

represented a state of mind,

a clear example of the human condition,

the reason I stand in a classroom everyday.

~

Could we step back and breathe,

might our lives find solace,

once the dust becomes an afterthought,

the cleansing has begun,

we might see truth

beyond our own selfish arrogance

lies in the eyes,

those are the needs of a teacher.

When will you … begin to teach

Recognize my value as I walk past you.
Each morning moving towards my class
We cross paths like a silent movie venue.
Me, eyes closed with smile like breaking glass.

Afraid to engage you for fear of ridicule,
Always watching over my lonely shoulder
Wishing people might see me less a fool
More genuine; realizing everyone there

Is deserving of your attention, your model
Of direction, of delight, of dignified character.
Some sort of guarantee that you’re, that, well
Person whom we can rely upon to be where

We need your support, not simply in a room
With desks and posters, and mantras that inspire
Us to learn and grasp the standard you groom.
But also to walk with us and know we will aspire

To greater dreams than the droll of fearful walkways,
To prove our lives are important too in so many ways.