The sound of vocal warm ups pierce the silence, and the ground shakes as people rush to get breakfast and prepare for dance calls. I roll over in bed and groggily check the time on my phone. 8:00 a.m. Unifieds have officially begun.
National Unified Auditions is the place to go to if you are interested in pursuing musical theatre, straight acting, voiceover work, dancing, or really any other performing arts career. According to the College Audition Blog, “The Unified Auditions allow students to audition for numerous university programs in one location over the course of a few days. This saves the student time and money and also allows the university to hear a wider range of students than they otherwise may see on campus.” There are three different locations for Unified’s: New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago. So I, along with my wonderful mom, Heather Laskin, journeyed to Chicago, Illinois on a recent weekend.
The auditions took place inside the Palmer Hotel, an enormous 23-story hotel in downtown Chicago. The first eight floors entirely comprise conference rooms, each school is assigned a conference room, and all auditionees travel from floor to floor to audition for different schools. Life Pro Tip: If you are considering auditioning at Unifieds, DO NOT wait until ten minutes before your audition time to start getting to your audition. It can take up to 20 minutes for you to get onto an elevator, and even longer to reach your designated location.
Any audition can be a nerve-wracking and stressful situation. You are surrounded by people singing, stretching, muttering lines under their breath, or just sitting in a corner trying to focus. Personally, I have done every single one of those activities at some point during auditions. I have also been one of those people waking up their hotel neighbors with vocal warmups at 7:30 a.m. However, regardless of how each person prepares, you then have to go into the audition and perform for people whom you have never met. In the case of Unifieds, these auditions have the potential to determine the next four years of your life.
Before going to Unifieds, I was incredibly nervous. I had heard horror stories about how people would purposely tell you incorrect room numbers so that you miss your audition, and even stories of how mothers would steal kids’ audition binders when they were left out in the open. I also assumed that since there were going to be so many people, everyone would be unfriendly and competitive. I mentally prepared myself to be on constant alert in a high-intensity environment. I was braced for the worst.
However, as soon as I stepped onto the elevator crammed full of kids, my fears were immediately alleviated. Everyone was just as nervous as I was and would offer compliments and support to each other as we traveled to our designated floors. I also met several kids who would go out of their way to boost other people’s self-esteem and confidence right before their audition. (After all, we are all in the same stressful situation! Why not make someone’s day a little brighter?) I can also report that I left my song binder outside of an audition room, and not only was it in the same exact spot when I emerged 15 minutes later, but not a single thing had been stolen or moved out of place. Sure, there were a lot of kids in one building, but it was also reassuring to see and meet other people who have been going through the insane process of college auditions.
Luckily for me, I knew several people at Chicago Unifieds. When asked about his experience, Michael Warker (‘17) stated, “My stress was out the wazoo most of the time, but luckily everyone that I met was extremely kind and seemed to genuinely want everyone else to succeed. It was a terrifying experience simply because my future was being decided in anywhere from four to fifteen minute chunks of time, but Unifieds also reminded me of the many reasons I love what I do.” In addition, Drake Cunningham, a friend I had met at Destination Broadway, a musical theatre camp in New York City, stated, “Chicago Unifieds was a fantastic opportunity that definitely broadened my horizons and introduced me to new people that I know will make great connections in the professional world.”
I would highly recommend Unifieds for any student wanting to pursue a career in the performing arts. It certainly was stressful at times, but it also gave me insight and empathy into the entire college process. I met so many kind people, all whom had similar interests to me, and who were rooting not just for their success, but mine as well. Unifieds allowed me to audition for several schools and save money on traveling expenses while also giving me time to explore a new city, learn from my different audition experiences, and grow as a performer.
Featured image: Olivia Laskin.