Updated Sept. 10, 2019 at 10:19 p.m.
You might dream of making your debut on Saturday Night Live, like Kate McKinnon, CC ’06. Maybe you’re ready for your silver screen close-up, like Maggie Gyllenhaal, CC ’98. Broadway or the New York City Ballet might be calling your name, or perhaps you have multi-hyphenate Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, Tony (EGOT) ambitions like onetime Columbia student Richard Rodgers, CC 1923 (with due credit to his longtime collaborator, Oscar Hammerstein, CC 1916). In any case, you’re in luck: Columbia is a great place to kick off your performing arts career in a city known for its vibrant cultural scene.
Impressive alumni rosters aside, the high-powered student groups here make a persuasive argument for Columbia’s status as a performing arts hotbed. From Shakespeare to musical theater, a cappella to comedy, dance to orchestra, and everything in between—there’s something for everyone who thrives in front of an audience. Find the group that’s right for you, and you’ll see firsthand why Columbia is such a special place to get onstage.
To help you out, we’ve compiled information on auditions for a variety of student groups and productions for this semester. Most of these auditions are happening this week, so drink your Throat Coat, take your Vitamin C, and get your vocal cords humming and toes tapping. Keep in mind that this is not a comprehensive list—many groups have yet to post their audition information, so keep your eye on those bulletin boards and Facebook pages in the coming weeks.
When and where: Auditions for most theater groups will take place from Sept. 3-5 from 8-11 p.m. in Hamilton Hall, unless otherwise noted.
Barnard Department of Theatre
The department is putting on two productions this fall: a pair of one-acts by Adrienne Kennedy (“Funnyhouse of a Negro” and “A Movie Star Has to Star in Black and White”), and the adventure tale “Men on Boats” by Jaclyn Backhaus.
The timeline for these auditions is different from the rest of the theater opportunities on campus. First, there is an informational meeting at 6 p.m. on Tuesday, Sept. 3 that all auditioners should attend. Then, auditions will take place on Sept. 3 from 6:30-9 p.m. and Wednesday, Sept. 4 from 6-8 p.m. in the Minor Latham Playhouse (Milbank Hall 118, Barnard campus). The department asks that auditioners prepare a one-minute monologue, preferably memorized.
Black Theatre Ensemble (BTE)
BTE is producing “Milk Like Sugar” by Kirsten Greenidge, a play acclaimed for its witty dialogue and that centers around a life-changing promise forged at a 16th birthday party. This is the only other production on this list of theater productions with a different timeline. Auditions will be held next week, but exact locations and times are TBD, so keep an eye out!
Columbia Musical Theatre Society (CMTS)
CMTS is holding auditions for two productions: “Pippin”, which features a mysterious performance troupe and a young prince’s quest to find meaning in his life, and “Legally Blonde,” the iconic story of pink-clad sorority girl Elle Woods. They ask that you prepare 90 seconds or 32 bars of a song, ideally in the style of the show. You will read from a side provided in the audition room. Do not prepare a monologue.
Columbia University Players (CUP)
CUP is looking for actors for two plays: a female-centered, modern reimagining of Anton Chekov’s "The Seagull,” and “The Effect of Gamma Rays on Man-in-the-Moon Marigolds,” a Pulitzer Prize-winning work that centers around a dysfunctional family and the quest for science.
There is no need to prepare anything; sides will be provided. To view sides for “The Seagull” in advance, click here. For “Gamma Rays,” CUP recommends reading the play before you audition. Click here to read the play for free.
King’s Crown Shakespeare Troupe (KCST)
For a dose of Shakespeare and classical theater, look no further than KCST. The troupe is holding auditions for “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” and “The Bacchae 2.1”, a modern, avant-garde adaptation of Euripides’ classic “Bacchae” by Columbia School of the Arts professor Charles Mee, which will center queer and trans artists and artists of color.
For “Midsummer,” there’s no need to prepare a monologue. Sides will be provided in the audition room for you to work on when you arrive. KCST is also hosting an audition workshop to discuss the play and work on the sides from 7-8 p.m. on each day of auditions. The workshop will be held on the sixth floor of the Northwest Corner Building. Attendance is encouraged but not required.
For “The Bacchae 2.1,” there is once again no need to prepare anything. There will be selections of texts from the show available to read in the audition room. KCST also invites you, if you’re comfortable, to share something that you can’t demonstrate in your reading of the texts. This could be doing a short dance, speaking in a different language, sharing a piece of art you’ve recently created, or whatever you feel best showcases your artistic abilities and your personality.
New and Original Material Authored and Directed by Students (NOMADS)
NOMADS is seeking actors for its production of “Linguistic Features of AAVE,” written by Kay Kemp, CC ’22. This new one-act play “examines the intersections of language, power, and perception.”
To audition, there is no need to prepare anything. Short sides will be provided. You may also audition with a one-minute contemporary monologue of your choosing.
“XMAS!” is Columbia’s annual student-written secular spectacular, now in its 14th year. With a tagline of “XMAS is for everyone!”, “XMAS!” encourages actors of all skill levels and varying experience to audition. The creative team asks that you prepare one holiday song, from any holiday and in any language.
A cappella groups
When and where: Auditions for most a cappella groups will take place from Sept. 3-5 from 8-11 p.m. in Hamilton Hall, unless otherwise noted below. Most groups are looking for a song (usually just a verse and chorus) that showcases your voice and matches the style of the group. Here’s a list of some of Columbia’s a cappella groups:Barnard Bacchantae (all-female group) Clefhangers (co-ed group) Jubilation! (Christian co-ed group) Kingsmen (all-male group) Pizmon (Jewish co-ed group). Note that auditions will take place from 6-7:30 p.m. and 8-11 p.m. on Sept. 3 and 4. Metrotones (all-female group) Nonsequitur (co-ed group) Notes and Keys (co-ed group). Add your name to their interest form at SingWithNak.com. SHARP (all-male group) Sur (South Asian fusion co-ed group) Uptown Vocal (jazz co-ed group)
Other music groups
Columbia Bach Society
Bach Society is looking for vocalists, orchestral instrumentalists, and pianists to perform a repertoire that extends beyond Bach to Beethoven, Mahler, and more. The group is holding auditions on Saturday, Sept. 7 from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. in Dodge 620 and on Sunday, Sept. 8 from 12-5 p.m. in Dodge 622.
New Opera Workshop (NOW)
Columbia’s opera performance group is putting together a program that features music by composers including Monteverdi, Mozart, and Meredith Monk. NOW is looking for singers of all voice types, with or without prior opera experience.
The group is holding auditions in Dodge 404 on Thursday, Sept. 5 from 7:30-9 p.m., Friday, Sept. 6 from 7-9 p.m., and Saturday, Sept. 7 from 2-5 p.m. To audition, NOW asks that you prepare one aria or art song in any language. A piano accompanist will be provided. If you’re a pianist or orchestral instrumentalist, audition with a piece that showcases your skills, and be prepared to sight-read upon request. Sign up to audition here.
Columbia University Wind Ensemble (CUWE)
In charge of hosting the Columbia Festival of Winds each spring, CUWE is holding auditions in Lerner 572 on Saturday, Sept. 14 from 3:30-5:30 p.m. and Sunday, Sept. 15 from 3:20-5:30 p.m. Check out the three components of the audition here.
Columbia Ballet Collaborative (CBC)
CBC is seeking dancers for performances that include works by both student and professional choreographers. Auditions will be held on Saturday, Sept. 7 from 2:30-5:30 p.m. in Studio 1 in the basement of Barnard Hall. Registration will begin at 2 p.m. The audition will consist of a ballet class followed by pointe work and choreography. Although the pointe portion will be optional, CBC asks that you bring pointe shoes if you wish to be considered for pieces on pointe.
Columbia University Ballet Ensemble (CUBE)
CUBE is holding auditions for its fall production, “Le Corsaire.” Auditions will be held on Sunday, Sept. 8 in Studio 1 in the basement of Barnard Hall. Registration begins at 12:30 p.m., and the audition is from 1-4 p.m. There will be a make-up audition on Monday, Sept. 9 from 7-9 p.m. in Streng Dance Studio. All levels of experience are welcome and all will be cast.
Columbia Repertory Ballet (CRB)
CRB’s fall 2019 season includes excerpts from “The Nutcracker” and “The Sleeping Beauty.” Auditions are on Sunday, Sept. 8. Registration will begin at 6:30 p.m., and the audition will take place from 7-9 p.m. The audition will consist of a short ballet class, followed by a men's combination and pointe work for women who are interested. CRB notes that women do not need to dance en pointe to be cast in the contemporary works on the program.
Auditions for this all-inclusive dance group, which features a variety of styles ranging from contemporary to hip-hop to ballet, will be held over three sessions: Saturday, Sept. 7 from 9-11 a.m. and 12-2 p.m. and Sunday, Sept. 8 from 9-11 a.m. All sessions will be held in Studio 1 in the basement of Barnard Hall. All who audition will be cast in a piece. Orchesis asks that you come dressed and ready to move—wear dance shoes, socks, go barefoot, or simply wear whatever makes you feel comfortable.
This nationally competitive South Asian dance team is holding auditions on Saturday, Sept. 21 from 1:30-6:30 p.m. and Sunday, Sept. 22 from 1-5 p.m. Look out for further information on the audition location and how to prepare.
Columbia’s first Latino dance troupe is holding auditions on Tuesday, Sept. 10 at 9:30 p.m. in the Broadway Room in Lerner Hall. Sabor asks that you wear comfortable clothing and fill out their audition application here.
A team that performs traditional Punjabi dance with a contemporary twist, CU Bhangra is hosting auditions on Saturday, Sept. 21 from 1-6pm and on Sunday, Sept. 22 from 1-5pm in Lerner Party Space. No prior dance experience is necessary.
Fruit Paunch is Columbia’s oldest improv group. Auditions are on Wednesday, Sept. 11 from 10 p.m.-12 a.m. and Thursday, Sept. 12 from 8-10 p.m. in Hamilton Hall.
Known for its annual Spare Tires Improv Festival, co-ed improv group Third Wheel is holding auditions from Tuesday, Sept. 10 to Thursday, Sept. 12 from 8-10p.m. each night in Hamilton.
A little advice before you step into the audition room: Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there and have confidence in your abilities. You’re here for a reason. Nerves are okay—everyone behind that audition table knows what it’s like to be in your shoes. Remember to keep an open mind about different groups and productions. And there is definitely a place for you in the Columbia performing arts community here—you just have to find it.