The Musical Theater Common Prescreen: Criteria & Tips
It’s no secret that the musical theater audition process can be daunting and time consuming, especially for aspiring artists at the college level. That’s why Acceptd has teamed up with Paper Mill Playhouse and leading college musical theater programs to make it easier for artists to navigate this process.
The result of our collaboration is the College Musical Theater Common Prescreen (MTCP), and in this short guide, we’ll give you everything you need to know about it, whether you’re an aspiring artist or a program director. Specifically, we’ll cover:
The Musical Theater Common Prescreen: FAQs
MTCP Criteria and Tips: 2022-2023 Audition Cycle
Using the information in this guide, you can streamline your program’s audition process or submit an application that will truly help you stand out from the crowd.
The Musical Theater Common Prescreen: FAQs
Perhaps you’re a college student interested in a musical theater degree, or the director of a university or college-level theater program or conservatory. You may have heard of the Musical Theater Common Prescreen (MTCP) before but wonder what it is and why it matters. In this section, we’ll answer some frequently asked questions about the MTCP so you have a thorough understanding of how the prescreen can benefit you or your institution.
What is the Musical Theater Common Prescreen?
The Musical Theater Common Prescreen, or MTCP, is an agreed-upon set of criteria used for the videos that are required as part of the application process to musical theater programs. Participating institutions settled on given guidelines to initiate a streamlined process for both applicants and schools, as well as to promote inclusivity in the admittance process.
What Institutions are Participating in the 2022-2023 Musical Theater Common Prescreen?
To view a full list of participating institutions (updated weekly) visit the official Musical Theater Prescreen page.
Who created the Musical Theater Common Prescreen?
Stephen Agosto, the former Senior Manager of Artistic Engagement at Paper Mill Playhouse, collaborated with several university musical theater programs and online arts platforms to create the MTCP. Agosto, an arts educator, was inspired to lead the charge on the Common Prescreen after observing how overwhelming and exclusive the audition process can be.
Who can participate in the Musical Theater Common Prescreen?
Any institution that requires a digital prescreening for applicants may participate in the Musical Theater Common Prescreen. This includes universities, colleges, conservatories (domestic and international), independent schools of theater, and theater education programs.
Do institutions need to utilize an online media platform such as Acceptd or Slate to be part of this initiative?
No. Participation is voluntary, and the Musical Theater Common Prescreen is not dependent on affiliation with any organization. The Musical Theater Common Prescreen is not a centralized online platform. Instead, it is a set of guidelines applied to a program’s existing application process. Each individual institution will continue to receive applications and digital media. Wherever guidelines are listed, institutions should state that they are a participant in the Musical Theater Common Prescreen and list the options they have chosen.
If a program does not use a digital prescreening process, can they be involved in the Musical Theater Common Prescreen?
Any program may utilize the criteria for any number of screening opportunities, including digital audition submissions and live auditions. Interested heads of department should contact Acceptd email@example.com so their name can be added to the master list for press and distribution, and to identify how their program will be using the guidelines.
Is this Common Prescreen linked or associated with the Common App?
No. The word “common” is utilized here to promote inclusivity and to reinforce that one “common” set of guidelines is recognized amongst various participating musical theater training programs.
Does prescreening through the Musical Theater Common Prescreen take the place of or change the criteria for a live audition?
No. Institutions are urged to keep their live audition criteria as specific to their individual programs as possible. We recognize that the audition process communicates the culture of an institution and believe that applicants can learn much about an institution by what is asked of them in their live audition.
What does it cost an institution to participate in the Musical Theater Common Prescreen?
There is no fee to the institution or the applicant. Participating institutions will continue to set their own individual application fees.
What categories of required material does the Musical Theater Common Prescreen cover?
In 2019, the MTCP set criteria for “Song,” “Monologue,” and “Slating” categories. The “Dance” and “Wild Card” categories were added during the 2020-2021 audition cycle.
There are two options for each category. Do institutions have to choose just one, or can they use both?
Institutions may use one option or allow the applicant to choose either option.
Are participating institutions permitted to change and tweak the verbiage in the Musical Theater Common Prescreen?
No. To be a participant, an institution must utilize the MTCP verbiage verbatim. The promotion of “common” verbiage is what will create a streamlined and inclusive process and discourage confusion and questions.
Now that you understand the basics of the MTCP, you’re ready to make the most of its requirements whether you’ll be auditioning yourself or accepting auditions at your institution. Read on to learn more.
Musical Theater Common Prescreen Criteria & Tips: 2022-2023 Audition Cycle
Below are the MTCP requirements and tips for the 2022-2023 Audition Cycle. We strongly encourage institutions to fully implement these requirements, which have been thoughtfully and intentionally crafted by the experts at multiple programs nationwide to support the excellence of the audition process.
For students, following this overview of requirements can guide you in creating the best prescreen application possible. We strongly encourage applicants to take advantage of the tips found at the end of each section to help you achieve the strongest possible submission.
Overall Musical Theater Common Prescreen Criteria
Each piece should be filmed/uploaded as a separate piece of media. No continuous videos. Students are encouraged to use standard technology/recording devices that are available to them (i.e. smartphones, tablets, etc).
Overall Tips: Setting Up Your Home Studio
Find a space where you can move about freely, taking care to move items that might impede your creative exploration. This is especially important for dance media.
Your chosen space should also be free of visual distractions. Solid colored walls are ideal, but any background that does not steal the focus from your performance works well.
Ensure the camera portion of your device is at eye level. This way the camera can record you the way others see you. You can use a tripod (at least 60 inches tall) built for a smartphone or tablet. If you do not have a tripod, use a stack of books or a box on a desk.
Your space should allow for adequate lighting. Do not have a lamp or window directly behind you, as it will cast a shadow over your face. Keep the lighting source behind your recording device or to the side so that your face is well lit.
Introduction (AKA “Slate”) Requirements
There should not be a separate introduction or slate video. Instead, slates are to appear at the beginning of each piece and be included as part of the time allotment.
For songs: A proper slate will include your name, song title, and show in which it appears.
For monologues: A proper slate will include your name, title of the play, and the playwright.
Students should prepare two contrasting pieces. Each institution is responsible for indicating which options are accepted.
One song should be a ballad and one song should be an uptempo, so as to contrast style.
Each song should be 60-90 seconds long. (This time limit includes the slate at the beginning of the piece and is strictly adhered to. Applicants should not upload media files longer than 90 seconds.)
Students must sing to musical accompaniment, which could include live or pre-recorded accompaniment. No a cappella singing (singing without accompaniment).
Songs should be filmed in a ¾ shot, which means the top of the head to the knees should be visible in the frame.
Universities may ask for one or either of the following song options. Check the individual program website to see which option is required:
Songs: Option A
One song should be written before 1970. This song can either be the uptempo or the ballad (student’s choice).
One song should be written after 1970 and contrast the style of the first.
Songs: Option B
Both songs should be from contemporary musicals (any musical written after 1970) and contrast in style (ballad and uptempo).
Many accompaniment tracks to musical theater are available on YouTube and other websites. If you do not have a way to work with a live accompanist or don’t have access to a recorded track of your music, consider using an app that will play the piano part for you. Harmony Helper is one such app that allows you to take photos of your sheet music, upload them to the app, and generate a piano track you can use.
When using pre-recorded music, make sure the music source (the speaker or output) is closer to you than it is to the device on which you are recording. By having the accompaniment near you, your voice and the music will reach the microphone on your device in a more balanced manner.
Students may be asked to prepare either one or two monologues. Each institution is responsible for indicating which options are accepted.
Monologues must be from a published play.
Monologues cannot be from musicals, television shows, or movies.
Each monologue file should be 60-90 seconds long. (This time limit includes the slate at the beginning of the piece and is strictly adhered to. Applicants should not upload media files longer than 90 seconds.)
Universities may ask for one or either of the following monologue options. Check the individual program website to see which option is required:
Monologues: Option A
1 contemporary monologue (written after 1900), 60-90 seconds in length
The contemporary monologue should be filmed in a “close-up” shot, which means the top of the head to the chest should be visible in the frame.
Monologues: Option B
2 contrasting monologues, each 60-90 seconds in length
1 contemporary monologue (written after 1900); contemporary monologues should be filmed in a “close-up” shot, which means the top of the head to chest should be visible in the frame
1 classical monologue (written before 1900); classical monologues should be filmed in a “full body” shot, which means the top of the head to the feet on the floor should be visible in the frame.
Only perform Shakespeare if you feel comfortable. Because classical monologues are in the public domain, you can search for these on the internet and find many alternatives to Shakespeare that were written before 1900.
Students may be asked to execute one or both of the following options. Each institution is responsible for indicating which options are accepted.
All dance media should be filmed in a “full body” shot, taking care to keep the student’s entire body in the frame at all times.
Applicants do not need to slate in any dance media.
Regardless of which style of dance you execute, the choreography and the movement should be story-driven and connected to the music. The applicant should be dancing with a sense of purpose.
Universities may ask for a required Dance option. Universities may also request an optional Ballet submission:
Dance: Dance Option
30-60 seconds of dance in whatever dance discipline you feel most confident. This may include, but is not limited to, jazz, ballet, tap, modern, cultural dance styles, hip hop, lyrical, or contemporary.
Please do not submit “barre work.” Instead, check to see if the auditioning program requires the optional Ballet option.
Please use steps, movement, and physical vocabulary that you are familiar with and can execute well.
Dance media can be self-choreographed, but must be a solo video of you. This can include a show, competition, or other performance so long as you are clearly featured on your own.
All choreography must be performed to music. No a cappella dance media.
Dance: Ballet Option
Ballet media should be no more than 30 seconds.
Execute a brief series of plié, tendu, and grande battement.
Execute pirouettes en déhors (to both sides).
Execute one or more grand jeté across the floor.
Applicants are encouraged to keep a full-length mirror behind the filming device so as to see themselves as they execute choreography.
Wild Card Requirements
Students may be asked to turn in a Wild Card submission. Each institution is responsible for indicating whether the Wild Card is accepted.
Wild Card submissions should be no more than 60 seconds.
Applicants do not need to slate in any wild card media.
This media can showcase anything you want — a special skill, an interesting story about yourself, an impassioned speech, an instrument you play, etc. Ask yourself, “What do I want them to know about me?” and “What makes me unique?”
Wild Card Tips
Think about the wild card section as an opportunity to show your personality. Don’t limit yourself, but make sure you teach the adjudicators something about you. Below is a list of ideas that have been successful in the past:
Singing a pop song
Performing your own SNL-styled skit where you create a comedic character
Sharing a hobby or activity that means something to you
Performing in a language other than English in which you are fluent
Playing an instrument
Making a “how-to” video on something you are an expert at
Performing a poem, song, or dance you created yourself
The audition process can be overwhelming for both artists and educators, but with the Musical Theater Common Prescreen guidelines, the experience can be more streamlined and enjoyable for both parties.
For educators: In addition to the MTCP, there are multiple platforms on the market that can make your upcoming audition cycle easier than ever. To learn more about the Acceptd platform, visit our solutions page for organizations.
For artists: When it comes to landing a spot at your dream institution (especially a college or university), it’s important to learn as much as you can about the process. If you would like to get started with a supportive team of college audition coaching professionals, learn more at My College Audition!