Perpich Theater and Musical Theater Students Visit Chicago for 2024 National Unified Auditions
February 8, 2024
Every February, inside the Palmer House Hotel in Chicago, the theater departments of several dozen colleges converge to hold the National Unified Auditions, a make-or-break, do-or-die audition week for anxious, hopeful theater kids. This year, four of our Perpich Theater and Musical Theater seniors were part of the action, travelling to Chicago with faculty. From February 5–8, 25 select university theater programs conducted simultaneous auditions and interviews for admission. The group included Maeve Filkins (Theater 2024), Maggie Loxtercamp (Musical Theater 2024), Wanjiru Njora (Musical Theater 2024), and Miah Reimann (Theater 2024). Faculty on the trip were Kevin Hohlstein, Music Instructor and Tory Peterson, Theater Instructor.
The students prepared monologues, songs, and dance numbers for the long, stressful days that they hope will pay off in admissions offers and scholarships. Also on their itinerary was a workshop at The Neo-Futurist Theater and an opportunity to see their show, “The Infinite Wrench”, attending a production of “Working: A Musical” at Northwestern University, and enjoying Ten Dollar Comedy at Second City, and sight seeing at Millennium Park, Grant Park, and Andersonville Arts Corridor.
Reflecting on the overall experience, Maggie Loxtercamp said, “I’ve personally never been in the city so for me it was really fun exploring and being in a place like the Palmer House with a bunch of other kids from across the United States, all auditioning for schools. I met a lot of cool people and a lot of cool directors and teachers, too. The audition process was almost calmer than I thought it was going to be because we did a bunch of walk-ins so you meet with different colleges and you can just say ‘hey, can I audition for you?’ It’s very on the spot which for me was almost better that way. It was a time where we got to explore different colleges and speak with the people who work there firsthand to evaluate if you want to go there or not.”
Wanjiru Njora shared how the experience provided clarity for the future. “Seeing all the people that started out at Second City and now they’re huge; it shows that you don’t need to be a big star to be successful. It can be a small venue but they’re still doing what they want, they’re doing what they love, and they’re having fun at their job.”
Maeve Filkins was appreciative for the opportunities and friendships of the Unifieds trip. “The experience of being able to go and audition for all these schools and have that opportunity was really great, but also it was a really nice bonding moment for the four of us. Whether or not we liked it, we were together 24/7 for 5 days. I think that, in theater especially, you need to have a strong ensemble and I think that the four of us having to be that close just made us stronger as friends and stronger as castmates.”
This trip was the second one to Unifieds for faculty members Tory Peterson and Kevin Werner Hohlstein. “Our students are really willing to play and jump in to do what’s asked of them,” said Hohlstein. “Even though it can be wacky and crazy, like the Neo-Futurist experience, they just went with it. They got on the train, we went places, we went and saw things, they were up for it. We heard back from auditioning schools that our kids play, they get it, they want it, and great feedback like ‘I want to work with you.'”
Peterson was proud of how the students performed and represented themselves. “Having Sheila Daniels from Cornish College of the Arts come out and tell Kevin and me that we have the most authentic students they see, that they don’t come in with a bunch of airs. I remember Maggie telling me that the U of M, when she finished up her audition, telling her that she was the breath of fresh air from that morning. For me, the biggest advice to my kids is just go in and play. Play! Even if you’re not the greatest dancer, if you’re having fun and playing, that is gonna get you somebody’s attention more than the person who’s gonna hit every step right. They’re gonna see other kids self-judging. If you can go in and just play, and not be afraid of if you’re doing it right or not, that makes an impression.”
The group met up with Trent Ramert (Theater 2020) while in Chicago. Trent is graduating from Columbia College this spring. He’ll be auditioning for summer stock and heading to New York in fall. Thinking back on his time at Perpich, he commented that “the need to play” was the most powerful lesson.
Peterson and Hohlstein made connections during Unifieds that could create new opportunities. “It’s great thinking about all the different ways students could be involved in the arts going forward,” said Hohlstein. “We were talking to some schools about different programs and how do we make connections with those schools that would actually serve the entire school. It’s interesting to think about it holistically. Sure we were there for Theater & Musical Theater, but what bigger things can we glean from that experience in making those contacts?”