Perpich Theater and Musical Theater Students Visit Chicago for National Unified Auditions
February 15, 2023
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, six of our Perpich Theater and Musical Theater seniors were part of the action, travelling to Chicago with faculty. From February 6-9, 25 select university theater programs conducted simultaneous auditions and interviews for admission. The group included Brynn Howitz (Musical Theater 2023), Meadow Lazarski (Theater 2023), Avery Lichty (Musical Theater 2023), Aiden Ritchey (Theater 2023), Rachel Steen (Musical Theater 2023), and Nadia Yliniemi (Musical Theater 2023). Faculty on the trip were Rebecca Bullen, Assistant Principal; 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 visit to Piven Studio for an improvisation-focused workshop, attending productions of Toni Stone at Goodman Theatre and Blood Wedding at Northwestern University, sight seeing at Millennium Park, Art Institute Chicago, and Grant Park, and touring Columbia College Chicago.
Reflecting on the overall experience, Meadow Lazarski said, “Going on a trip with my classmates was so fun and there was never a dull moment. Riding the El train was so fun and walking all around the city and seeing it go by was cool. Tory brought us exploring around the city and to the art museum and parks. We got to eat lots of good food, see cool shows and see things we’ve never seen before.”
Aiden Ritchey shared how the process provided clarity for their future. “When we went to Unifieds, I had the opportunity to sit down and interview with theater tech people, and I started to wonder if that was what I really wanted to do,” said Aiden. “From there we toured Columbia College, and I realized that I think I’ll always be a theater kid. I truly feel like the theater, onstage or backstage, is where I belong. Without going to Unifieds I don’t think I would have questioned my decisions to not pursue theater after high school. It was so eye opening to be in a space with so many talented and creative people. It was an amazing experience.”
Nadia Yliniemi was appreciative for the opportunities of the Unifieds trip. “I’m just really grateful that Kevin and Tory were willing to put in the work to get us all there. Them being there as a resource for us, especially day of auditions, was really, really nice,” said Nadia. “I had some schools going into Unifieds that I had done prescreens for and kind of knew I would be auditioning for, but then what a lot of schools will do is they also have walk-ins available. So I feel like it gave me more options to where I could see myself in the future and gave me an opportunity to meet with people in person and see if that was a good fit.” The experience solidified for Nadia that she wants “to do this for the rest of my life.”
This trip was a first to Unifieds for faculty members Tory Peterson and Kevin Hohlstein. “I was surprised by the number of schools that participate and the opportunity they are giving students by being there,” said Hohlstein. “I was also surprised by the students’ willingness to ‘jump in’ to all of the experiences we presented to them. Even on the days they were exhausted.”
“I loved the Piven Studio,” said Peterson. “It was great to play under somebody else’s direction.” Hohlstein agreed, saying, “It was great to be able to be in the moment and create with students with someone else making it happen.”
Peterson and Hohlstein are already strategizing for the next time they bring a group to the National Unified Auditions. “I would change the number of auditions required by all attending the trip to five or more in order to have kids take full advantage of the experience,” said Peterson. “It’s a life skill that has to happen.” Hohlstein added that they definitely want the students “to take full advantage of all the schools they could audition with while they are at Unifieds.”
Rebecca Bullen was honored to be on the amazing trip. “Thank you, families, for supporting your students in this opportunity and sharing them with us. I am beyond grateful,” said Bullen. “I am so proud of our young artists AND so grateful to Tory and Kevin for putting the wonderful opportunity together. They were engaged in auditions, dance calls, a Columbia College visit, performances, improv class, film set, ice cream, ice skating, FRO YO, and lots more!”