Yearlong Audition: Tricia Wiles pushes for summer job

Michael Todd
Assistant Spectrum Editor

While some students spent spring break on trips to the beach or home with family, theater student Tricia Wiles spent her down time improving her performance-based studies at the nation’s largest theater convention.

Wiles participated in the Southeastern Theatre Conference 64th annual Convention in Louisville, Ky., from March 6-10. There, she was able to network with theater professionals from 10 southeastern states, learned about different types of audition scenarios and professional procedures when working in a theater company.

Wiles will be able to apply much of this information to her fall semester and to her academic pursuits throughout the rest of college and in her career after graduation.

Intending to return to VCU in the fall, the overall goal of the conference was simple for Wiles – to get a job. She said she is not seeking year-round employment but instead a summer job, program or internship. Appropriately, Wiles’ audition was delivered to employers seeking summer hires.

For Wiles and other performers, the conference culminated in a 90-second audition in a “cattle call” format similar to one she participated in at the beginning of her freshman year.

Instead of giving Theatre VCU faculty and students a taste of her talent, Wiles was auditioning for about 40 companies for the chance of summer employment. In groups of 40, performers each presented their “package,” which consisted of at least a one-minute monologue and an optional 30-second song selection.

After her cattle call audition, Wiles and other performers had the chance to participate in group or individual interviews.

“Being a freshman there, I was not expecting a lot,” Wiles said. “I was not expecting to get a job out of it.”

Even though Wiles did not expect the audition to yield much, she received three callbacks from Highlands Playhouse, Hanger Theatre and Flying Effects Company. Wiles will know soon if she received any of these internships. If not, she said she will look at other summer theater employment opportunities based in Richmond.

After participating in three dance workshops at SETC, Wiles realized she might need more dance training to succeed in the musical theater world. The workshops focused on different styles, such as tap, but were difficult for Wiles to benefit from because she had no previous training.

“I do want to take a semester where I take strictly dance lessons so I can try to build up my skill … just so I can get that technique down,” she said.

Many dance courses will count toward Wiles’ electives. Depending on pricing and convenience, she may seek additional training outside the university.

Back in Richmond, Wiles is busy with finishing her last semester of her first year at VCU.

Continuing her work with the School of the Performing Arts in Richmond Community (SPARC), Wiles currently works box office and tickets for their production of “The Wiz.” She will also be assisting light and sound for the production of “Brighton Beach Memoirs” at the Jewish Community Center in May. These positions let Wiles experience the theater world off the stage.

Wiles is currently preparing to audition for the fall semester productions, “An Evening of Standup Comedy” and “An Evening of Sketch Comedy,” which will both take place in September. Those auditions are required of all performance majors.

Wiles, however, is more enthusiastic to audition for “Hairspray,” which will take place in November.

Wiles intends to audition for the role of Penny Pingleton, friend to lead Tracy Turnblad. For the audition, Wiles will need to prepare 16 bars of an upbeat song from the ’50s or ’60s.

“I’m more of a Penny … (and) I think, even if you don’t think you’re going to get a role, you should always give the director something to imagine you as, rather than you just going in and having them imagine you as an ensemble,” Wiles said.

Auditions will take place in mid-April and will effect on Wiles’ fall semester plans, should she receive a role in the show.

“If I get something, great. If I don’t, it’s okay,” she said. “One of the things I learned from SETC … is you as an actor are the solution to (the company’s) problem … (but) sometimes, you could do the best audition of your life … but in the director’s mind, you are three inches too tall for the character. And it’s not always your job. Not every role is your role and that’s okay.”

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