Guest Writer Ava Markhovsky walks you through what really goes on at CUPAL Auditions.

8:27 pm. I feel the sweat drip off of my underboob as I run up the stairs to the third floor of Hamilton, because I’ll be damned if I let myself get called lazy by that sign next to the elevator. 

I run into the holding room, leaving nerds practicing Shakespeare and girls imitating Sutton Foster in my dust, as I find the room moderator and get checked in. In front of me, on the big table in the Hamilton classroom that will serve as my home for the next three hours, I see dozens of sides, ready for some sweaty freshman to give their all to. This is the CUPAL Audition experience. 

Columbia University Performing Arts League (CUPAL) is a student-run performing arts group which produces dozens of dance, music, comedy, and theater productions each semester with over 400 students auditioning each semester. The master Google spreadsheet on which students sign up for audition times is terrifying, but also shockingly well organized. The machine isn’t always well-oiled, but it is efficient, especially considering the scale. That being said, the actual experience of auditions is pretty chaotic.

I dash around both rooms, searching for all of the sides I need. I run into people who I did shows with last semester as well as people I got rejected from shows with. Sometimes, those friendships are the ones that truly last. Next I turn to talk to Lu—OH never mind, I think I hear my name being called in the other room! Gotta run up two flights of stairs into the audition room, where classmates I know well ask me for my name and pronouns. Time to sing and—darn. The high note was flat. Oh well! Time for the next one. Back down to the holding room to try to listen for my name. It’s so loud in here. Those stereotypes about theater kids being annoyingly noisy? They’re true. So true, in fact, that the professor teaching a late night class down the hall has to come in and tell us to quiet down. The noise resumes, in full, five minutes later. Did they just say Evan or Ava? Shit

I hear my name called again. A different room, a different song. I definitely feel better about that last one. I’m not even nervous anymore.  Nevermind, next up I have the terrifying task of cold reading Shakespeare. Was I supposed to say ‘window’? Or was it ‘widow’? I don’t know anyone in this room, so I won’t ask. 

As the night goes on, the building begins to calm. The alto section of an a cappella group is practicing in the stairwell. Auditions are the worst. Everything you do or say is being judged, and those three minutes of your life will change the energy and schedule of your entire semester. Now imagine doing that six times in one night. But at the same time, there’s something calming about it. The repetition, the gentle buzz of adrenaline, and the sense of community. Everyone there is nervous, but out of a love for a common, beautiful thing. 

I walk back to the holding room from my last audition to collect my things. A very stressful night is over. Tomorrow, the same student directors, producers, choreographers, and music directors will watch 100 more kids do the exact same things I just did. Then, I’ll hopefully get callbacks and then be cast in a show that I will inevitably complain about every day for the next two months. But honestly, we wouldn’t have it any other way. Something to keep us busy, to give us gossip, and yeah, to like, ‘feed our souls’ or whatever. 10:33 pm. Goodnight. 

Hamilton via Bwog Archives