Wait... so I can't just be in a play in Arena Theater?
Only 'Workout' members can audition for Mainstage plays in Arena Theater. Other kinds of projects and scenes happen in Jenks throughout the year, and they often include students who are not in 'Workout'. Also- there are students who are not in 'Workout' who are centrally involved in Arena Theater in other ways.
It seems so serious... I've always thought theater was supposed to be fun!
In Arena Theater, we believe the real fun begins when an ensemble of diverse and deeply committed people undertake theater work together. While we believe that theater can be useful as a fun extracurricular activity, in Arena Theater we are committed to theater as an academic discipline, as a craft, and as a lifelong endeavor.
Whoa!... I'm not sure that I'm that into it! I'm not making a lifetime commitment here- I just want to be in a play!
'Workout' has been very successful for students with two very different goals.
Most 'Workout' participants are not planning to go into theater as a profession. Many of these, however, have found 'Workout' to be central to their experience at Wheaton. A strength of this model is that it can work very well for students who are committed to other majors and goals- even (especially?) majors that are demanding and seem to have very little to do with theater!
A second kind of student served by the 'Workout' system is one with professional aspirations in theater. From our small theater program, we have sent an impressive number of students to top-flight grad programs in theater, and into the professional theater as well.
Who should audition for 'Workout'?
Anybody who wants to!
Many students who have never acted before coming to Wheaton have auditioned for and gotten into 'Workout'! High school experience is sometimes helpful in the process of learning to act, but the way we go about things in Arena Theater is usually significantly different than what a student did in high school regardless of their experience.
Auditioning for 'Workout' is meant to be fun- most have found it so!
What are the auditions like?
'Workout' auditions are held once a year, in the fall. The auditions are done in groups of six to eight, and last about an hour. Small sections of text are handed out ahead of time, from which auditioners choose a piece to memorize and work on as part of the audition.
So. Say I audition for 'Workout' and get in... will I be overwhelmed by the commitment? What's expected of me as a 'Workout' member?
'Workout' is a big commitment. The central time commitment is our twice weekly 'Workout' sessions- Tuesdays and Thursdays from 4:15-5:30.
(A copy of the Workout Commitment, listing all the things Workout members agree to do, is attached.)
It should be noted that we take special care not to overburden Freshmen, and that the attrition rate for 'Workout' (people who, for one reason or another, leave the group) is very low- something less than 5% of those who get in. The bottom line is that participation in 'Workout' is meant to enhance your broader Wheaton College experience, not to make it more difficult.
What do you do in the twice-weekly sessions? Is it like rehearsal?
Not really. The TR 4:15-5:30 time is meant to build and strengthen our theater community- using theater games, physical work, and simply being present in a room together to both challenge and encourage our relationships- with God, with ourselves, and with one another.
While becoming better actors is not the sole purpose of 'Workout', we believe that the basic acting work we do is a great way to enhance the opportunity for meaningful connection among us. It takes time, and it is not simple- but many generations of 'Workout' have profited from its unique ways and means.
If I audition for 'Workout' and don't get in, is it the end of my aspirations in theater at Wheaton?
Maybe. Auditions (and the disappointment that follow them for most of us) are a reality of life in any theater. Even successful theater practitioners gain a lot of experience in receiving the 'no'.
To be honest, there are as many 'no's' in Arena Theater, both in and outside of 'Workout', as in any serious and active theater enterprise. The difference is that we endeavor here to stay in relationship with each other before, during and after these tough decisions are made.
Historically, many who don't get into 'Workout' after their first audition continue to pursue theater here by taking classes and being vitally involved in producing our Season, and some become members of 'Workout' later in their time at Wheaton. Others find it too tough to persevere through the 'no', or simply decide to pursue other opportunities on campus. We respect both paths!
We believe, though, that in or out of 'Workout' there is much good work to be involved in here in Arena Theater. Is it work that is meant for you? That's what you (and we!) are here to find out!