Lower Richland High’s Theatre Classes Help Students Improve Speaking Skills and Build Confidence through Mock Auditions
When many people think of high school theatre classes, they think the classes are only for students who want to go into acting or directing after they graduate. Lower Richland High School’s theatre classes prepare students for more than that.
Lower Richland theatre teacher Amy Pederson says the most important thing she teaches her students is how to speak to people.
“I hope my students walk away from my classes with a sense of confidence, so they can walk into a room, talk to people and be themselves,” she said.
One of the ways Pederson gets her students more confident about speaking is by having them go through a mock open call commercial audition process. Pederson teaches students in all of her classes about the audition process.
The students split up into three groups. The first group of students waits to be called up. The students in the second group go on stage and introduce themselves. Each student in the group acts out the commercial. The third group serves as casting agents who give directions to the actors during the audition. The groups then rotate positions, so that every student in the class gets the chance to perform and serve as a casting agent.
Each student’s audition is recorded so that the class can give feedback when everyone is done and decide who had the best audition.
Emori Brown, a junior in the Theatre III honors class, has been performing in theatre since middle school. She says she feels like she’s at home on the stage.
“Performing is natural to me. I don’t worry about being in front of a bunch of people,” Emori said.
She says her favorite part of the activity is looking back at her and her classmates’ audition videos.
“You’re able to critique yourself and see the good things you did,” Emori said.
She hopes to one day open a child development center and incorporate theatre into her curriculum. Emori says she never thought she’d get to go through a commercial audition process in high school. She says she’s glad the opportunity came to her classroom.
“Being in theatre and doing this audition process is really helping me interact with people and be a natural leader,” Emori said.
Pederson has been teaching theatre in Richland One’s Lower Richland cluster since 2005. She joined the Lower Richland High School faculty in 2011, after previously teaching at Hopkins Middle School and Southeast Middle School.
Pederson understands that many students in the Hopkins community may not get as much exposure to theatre as students who live closer to downtown Columbia. That’s why she says she brings processes like open call auditions into her classes.
“I try to take them through a process where they won’t feel insecure. If I can give them a little bit of a spark, then I’ve done my job,” said Pederson.