Showcase is one of the most anticipated and undeniably stressful moments of a drama student’s career. All the hard work you’ve put in feels like it’s led up to this one moment that’s meant to catapult you into the start of your career. It can feel impossible to decide on what material to perform – after all, how do you distill your range and performance abilities into a few minutes of a song or monologue? Well, if you’re struggling to decide on your materials, here’s a few tips on how to shine at the showcase.

Unique Selling Point (USP)

A great showcase performance shows off the essence of the performer. It should show off material that feels at home in your body and that communicates the type of material you enjoy working on. Before you even look at material, consider what your Unique Selling Point (also known as a USP) is. This is a term that can be thrown around a lot at drama school, but I think understanding what you bring to the table can be a huge asset when choosing material. What is something that you are best at? After all, no two actors will bring the same perspective and imagination to a role. Figure out what unique abilities and perspectives you can bring to showcase.

To learn more about how to bring your most authentic self to the stage (as well as the audition room), check out our blog post.

Photo by Obie Fernandez on Unsplash

Casting Bracket

Once you’ve got an idea of your USP, there’s a few more elements to consider when choosing material. It’s most important for the material to allow the audience to gain an understanding of who you are, letting your essence shine through. Secondarily, the material should also speak to your casting bracket. You may do an incredible rendition of Prospero from The Tempest or “Send in the Clowns” from A Little Night Music, but you want to aim for material that shows what you could be cast in today.

Choose material that hints towards a range of shows you would be right for. If you feel that you’re destined to be in Wicked, look at other material by Stephen Schwartz for inspiration. Using audition breakdowns is a great way to discover attributes casting directors look for when casting specific roles, which can help guide your search for materials. Finding material that lives in the world of shows that you see yourself in can be helpful to show a wide range of casting. If you love Brecht, take a look at contemporary writers who draw inspiration from his work, such as David Hare, to find contemporary monologues that still live in the world of political theater.

For more inspiration, don’t forget to take a look through the huge range of monologues and songs on StageAgent.

Show the Range

Now, I’m not just talking about vocal range (although that doesn’t hurt)! Showing emotional range in your performance is a great way for agents/casting directors/industry folks to have a fuller understanding of your abilities as a performer. Take a look at pieces that have a journey where the character ends in a different emotional state than where they begin. If you get to do multiple pieces, make sure there is a very clear contrast between the material. This doesn’t just mean uptempo vs ballad, or comedic vs dramatic. It’s important that the characters are very different from each other and the journeys they go on have a marked difference.

Do Your Research

The YouTube possibilities are endless! Look at other showcases and see what material other students are choosing to perform. Check out footage from the Jimmy Awards, ask friends about what material they’re looking at, and chat to recent grads about their showcases. Looking at footage from other showcases is a great way to find material, but more specifically, it’s a great way to see what works and what doesn’t. Think about what makes great showcase pieces effective and what was missing in the pieces that didn’t resonate with you. Check out this video below for some fellow performers’ insight on what makes a great showcase piece.

Trust Yourself

Yes, you want to consider all the factors I mentioned above, such as showing range and choosing material within your casting bracket. However, it’s most important to show material that means something to you. This is your first introduction to industry members and, ideally, you want them to learn something about who you are from your material. The absolute perfect piece that will show off every single one of your skills does not exist. Try not to get bogged down with finding the piece. You know your craft and abilities better than anyone, so make sure you choose something that feels good to you.

It’s true that showcase is a huge moment for a performer, but it is not the be all and end all of your career. Whether or not you find an agent immediately off the back of showcase does not determine your success in this industry. Think of showcase as a chance to introduce yourself and all the amazing talents you bring to the stage. Have fun, be bold, and trust yourself. You’ve got this!

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