BANGS — Jay Johnson and Jessica Switzer, seniors at Bangs High School, were offered several college scholarships after a trip to Houston Jan. 19-20.
The students took part in the Texas Education Theatre Association Inc. audition sessions as part of the organization’s annual TheatreFest.
Auditions were held with representatives from several universities scouting each performance. Students were allowed two minutes to introduce themselves and perform a dramatic and comedic monologue.
Switzer chose “Defying Gravity” as her dramatic piece and “AA” as her comedic choice.
“With only two minutes to show the university representatives our skills, I chose those two because they were easiest for me,” Switzer said. “Besides, I am good at doing the crying type stuff.”
“Disappear,” a dramatic monologue, and “Black Coffee,” a comedic piece, were the choices for Johnson.
“Those two pieces best suited my range to the extent of what I am able of performing,” Johnson said.
With more than 30 universities present at the auditions, Johnson said the most difficult part was waiting to perform for the panel.
“It is a little bit intimidating at first,” he said. “But you just get into your zone and become the character.”
Waiting was Switzer’s least favorite part of the audition.
“We were broken down into smaller groups and could not do anything until all the other groups were done with their auditions,” she said. “Before we performed our monologues, time was lingering. After that, it went pretty fast.”
After all auditions were completed, they said, each university posted a list with “call back” names — students each university is interested in recruiting.
Johnson said he had specific expectations heading into the audition.
“I wanted to receive as many call backs as possible,” he said.
Johnson’s name appeared on the call back lists of West Texas A&M, Mississippi University, Grayson and McLennan and his personal choice, American Musical and Dramatic Academy, which has campuses in Los Angeles in New York.
With a smile, Johnson discussed his experience with AMDA.
“I have always wanted to be an actor,” he said. “They are a very prestigious school who have had many students succeed in the business.”
Some of the distinguished graduates are Neko Parham of “Law and Order,” “Kingpin” and “The Wire”; Paul Sorvino of “Goodfellas” and “Dick Tracy”; and Christopher Sieber of the ABC hit “It’s All Relative.”
“The campus itself sits across the street from Capitol Records in L.A.,” Johnson said. “I have always wanted to be near Hollywood and succeed.”
Although he was appreciative of all of the schools that showed interest, Johnson said AMDA spoke with him the longest and offered him the best scholarship.
“The rep from (AMDA) told me I was a young Matt Damon and gave me notes from my performance,” he said.
A two-year institution, AMDA offered Johnson a full-ride scholarship.
“They offered me a scholarship to go to L.A. and as long as I maintain my grades, they will cover the costs,” he said.
Accepting a slot with a school in Los Angeles may scare some parents, but that’s not the case with Johnson’s mother.
“My mom was thrilled,” he said. “She was bouncing off the walls. She told me when I was three years old, I threw a fit because she could not put me in the television.”
Actively pursuing acting since his sophomore year, Johnson has had parts in “Arsenic and Old Lace” and has attended theater camp.
“I am prepared for a life in L.A.,” Johnson said. “ I want to learn what it takes to be successful, become an actor and then a director when my acting career is over.”
Switzer, a veteran who began acting at the age of 4, went to Houston not thinking about a particular school.
“My goal from all of this is just to be offered the best possible scholarship,” she said.
“Steel Magnolias,” “A Shayna Maidle” and “Arsenic and Old Lace” along with several smaller productions have prepared Switzer, who spoke with the University of the Ozarks, Midwestern State University and West Texas A&M.
“I really believe the schools I spoke with recognized the training I have been through,” she said. “But A&M offered me the best scholarship.”
Like Johnson, Switzer said her number one choice also happened to offer her what she was looking for.
“I may have to apply for a small amount in loans and grants, but I like WTAMU because of its size,” she said. “The student-teacher ratio is 19:1.”
“It is a smaller school, and it is in Texas, but not very far away,” she said. “I would still be close to home but be able to experience a sense of independence, if that is the school I choose.”
Switzer said she now has a decision to make.
“Hardin-Simmons is a Baptist school and offers chances for mission trips,” she said. “I will be taking part in a campus tour at both schools. This is a very difficult decision.”
Switzer said she does not want to pursue acting as a career.
“I want to be a teacher,” she said. “Maybe at the junior high level, teaching math and possibly theater, which will require a double major in education and theater if I attend WTAMU.”
Johnson and Switzer were two of approximately 100 students who took part in the audition process.
“Having Jay there made it easier,” Switzer said. “It is better when you know someone.”
According to the organization’s Web site, the mission of T.E.T.A. is to “..use all the resources available to strengthen our teachers, and build on existing programs around the state to continue to improve the quality of theatre education in the state of Texas.”
Bangs is the only high school in Brown County that belongs to the organization.