09:47 AM

Theater programs nationwide visit South Texas College to recruit talent


High school seniors and graduating college theater students gathered at the South Texas College Cooper Center for Performing Arts recently to meet with college admissions representatives at the South Texas Theatre Auditions (STTA).

The air was thick with excitement and nerves as theater students clutched their black binders filled with sheet music and set up portfolio work in lighting, set and costume design inside the South Texas College Cooper Center for Performing Arts.

Dozens of high school and college students gathered at STC recently to participate in the South Texas Theatre Auditions (STTA).

“One of my favorite parts of the day is seeing the audition process, especially right before they go in,” Jaclyn Benavides, co-founder of the STTA said. “They may be nervous, but they’re gaining the experience they need for the real world.”

STTA, in collaboration with the University of Texas at Austin, PSJA Independent School District and STC’s Drama department, offers interested high school seniors and graduating college theater students from the region a chance to present monologues, musical theater selections and technical theater portfolios to college admissions representatives.

“It gives every student the opportunity to really embrace their own confidence and their own willingness to showcase their talent," Benavidez said.

Benavidez said most fine arts auditions around Texas are costly, and are at least three or four hours away from the Rio Grande Valley. The organizers wanted to help break down that financial barrier and find a way to offer students the opportunity to audition for free. 

“We have a lot of students who don't get the opportunity to travel out of the area,” Benavidez said. “We still want our students to dream big and follow their dreams. So, if we can supply that audition for free, then we're doing our job.”

Hector Lara, a STC theatre student from Mission, expects to graduate by summer 2023 and dreams of becoming a professional costume designer. He brought pieces he created to show recruiters, including designs from a local production of the musical Godspell and the STC fall production of Blithe Spirit.  

"Not many people know about the flourishing talents that exist throughout the Rio Grande Valley,” Lara said. “I'm glad that STC is hosting this and taking the initiative to bring people down here to showcase that we're here – and we've got the skills.”

Students were able to audition in three areas including acting, musical theater and technical design.

Holly Mercado, 17, was among a group of students from Harlingen Performing Arts Conservatory who attended the auditions. Mercado said she felt fortunate to be a part of a hands-on educational environment that trained her in different stagecraft techniques. She’s especially proud of learning set construction and wants to study the technical side of theater.


“Just go in there with an open mind because you never know who is out there actively looking for people like you. As long as you showcase your passion and your best work possible, there’s nothing else you will need.”

-Drama student Hector Lara

“I've always loved doing anything behind the scenes,” Mercado said. “I was never someone who liked to be in front of everybody. I like creating things for productions that the audiences enjoy, even though they don’t see me. There’s so much going on behind the scenes. It's not just opening and closing the curtain."

Mercado said she initially felt nervous speaking to the recruiters but gained confidence as the day went on.

"I started feeling comfortable and I’m confident in what I've done throughout my years,” said Mercado, who has participated in about fifteen productions while in high school. “I know what I'm doing, so it’s really nice to be able to tell them what I've done and maybe even get them to consider me for their program.”

 Recruiting schools included Texas A&M-Corpus Christi, Sam Houston State University, the New York Conservatory for Dramatic Arts in Manhattan and the University of Texas at Austin.

Other universities accepting virtual auditions included DePaul University, Southwestern University, Southern Methodist University, New York Film Academy, University of Southern California School of Dramatic Arts, The University of Texas at Arlington and the University of Houston.

Eric Marsh, professor of theatre at Sam Houston State University said he was looking for students interested in pursuing acting or design/technology degrees at the four-year university.

“We came last year and recruited a lot of good students so we came back to try to get some more,” Marsh said. “It's the only way we can connect since we can't really go to the high schools. It's a bit far for us to travel so having a unified event that brings everybody together in a region is helpful to us.”

For Lara, his time as a drama student at STC has given him a newfound sense of independence and an understanding of professionalism that will help him in the next step of his career. He encourages other students to consider attending the auditions.

“Just go in there with an open mind because you never know who's out there actively looking for people like you,” Lara said. “As long as you showcase your passion and your best work possible, there’s nothing else you will need.”

For more information on STC’s Drama and Theatre programs, visit southtexascollege.edu.