Social Distancing Sandman: The Apollo Is Holding Digital Auditions for Its Legendary Amateur Night

Amateur Night at The Apollo Theater
Amateur Night at The Apollo Theater
Photo: Courtesy of The Apollo Theater

The Apollo Theater has always been the place “where stars are born and legends are made.” Now, that famous stage is about to go digital!


For the first time in its 86-year history, the Apollo Theater will be holding its famous Amateur Night open auditions for its summer and fall season solely online. This announcement is fitting, as the coronavirus era has resulted in theaters going dark (i.e. shut down).

From a press release provided to The Root:

Held every year at the world-famous Apollo Theater in Harlem since 1934, Amateur Night is recognized around the world for launching the careers of thousands of performers, including Jimi Hendrix, Gladys Knight, Lauryn Hill, and H.E.R. This year, for the first time ever, auditions for the summer and fall 2020-21 season will be conducted exclusively online.

Starting today, contestants who can sing, dance, rap, play an instrument, and perform stand-up or spoken word can submit a pre-recorded audition up to five minutes in length in the hopes of being selected to perform on the world-famous Apollo stage later this year and compete for the Grand Prize of $20,000. Those under the age of 17 can also submit their digital audition for a spot to compete in the Child Star of Tomorrow category and a $5,000 prize.

“Digital technology has enabled us to stay more connected than ever before, and during these uncertain times it is incredibly vital for the Apollo Theater to continue to engage with artists and audiences around the world,” Kamilah Forbes, Apollo Theater Executive Producer said in a statement.

“We’re devastated by the loss the pandemic has had on the arts community, and we want to celebrate the talent and hard work artists have put into their craft. Amateur Night represents this, and we want to keep the spotlight shining on these talented individuals.”

Please also note that the previously scheduled in-person open audition for the spring season on April 18 has been canceled.


So, given that Amateur Night is typically an interactive experience, I have a few hypothetical questions. Sure, I know this online process is a preliminary step toward the big stage with the audience, but let’s say—for the sake of imagination—that we get to see these online auditions…well, online. What if we could watch the videos and give them a live thumbs-up or thumbs-down on Black Twitter? And what about the ever-popular Sandman? What if we could figuratively “kick” a performer “offstage” by posting a GIF of the Sandman in the Twitter mentions?

OK, OK, perhaps that’s asking too much. Or is it??

If you’d like to apply online for Amateur Night, head to Make sure you rub the Apollo stump (in your head) for good luck before you submit!


If you’re planning on submitting, what’s your talent? Let me know in the comments! I’m nosy—er—curious!

Staff Writer, Entertainment at The Root. Sugar, spice & everything rice. Equipped with the uncanny ability to make a Disney reference and a double entendre in the same sentence.