Thursday, October 13, 2011

34. Recap – 2010 & 2011 – YALE School of Drama Auditions

“Do not wait; the time will never be ‘just right.’ Start where you stand, and work with whatever tools you may have at your command, and better tools will be found as you go along.” – Napoleon Hill

Hey, people! Happy Thursday!  I received a request (via comment on yesterday’s post) asking me to share about my experiences from the last two years auditioning at YALE and NYU…  and the results. That’s a great suggestion for a post or two! This one’s for you, Sam. Wishing you big success with your grad school auditions in 2012!

“Should you, all of the sudden, … see before you an enormous uncharted mountain with towering cliffs, jagged rocks, and seemingly impenetrable walls, just consider it a sign that your dream is considerably more worthwhile than you had previously imagined, and that you are exactly where you’re supposed to be.” – Mike Dooley, Tut’s Universe

Year 1: Audition for Ron

My experience:

Ron’s welcome speech to our audition group put me at ease (somewhat) and got me excited to get in the room and have a chance to show him my monologues. I was super intimidated to be in New Haven auditioning for YALE, but tried to play-it-off like I wasn’t. I was assigned to Ron’s room, did my two pieces, classical and contemporary, felt good about them…. No callback.

My measure of success:

This may sound silly or like it’s a loser’s cop-out, but I am going to write it anyway, because, for me, it is TRUE… I felt a huge sense of accomplishment in just having shown-up for this audition at YALE. So the “result” of not getting a callback, though disappointing at the time, was really irrelevant to my feeling it was a successful audition. You see…It took me years of on-stage and off-stage preparation for me to get to the point that I would even DREAM of being courageous enough to walk into Ivy League YALE and audition for a freakin’ legend like Ron Van Lieu and be like… “Hi, I’m from a little town you’ve never heard of and I have no money and most of my resume consists of musical theater, but I think I could be just what your program is looking for… So let me stand here and spill my guts to you via these monologues and risk being rejected in order to open myself up to a whole new universe of possibilities because what I really want to learn how to be is a great actor and I think you could help me do that.” That. Takes. Balls. And, I actually did leave a powerful lasting impression on one person in that room… ME. I was so freakin’ proud of myself for having actual DONE what I said I was going to do… I actually auditioned for YALE. I didn’t just sit-on-my-ass and wish I had done it. I actually DID it. F-yeah!!!

Learning and Resolutions for Year 2:

Though I did feel courageous for having shown-up, I was way too shy to send a follow-up thank you note to Ron. I felt like… Ugh, what would I say?… “I still love your school. Thanks for rejecting me. See you again next year?” LOL! I couldn’t muster anything that wouldn’t have come across as incredibly awkward. So I abstained from the follow-up note. But I resolved to audition again next year and be more comfortable in the space, more vulnerable in my pieces and not try so much to please them, but focus on pleasing myself with my own choices as an actor.

Year 2: Audition for Walton

My experience:

Ron’s welcome speech felt like an old familiar song now. The building in New Haven felt comfy and warm this time. I had even found a coffee shop around the corner that I LOVE… Jojo’s! Their chicken salad sandwich is totally spectacular. Anyway, I felt way calmer and even joyful to be there again. It felt good to chat with some of the current grad students helping to run the audition and ask them questions about their experience in the program. This time I was assigned to Walton’s audition room. I did my two pieces. Felt great about them. Then he asked me for a third piece!!!! Ahhhh! Awesome! Felt great. Floated out of the room on cloud nine… No callback.

My measure of success:

Got asked for a third piece this year! Yay! Progress. But my MAIN measure of success for this year… was how I reacted to the “list” being posted. (They put a list up on the wall of the names of the people being called-back after every hour. If your name is not on that list, you are free to go home… knowing that you just got cut. Nice, right?) So… as I stood in the crowd of hopefuls, staring at the list, hoping that I’d blink my eyes and my name would appear (it didn't)… I began to look around and notice other people’s reactions to the list. Some people seemed angry… betrayed… others… numb… others looked like they were about to cry... and many seemed to be pulling out an imaginary whip about to give themselves twenty emotional lashes for all the “mistakes” they had made in the room or things they “should” have done...or “If only I had [fill in the blank], then my name might be on that list.” Just a room full of angst and torture!!! I began to laugh. Not because it was funny, because it was actually heartbreaking… seeing all those crushed dreams scattered about on the floor. I laughed because I realized that I couldn’t jump on the self-torture bandwagon. I felt like I had given a WAY better audition than the previous year and that was all I had control over. I had to trust that if they thought I was really right for their program that year… If they needed me, they would have welcomed me with open arms. So it clearly wasn’t meant to be this year. I didn’t need to punish myself. I needed to be grateful for the opportunity and move on to the next opportunity. Don’t get me wrong, I was disappointed and sad that I didn’t get to stay longer and see what happens in the next part of the process. But I didn’t let myself get to the mental place of… “Oh, I just got rejected from YALE, I must have no talent and I’ll never be successful as an actor.” Bull crap. Everybody in that room was super talented and ballsy as hell for being there. We all make our own experiences in life. I could choose to be successful just by continuing on… MFA from YALE or no. Sooo whipping myself emotionally??? Unnecessary. No thanks! I'd rather laugh, give some love to the current MFA students as I run out the door and grab a chicken salad sandwich from Jojo's for the train ride home. Yum!

Learning and Resolutions for Year 3:

This year I did have the courage to follow-up with both Ron and Walton with thank you notes. The gist of it was something like... “Thank you for being so welcoming and making me feel comfortable at the auditions for your school. I love being there. Had a great experience. Learned a lot. Looking forward to the opportunity to try again next year. Wishing you a great school year.” Felt good to let them know that they had made a positive impression on me and I was grateful for the experience. And I resolved to audition again, for the 3rd year in a row, and this time… LOVE my pieces even more… so every piece felt like my favorite one… and be more risky and transparent in the room… just be TOTALLY willing to make a fool of myself with no pretense or defenses. That's the goal.

In conclusion, I’m actually glad that I didn’t get in my first two years. It wasn't supposed to happen yet. I feel like when the time is right… It’s going to be natural. I don't want it to feel like I’m desperately pounding on their door, begging to get in… "Oh, please! Oh, please!" I’d rather feel like I can knock quietly, but with confidence and then... before the door even opens I can hear them saying inside… “Hey, guys… Did you hear that knocking? Virginia’s here! Finally! We’ve been waiting for her. Let her in, for goodness sakes! We’ve got work to do.” … and I’ll be welcomed with open arms. 

That’s how I’ll know that I’ve found my artistic launching pad. It’ll feel like coming home.


P.S. I’ll recap my experience at NYU auditions & callbacks in a future post. I promise! Gotta go get ready for work.

“Keep your eye on the goal, don’t take anything personally and know deep down that it is all part of the plan and that there are no mistakes.” – Lena Stevens, The Power Path


  1. Virginia, I love your blog! Your posts welcome me to work every morning and gives me new perspective.

    I didn't get into grad school the first time either. I was basically promised a spot and said my application looked great, but my GPA was low (undergrad was not my shining moment in life). Anyway, I stuck with it: took a standardized test to prove my intelligence, wrote a letter to the admissions board about determination and not judging a 30-something applicant based on actions that are more than a decade old, blah, blah, blah. I was accepted and able to start almost a full year later. I know it was the right time, and more importantly, I appreciate it WAY MORE. If everything came easy we would have no perspective on how great it is when we truly accomplish something special.

    Keep writing...I'll be reading.



  2. Virginia,
    Thanks so much for the post! You have such a wonderful attitude. After I didn't see my name on the "list" at Yale, I could barely see straight to even find the train to get home. People on the train must have thought that my dog died or something. This year I hope to at least get asked for a third monologue like you! Look forward to hearing about NYU. That one was even worse for me!!

  3. Thank you, Abby!!! I love your story. You totally went the extra mile, stuck with it and got accepted. And, you are a super successful and happy lady with an awesome life! Way to go! What an inspiration! So awesome. Thank you for your comment.

    And Sam... There will be no dying doggies this year for you, yes?! You are going to be soooooo much more comfortable and prepared and grounded and awesome.

    Do your work. Relish in your moment. Express your unique point of view. And then the rest is up to the universe. If they need you in this year's class, rest assured... they will take you. If not, your talents are needed elsewhere for the year, perhaps... and then you can try, try again. As long as you really enjoy the process, it will feel successful no matter what the outcome. Though I believe that this may very well be your year!

    "We, the audience, measure the degree of success by how happy the character is at the end: by how much peace, joy and love are flying around and chirping like happy little birds in his consciousness, even if he didn't "get" what he thought he was going after." - Kathryn Bild, Acting From A Spiritual Perspective

    I love that quote!

    Besides... it ain't over until you stop trying. And that's alllll up to YOU!

    Sending you broken legs and lots of luck!


    P.S. I will post on my experience at NYU auditions and callbacks this week. Promise!