Tuesday, October 18, 2011

38. Recap – 2010 – NYU Grad Acting Auditions

“If you want to make a living at what you love doing, you need to get good at it.” – Leo Babauta, Zen Habits

Year 1: MFA Auditions & Callbacks

My experience at auditions:

I am sorry to say that I cannot remember who was in the audition room for my first audition at NYU. It was a female faculty member and she was lovely and kind. I did my two pieces, the same ones I had done at Yale. But this time, my name was called when my group had completed the first round… Me and about 6 others in our group of 20 made the cut. Whew!

Later that day, during the next round we all got to audition for Janet Zarish and Mark Wing-Davy. I felt an absolute kindredness with Janet from the moment I saw her. She exudes love and support. And Mark has a wonderful sense of humor and a smart, insightful groundedness to him. When he speaks, he always has something to SAY. I love that. Both of them were welcoming and seemed genuinely glad that I was there to audition for them, which I appreciated greatly… because I was NERVOUS. I really, really, really wanted to do well. 

Did my two pieces. Mark asked for my non-Shakespeare classical, which was super fun and I LOVED doing. They may have asked me for a third piece at that point… I can’t recall. Then they asked me to sing. I belted out some short 16-bar Judy Garland ditty (‘cause I’m a fan) and I then was asked to stay for the “final round” that day. Which, for me, ended up being a pull-up-a-chair-and-lets-chat type of interview. I don’t remember exactly what was said. It's been a while. But I remember feeling good when I left.

… Then a few weeks later… I got a voicemail... “Hi, this is Janet Zarish over at NYU. We’d like to invite you to come to our callback weekend, if you’d be interested. We’ll be sending you an email with all the info. Please reply to Jonathon Ward and he’ll get you set-up with all the details. Hope to see you soon!”

ME = Over-The-MOON!!! Heck-yeah, I'm INTERESTED. Sooooo excited!!!

My experience at the callback weekend:

This weekend changed my life... not an exaggeration… and I’ll try to clue-you-in as to WHY...

When I first moved to New York in 2007, I hardly knew ANYONE. I reconnected with a few friends from college and some acquaintances from past shows, but no real strong COMMUNITY of people that I felt like I was a part of. So when I showed up at NYU’s callback weekend and Janet welcomed us, asking us to be a part of the NYU family for the weekend so that we could really experience what it would feel like to be a student at NYU.... I was overwhelmed with JOY! I felt like I had finally found my PEOPLE! 

Here I was being embraced by this amazing COMMUNITY of actors and teachers with such a profound commitment to the work and deep respect for actors and an unshakable sense of professionalism. It felt like actor-utopia. Seriously.

The 50 of us were divided into smaller groups. We got to do classwork/workshops together, tour the school, do our monologues again for Janet and Mark and..... the other truly-life-changing-part-that-I-will-never-ever-forget… the alumni talk-back.

“Before we set our hearts too much on anything, let us examine how happy are those who already possess it.” – Francois duc de La Rochefoucauld, moralist (1613-1680)

As you may have guessed, I am into this whole idea of “community,” so here’s this group of NYU alumni, back at the school to share their experience and talk about their lives after graduation… and I am in freakin’ heaven. They are all super down-to-earth and talented as all-get-out and soooo open and giving and willing to answer any freakin’ question, no matter how silly. And they’re all in different places in their careers… film, tv, broadway, off-broadway, writing, directing… ev-er-y-thang… you-name-it! 

And... they actually HAVE careers and get paid to do what they LOVE…That is NOT how it is for many actors where I grew up. These NYU alumni are committed to this crazy business of show as their passion and their life’s WORK! And they are so supportive of each other, such generous people! 

NYU had clearly had a profound impact on the actor/professionals that each of them had become. I sat and watched and listened and felt like I was already a part of that community, in my small way, just by being there that weekend. 

It was like crack. I was totally addicted. I wanted MORE. 

I longed to spend 3 years with amazing people like that… and graduate… and be a part of the greater NYU family of artists… and come back years later to the callback weekend and sit on that stage and tell some young up-and-comers how NYU had helped transform me into the artist I was becoming and welcome them into our family too! 

Being a professional actor isn’t just a pipe-dream. And all those alumni were sitting there as proof. They’re making it happen and NYU was a powerful part of that journey for them. So inspiring.

Now I KNEW I really wanted to get in!

… Then on April 1st, I got a letter in the mail. 16 applicants had been chosen out of the 842 that had auditioned that year. I was not one of the chosen.

Me = Super disappointed… which later turned into… determined not to give up.

But, AHHHHH! Audition again? I had already been REJECTED. What if I failed... AGAIN?


“Don’t let the questioning mind get in the way of what you know to be emotionally true. Pay attention to the signs of spirit and don’t argue with or resist what is obvious.” – Unknown, (The Power Path, perhaps? Sounds like something Lena Stevens would say)

It was OBVIOUS to me that these were the kind of passionate people that I wanted to surround myself with, that would inspire me to not just do good work, but to strive for GREAT work. I couldn't allow myself to be afraid to try again for fear of failing. That's totally RIDICULOUS. I had to continue to follow this path! Got to try again. I would always regret it if I didn't. I mean, why not!? I know that’s what I want. Why not go for it 100%? I already know I can survive failing at it. Done that!

Sooo... Now I had the opportunity to spend a whole YEAR preparing! Year 2 auditions... were going to ROCK. Awesome.

“Look for opportunities rather than bemoaning the losses.” – Lena Stevens, The Power Path

My measure of success:

I got sooooo close. I felt HONORED to have made it that far at NYU, my first time auditioning for grad school. It was a hugely successful learning experience and completely changed the trajectory of my life. Rather than focusing on what my next acting job would be in the short-term, my whole goal-structure shifted to “how-is-this-going-to-help-prepare-me-for-grad-school?” And that’s how I have made my decisions and modeled my life ever since then. 

Learning and Resolutions for Year 2:

I learned that I loved the prospect of being a part of a community of great actors and that I didn’t want to move on to the next step in my career without allowing myself that experience of going through professional actor training at the Masters level… that time to grow and germinate and set a foundation of support and risk-taking that would serve me throughout the rest of my career. 

Those NYU actors were freakin’ FEARLESS… well, maybe they felt fear, but they never let it stop them. They just said YES and did whatever was necessary to be the best story-tellers possible.  I WANT TO BE ONE OF THOSE ACTORS! So, I resolved to up-my-game for year-2 auditions and spend my year becoming more like the actor/human I wanted to be… FEARLESS.

On that note... gotta go... I'm afraid I might be late for work!  :-p

More on Year 2  - NYU auditions… tomorrow.

Soooo many words... rest your eyes for now.


“It’s often from a sense of discontent, feelings of incompleteness, or even a twinge of true unhappiness that the seeds of great accomplishment are sown.” – Mike Dooley, Tut’s Universe


  1. Ginny! You were so close (I had no idea)! Amazing for your first try... so proud of you!

  2. This is my favorite part: "Me = Super disappointed… which later turned into… determined not to give up." Brilliant. Your determination is inspirational. I, too, am in a profession that is comprised mostly of rejections, where I must make my way in the spaces between. I am always reading that if you know you want something (the Fulbright I plan to get to write the book I plan to write, for instance) you have to be so set on it that you'll keep at it even when you're rejected. The idea of trying for something so monumental, being turned down, and then trying again always seems so daunting to me it nearly stops me from even trying in the first place. I'm proud of your determination. If you keep at it you will end up where you belong, unequivocally. Good for you, Virginia! You've already shown yourself to be more capable than most. I have no doubt with your attitude and determination your life will be a great success. Seems to me like it has been already!

  3. Thanks, Rieker! Soooo close I can taste it! Mmmmm! Sweet like strawberry shortcake with home-made whipped cream! Yums. :-)

  4. Pearl! You are SO GOING TO WRITE THAT BOOK! I just KNOW it. And you know how you're going to do it? Word. By. Word... Simple. Easy. You can totally commit to writing a word. How about a page?... A page a day. And then... BAM!!!... before you know it... 365 days later. You've got a BOOK!!! And it's the most effortless book ever... written one word at a time and one page a day (or whatever works best for you). Go for it!!! Start now! I can't wait to read it. And the rest of the Universe can't wait for it to EXIST. Sending you tons of love and big dreams that are built in small ways. ~V