Wednesday, October 19, 2011

39. Recap – 2011 – NYU Grad Acting Auditions

Year 2: MFA Auditions & Waitlist

"Take chances, make mistakes. That’s how you grow. Pain nourishes your courage. You have to fail in order to practice being brave.” 
– Mary Tyler Moore 

My experience auditioning:

After my AMAZING experience at auditions and callbacks at NYU my first year, I had both high-hopes and great fears for Year 2 auditions. My worst nightmare was that I wouldn’t make it through the first cut and wouldn’t get the opportunity to audition again for Janet Zarish and Mark Wing-Davy, who had both gotten to know me a bit during the callback weekend from the year before.

That morning at NYU, my first-round audition was for Victor Pappas, whom I had never met. (I believe he was on sabbatical the previous year.) What a joyful spirit! He welcomed me into the room with a bright, genuine smile. I liked him instantly. And that calmed my nerves and made me super excited to share the monologues I had been working on for months in preparation for this very moment.

It felt so good to get up there and say the words and feel the feelings... Doin' the acting thang.

I had been spending most of my year sitting in an office, making money to pay off my credit card/student loan debt. I had set this as a personal goal for the year, so that I could get into grad school with less of a debt burden. Money stress had become a huge issue for me. Scarcity thinking had been ruling my life in a really negative way and had been sapping my creative energies for YEARS. Now that I was aware of it, I had made every effort to get that debt-burden GONE, which resulted in a feeling of lightness and freedom in ALLLL areas of my life.

So getting up and doing my monologues for Victor felt like a two-fold joy…
1. Getting to do something that I love to do…  AND...
2. Knowing that by taking a break from acting and by NOT doing it for a while, I was enabling myself to appreciate it more deeply and with greater sense of freedom from financial stress.

After auditioning for Victor, I walked out of the room thinking… “Well, even if that’s all I get to do today, it was worth it. I had FUN and it felt like a successful audition to me, no matter what the outcome.” And I believed it too.

“People rarely succeed unless they have fun in what they are doing.” 
– Dale Carnegie

In a little while, Jonathon Ward came out to the waiting area with a stack of headshot/resumes in-hand. He read off the names one by one…

My heart = pounding in my chest... Unfamiliar names ringing in my ears, as Jonathon breathed each word and then I heard…  Virginia Wilcox.

Ahhhhhhh!!!! That’s my name! He called me!

I made the first cut. Whew! I would get to see Mark and Janet again! YES!!!! Sweet joy!!!!

When it was my turn to go in for the second-round that same day, I practically bounced into the room to see Mark and Janet. I felt like I was coming home to old friends. I greeted them with a grin and a wave of familiarity... and I was met with looks varying from vague recognition to complete blankness… Yikes!

In my head:
Expectation adjustment NEEDED!!! I had hoped that they would remember me, but if they did,… oh, boy,… they sure weren’t letting on! Oh, dear... I thought I was more memorable than that, but apparently not. LOL! Shake it off, Wilcox… Give them a chance to remember you from now on...

Mark looked at my list of four monologues and asked me to present my non-Shakespeare classical (very dark/dramatic) and my dramatic contemporary.

Drama + Drama = HEAVY.

And who wants to spend 3 years with someone who has no sense of humor? Not me... and probably not them.

I blinked. I blinked again. What to do now? I knew I was about to serve up a depression cocktail. He didn’t choose anything that had any lightness to it. I wanted to say something, to warn him, but I wasn’t courageous enough to speak up for myself.

In my head:
Just do it, Wilcox. If he wants to see some comedy, he’ll ask you for a third piece. It’s gonna be fine. Let it go... But I didn't/couldn't.

So I went to start my classical piece… and I couldn’t think of the first line… and I couldn’t think of it… and I couldn’t think of it...

I just stood there. Staring at the floor. My brain racing with a million thoughts except for the one that would really help me to be thinking in this moment… namely: MY FIRST F*@ING LINE. Then after another interminable eternity I “calmly” said to Mark and Janet, “I’m sorry. Just give me a second.” And I turned upstage and I breathed. Thinking… “It will come to you, Wilcox. Breathe. Let it come. Breathe.”…. And, thank the dear lord… it finally came to me.

Jeeeeesus that scared the S*%t out of me though… forgetting the words… losing focus… and I was totally out-of-body for the rest of the audition. Words were spoken but it was someone else speaking them. I was residing on the ceiling staring down at myself with a constant awareness of my complete and utter terror.

After I was done with my two uber-dramatic pieces… You could cut the angst in the room with a knife. And Janet broke the silence with… “Ah-hem… Virginia, would you like to sing for us?”

I sighed a small sigh of relief and smiled and said, “Sure! I’ll be singing… Get Happy.”

HA! And they laughed. Which was nice. Cut some of the tension, at least. And no third monologue was mentioned.

I sang my little ditty and dutifully dragged myself out the door… wondering all the while…
1. Where, along the way, had I lost my bounce? …and…
2. How had I managed to give all my power away? …and…
3. Why did I feel like I had totally lost control of myself during that audition?

A few minutes later, after the next hopeful applicant had gone in to the audition room, the monitor in the waiting area smiled and said…“That’s all we need to see today, Virginia. You’re free to go home. Thank you.”

Me: “Oh, okay… (all my blood dropped into my toes and my face went completely white)… Thanks... (gulp… hold it together… hold it together). Best of luck with the rest of the auditions today… (the best smile I could muster) … Bye-bye."

...Bye-bye, NYU, bye-bye...

I spent months analyzing it, for no good reason, really. I couldn’t go back and change anything. All I could do was move forward. But I was having a tough time figuring out what I was supposed to have learned from this experience.

The only thing that I could come up with as a major regret… is not speaking up for myself when Mark asked me for my two dramatic pieces… It would have made ME feel better to have said something like, “Mark, just wanted to let you know that you’ve chosen two dramatic pieces, which I am more than HAPPY to do for you. Just wanted to let you know, in case you want to see something a little lighter, as a contrast.” In which case, he may have still opted to go with his choices… or maybe he would have reconsidered and chosen a comedic piece… it really wouldn’t have mattered to me. Either way would have been fine. But, in retrospect, I would have felt more courageous and more in-control and more focused and prouder-of-myself in that situation, if I had followed my impulse and spoken up for myself in that moment… rather than blinking back my qualms and feeling like I was about to dutifully sacrifice myself to the drama gods. That only lead to me feeling super conflicted, getting distracted in my own head… and going up on my line… and losing confidence… and losing focus… and losing them… and, ultimately, disappointing myself.

By trying to be a "people-pleaser" and by stuffing my own internal impulse to speak up, I had succeeded in pleasing no one.

“Resiliency, I think is the KEY to success. The most successful people I know are so resilient. They’ve failed many times over. Whereas most people fail once or twice, and that’s it.” – Adam Gilbert, MyBodyTutor

Thank goodness I would be permitted to come back and try again next year!!! Do over!!!

My measure of success:

I did make the first cut… which felt like a great accomplishment.

Several weeks later, I received an email from Jonathon Ward informing me that I would not be invited to the callback weekend but that I was on the “waiting list.” Apparently they keep about 100 applicants on a waiting list, in the case that they are not able to find their 16-18 students from the 50 that are invited to the callback weekend. I was grateful to be included on the waiting list, but I knew that the likelihood of making it to this year’s class from the waiting list was very, very slim.

I would not be holding my breath.

Then, after a time, I received another email notifying me that they had chosen their MFA students for the year and they wished me best-of-luck in all my future endeavors.


Well, at least I had the courage to show up for the second time… and I had tried again. That was very important to me.

Unfortunately, it wasn't meant to happen yet. Whah-whah! What was supposed to happen… had happened. And as not-so-fun-and-awkward as that audition was for me, I survived to tell the tale.

“Whenever something doesn’t work out the way you thought it would, instead of thinking that something went wrong, see it as something that went unexpectedly well, but for reasons that are not yet apparent. Everything plays in your favor.” – Mike Dooley, Tut’s Universe

Learning and Resolutions for Year 3:

I wasn’t supposed to be at NYU yet. I had other stuff to learn/do elsewhere. And it has been a year of GROWTH… for which I am truly, truly grateful.

Good thing I'm such a prolific failer... otherwise this blog wouldn't exist. Hee, hee! And, last year, I sure didn't foresee becoming a "blogger." That never entered my mind. So that a cool and unexpected bi-product of failure. Ha!

"Laced throughout every day of your life are hidden highways of opportunity, invisible crossroads of time, and golden avenues for personal transformation that if only traveled upon would reveal the extraordinary, the sublime, and the unexpected." - Mike Dooley, Tut's Universe

When reflecting on my experiences preparing for grad school auditions, Year 1 and Year 2, I realized that the thing I disliked most about the process was my feeling of isolation. Actors are collaborative artists and I wanted to have a sense of community collaboration and support in my 3rd try for acceptance to grad school.

Cut to me setting up this blog. Cut to you subscribing. And here we are now… collaborating daily. Success!
“I still don’t get why people are so surprised that the turtle beat the rabbit over the long run. Consistent effort, no matter how small, sparks magic, fills sails, butters bread, turns tides, instills faith, summons friends, improves health, burns calories, creates abundance, yields clarity, builds courage, spins planets and rewrites destinies… No matter how small.” – Mike Dooley, Tut’s Universe
This year has ALREADY been a way better grad school audition prep experience for me than the last two years combined and I won’t even be auditioning until January! With this blog, it feels great to be making a small impact on the world in my own Virginia way... by staying focused on my dreams/goals... by posting daily about my creative process... and by connecting with friends who are pursuing their own dreams/goals and are using the blog as a means of inspiration on their journey's too!

It's all about grad school for me... but not at all about grad school... all at the same time. It could be anything that you aspire to be or do. All the same kinds of skills apply to any creative process of growth.

I digress.

Thanks for collaborating, folks. Hope that you’re finding some value in sharing this journey with me.

Year 3 auditions are going to be a whole new ball-game. Yale (3rd try). NYU (3rd try). Juilliard (1st try).

Wish me luck!

Who knows what will happen? But for now, I’m preparing… little by little, day by day, brick by brick, thought by thought, action by action. And as long as I am moving in the direction of making my dreams a reality… I am happy.

Life is good.

Wishing you all... a life-time of risk-taking, failure, learning, unfaltering determination and success,


“Remember that we are all works in process, perfect in our progress and always moving towards our own personal growth and evolution.” 
– Lena Stevens, The Power Path
  P.S. Sorry for the late, late, late post. This one kinda took me allll day. Thanks for reading.



  1. I was just thinking that by reading your blog makes me feel less alone in my attempt to be able to do what I love. My path is not clear to me quite just jet but I'm starting in a small way and assuming that I will end up somewhere.

    Thanks for sharing!

  2. You are toooootally not alone! You're already moving in the direction of the things that you love... ever so slowly... but your awareness is a sign of that growth! So trust in your own pace. It's perfect! Have fun. Relish the journey!