Part Two: The List
Sooooo back to our story... All 155 of us auditioning today for Juilliard Drama have been waiting around for several hours to see the greatly anticipated “callback list.” It’s imminent arrival had been promised every fifteen to twenty minutes…but no such list had yet appeared.
Just to give a little background, as to the significance of “THE LIST”... Imagine yourself in this situation...
You’ve decided (after much deliberating) to audition for Juilliard in spite of THE ODDS.
You have spent months preparing...submitting the online application, paying your application fee, requesting letter(s) of recommendation, writing your personal statement, maybe getting new headshots, finding 4 monologues (that both fill the requirements for the audition AND are PERSONAL to you in some way), you’ve hired a coach or enlisted a trusted teacher to help you prepare these monologues, you’ve practiced, you’ve thoughtfully picked out your clothing and shoes for “the big day” (that just might change your life forever and set you on a trajectory of artistic growth), and, if accepted, have imagined the realities of moving to the heart of New York City.
You have done ALLLL of these things. But more than that...you’ve been struggling in your head the whole time...waffling back and forth between thoughts like:
“Why in the world am I doing all of this? What if I am doing it all wrong? I might just go in to this audition and totally freeze up or make a fool of myself and then all this work will be for nothing and I will feel like an untalented loser who will never succeed as an actor. If I was any good at this acting thing, shouldn’t I have been “discovered” already? Maybe I should just give up an find a “real” job and stop kidding myself. Who am I to think that I might be “Juilliard material?” All well, maybe I’ll just kinda go in there and “half-ass” it and see what happens. Because if I really give it my ALL and then fail at it...well, that’d be tooooo devastating. But if I “half-ass” it and fail...then I can just give myself the excuse that I didn’t really try...or I can comfort myself by calling Juilliard pretentious and elitist. How DARE they not recognize my talent through my half-assed effort at this audition! Who needs Juilliard anyway?...Whatever.”
“I am going to give this my ALL...because I know I CAN...and because I know that’s how I’ll get the most out of the process and, therefore, not be so attached to the outcome. I know that EVERYONE is worthy of attending a school like Juilliard...including me. So I am going to give the best possible audition that I can right now, with the resources that are available to me. I won’t be giving a perfect audition, but it will be a FUN audition...Because I know that I am the creator of my own experience...So if I choose to enjoy the whole process, then I’ll feel like it was worth it no matter what...and even if they don’t “accept” me...I will have accepted myself... as a person who is brave enough to shoot for the moon and to audition for a schmancy school like JUILLIARD. The person I most need to impress...is myself. So I am going to prepare in the best way possible to be the kind of actor that I would like to be in class WITH for four years...the kind of actor that I would like to be inspired by. I’ll just start behaving like that person now...whether Juilliard accepts me or not. And...the best part is...even if I fail...I can take what I've learned from this year’s audition experience and try again next year.”
Sooooo, back to the LIST that's about to be posted on the wall. For all of us auditioning today...there’s a lot of emotional baggage riding on this LIST.
If your name is not on said list, you know that you are no longer in the running for consideration for this year’s class. No pressure.
It’s tough not to look at THE LIST as anything other than a black-and-white personal judgement of YOU and your talent.
Our brains naturally go there... We're either "winners" or "losers"..."talented" or "untalented" ..."worthy" or "unworthy."
But our brains are WRONG. Everyone is WORTHY. YOU ARE WORTHY.
Think of it this way...If your name is not on that list...then you can THANK THE HEAVENS THAT IT IS NOT, because you are needed elsewhere this year...either at another school that will embrace you and appreciate you for being your perfectly imperfect self and help you to better your craft...or maybe you could really use some time auditioning in the “real world” and that’s the thing that’ll really enable you to grow. Who knows?
Have you ever had the experience of being “mis-cast” in a role? I have. It is TORTURE...Trying, day in and day out, to be something that you’re not or to magically manifest skills that you don’t have...Disappointing yourself and everyone else in the process. Awful.
Rejection is God’s protection. If you think you know what is BEST for you...the Universe will promptly remind you that you are mistaken. You can’t always get what you WANT...But you will always get what you NEED in order to learn the lessons you’re here to learn in this life.
Anyway, I digress.
Back to our story...
Finally, without fanfare... THE LIST was posted. The massive rush of people headed into the hallway had begun.
I have to say, I much prefer having a list of names read aloud rather than the posting of a list on the wall, in these kinds of situations. Perhaps it’s just a personal preference. I mean, think about it...most people don’t know each other’s names…so if the list is read aloud, you’re just listening for your own name and not really paying much attention to the reactions of others.
I feel that being able to maintain one’s composure and dignity in the comfort and safety of one’s own seat is a much more palatable way of absorbing rejection than having to pretend like you’re cool and collected as you walk into the crowded mass of youth huddling and straining to see the names on a sheet of paper, bodies bumping into each other in eager anticipation and then retreating in muted disappointment.
It’s an awful experience every time…no matter if your name is on the list or not.
I waited a minute or two for the masses to converge and begin to disburse around the list. I felt good about my initial audition, so I was hopeful that I might see my name. But I have felt that way in the past and have been disappointed when my name was not there. So I was prepared for the idea that though I had given my best at in the room, that I might not be the right fit for Juilliard.
I saw Simon standing near the doorway as I approached, but I couldn’t make eye-contact with him. I couldn’t make eye-contact with anyone. I was moving forward in a haze, hyper-focused on one thing… that 8.5 x 11 sheet of paper that was slowly coming into focus as I drew nearer…My eyes darted around the page…
It’s in alphabetical order…
Look down, down, down…
There it was. The very last name on the list.
I didn’t even blink. I just turned on my heels and walked quickly away from the crowd, straight back to my seat. And sat down next to Rebecca and the lanky elvish young man in the puffy green jacket (from the subway car earlier).
Rebecca looked into my eyes. “Well?” She said. “I can’t tell from your face…Did you see your name?”
“Yes.” I sat there stunned.
“Congratulations!” Both Rebecca and elvish young man chimed in.
I smiled and said thank you and then began to stare at the floor…letting my mind go blank for a second. This was toooo overwhelming for me. My brain was not processing this.
Rebecca came back and told me she had not seen her name. Bleh!!! And elvish young man passed by quietly, grabbed his backpack and silently slipped away. I hugged Rebecca warmly and said how much I hoped that the rest of her grad school auditions went well and that I hoped she’d try again next year at Juilliard if she felt strongly that this would be the best place for her.
That’s when the reality of the situation began to sink in for me…I wanted Rebecca to come along into the next room with me too…and elvish young man…and where was Simon? When would I see him again? Ugh! This part of the process SUCKS! I wanted EVERYONE I had met to be on that list. Why did I have to walk into the next room alone? Why couldn't they come too? Ugh.
I do not envy the people behind the audition table. They had just seen 155 AMAZING young artists (with major potential to do great work) share their hearts, hopes and dreams at this audition. And they had narrowed it down to just 18, to move on to the next round.
How do you even do that??? What a tough job!? They must wish that they could take more people into the program every time. I cannot imagine how it could be otherwise.
I had to move. The room had almost completely cleared out. I gathered my courage, grabbed my bag and my computer, said my goodbyes and walked down the hallway into the next room.
I cannot believe my good fortune.
I. just. got. called. back. at. JUILLIARD.
I've gotten soooo used to the feeling of failing...It's familiar.
But this feeling of succeeding...I don't know...It's pretty terrifying. Hopefully I'll find a way to get used to it.
No matter what. I will never forget this moment...and everything it took to get here.
Tomorrow...Part Three: Auditioning for THE FACULTY.