Part Three: THE FACULTY
Mine was the very last name on the callback list from the Juilliard Drama auditions that morning.
I was one of the lucky 18 selected to stay and audition for the entire FACULTY that afternoon.
As I walked down the hallway toward the room where the other 17 Juilliard hopefuls would be waiting, I tried to breathe.
"Stay calm, Wilcox." I thought. "You can do this. This is what you’ve been working so hard for, right? Don’t be scared. Enjoy it!"
Standing outside the door, checking people on the list was Kathy Hood, Administrator for the Drama Division. She was looking down at her paper as I approached. When she looked up at me her face lit up with joy, she gasped and wrapped her arms around me with a quick hug and said, “Virginia, there you are! Thank goodness. I was so worried. All the rooms were clear of people and we didn’t see you. I was concerned that you didn’t see your name on the list and had left the building! We’re so glad you didn’t leave! Come on in. We’re going to take a photo of you and then you can have a seat.”
I smiled and my heart was filled with joy because one of my wishes had just come TRUE! And not the one you might think...If you’ve been following the blog for a while, you may remember my concluding paragraph in post 34. Recap - Year 1/Year 2 - YALE Auditions... I included an imaginary interchange I was hoping experience someday... in reality. Well, this brief exchange with Kathy felt EXACTLY like that imagined conversation...Slightly different words, but the feeling was the same…Being welcomed, being valued, being appreciated. I wasn’t just a statistic to Kathy Hood…I was Virginia Wilcox…and she was glad that I was here.
And, let me tell you…I was glad to be there too.
After I had my photo taken (Just an awful deer-in-the-headlights expression on my face, but what can ya do?...It’s honest) I took one of the empty seats and realized that I recognized someone. It was the beautiful blue-eyed girl from the subway car! (I will call her Melinda.) I told her that I recognized her from the subway car, that I had spotted her as being an actress right away. She grinned from ear to ear and said, “Really?! Wow! Thank you so much. That’s a nice thing to say.” (I loved her response. She’s obviously proud to be an actor. And that is GREAT! So many of us adopt an apologetic tone when we regretfully admit that we are ~gulp~ lowly actors, but not Melinda! She was thrilled to be identified as an actress! So refreshing! What a joy!)
After everyone had their photos taken we all headed upstairs where they had LUNCH waiting for us. NO JOKE. I don’t know about you, but one way to win me over and make me a devoted and loyal fan for life is to provide me with free food. So that was AWESOME and much appreciated by all. Everyone was starving by this point! !t was probably around 2:30pm-ish.
As we ate... we got to sit around and chat with each other and the three current students who were there to take care of us and help facilitate the callbacks. They were three super friendly and supportive and humorous angels: Mary, Austin & Angelina.
We did some paperwork stuff too…They had printed out sheets of paper for each of us, telling us all of the things that were missing from our application files. I don't know how they managed to do that so quickly. Very impressive. (I need to send in my transcripts. Put that on the “to do” list.)
We were also handed a green sheet of paper with three questions on it. We’d be required to write a few short paragraphs answering three questions, so that the faculty could get to know us better.
Then we were lined-up in alphabetical order (I was last...naturally) and escorted back into the audition room to meet the faculty.
We all stood in a line facing them and they sat in a semicircle facing us.
It was like love at first sight! What an amazing, eclectic group they are.
We got to introduce ourselves first. They started with me.
“Hi. I’m Virginia Wilcox and I’m from Walnut Creek, California.”
And so on and so forth down the line...Like we were in a beauty pageant. Hilarious!
Then the faculty started introducing themselves in a similar manner…which I thought was very equalizing. We were alllll in the same boat together…doing our awkward introductions, laughing at the ridiculousness of it all and reminding ourselves where we came from before we even dreamed of ending up in this room together.
And now… the auditions were about to begin again. Only this time, we were each told what monologue the faculty specifically wanted to see us do.
For me…They wanted to see my contemporary monologue with the adjustment.
I thought to myself, “Whaaaaat??? How can this be? Do they really want me to go in there and pantomime cleaning up a restaurant? Seriously?!!! No way...God, I am about to go into that room and PANTOMIME in front of the entire faculty of JUILLIARD….Oh, dear lord. This is about to be humiliating. I am no good at pantomime. I am going to look completely ridiculous!”
My mind was racing as we walked back upstairs to the waiting area. HOW was I going to do my monologue with the adjustment and not forget my lines?...Shudder....
"Never mind. Don’t think about it yet." I thought to myself. "Focus on the next task…writing the answers to those questions…"
I don’t recall EXACTLY how the questions were worded or exactly what I answered, but it was something like this…
1. What is your greatest strength as an actor?
My Answer: Love. Love is my greatest strength as an actor. I love doing this more than anything. And, maybe determination also, I don’t give up. I will never give up.
2. What is your greatest weakness as an actor?
My Answer: Fear. Fear of being vulnerable. Fear of looking stupid. Fear of being judged. I have been working to overcome these fears…or if not overcome the fear then just learn to lean into fear, rather than shy away from it.
3. Describe an artistic event that has significance to you?
My Answer: I wrote about TEDxBroadway and my deep admiration for inspiring leaders.
I turned in my paper before I could start to re-read, re-think, re-consider and start feeling insecure that everything I had written was all WRONG.
"NO EDITING , WILCOX! Get it on the page and then LET IT GO!" Easier thought than done.
Then I walked over to the food table to get a snack and began a conversation with one particular young gentleman that I am sooooo glad I had the privilege to get to know...even if just for one day. (I will call him Toby.) He’s a BFA applicant…an old soul…sharp as a tack, but with the buoyant energy and imagination of a 9-year-old. This young man instantaneously won me over. I mean, how could I not love this guy? He was homeschooled too! We totally bonded…and shared with each other our fears about sucking big-time on the “adjusted” versions of our monologues. I could tell he was incredibly talented and would be very interesting to watch. I was captivated just by talking to him... I guess that’s what they call the “it” factor or “presence” or “star-power” or whatever. Anyway, what ever you want to call it, he has it…AND he’s a sweetheart too!
As much as I wanted to pre-plan every single move of this “pantomimed monologue” I was about to do, I knew that pre-planning too much would be a total disaster. I knew that my desire to pre-plan was just coming from a place of FEAR and my need to CONTROL the audition and try to get it RIGHT. The courageous part of me knew that I’d be able to survive with no plan…However, since this is a very IMPORTANT audition to me, I decided to compromise a bit and at least give myself a structure to play within.
So here’s what I did… I drew myself a picture of my imaginary restaurant.
If this was really my place of employment, then I’d know it like the back of my hand, right? And I’d have a closing routine of stuff that I alllllllways had to do every night to close down the restaurant, right? So that was my structure...knowing EXACTLY where I am and EXACTLY what needed to be accomplished with my cleaning tasks before I could leave the restaurant for the evening.
It made me feel a lot more relaxed to have clear picture of my imaginary restaurant, with 6 two-tops, a counter with stools, the kitchen on the left and the front door on the right. Simple.
And my routine?...Well, before I was allowed to leave the restaurant…I had to grab a tray and clear all the salt/pepper shakers, wipe down all the tables/chairs, wipe down a stack of menus and if I still had time left over…I could sweep the floor. Simple.
I was finally called down to the hallway outside the audition room. I was "on-deck" and waiting to go next.
Toby was right before me alphabetically. He was in the audition room getting it all nice and warmed-up with awesomeness for me. And, sure enough, a few seconds later he burst out of the room like a prize-fighter coming out of the ring from a win!
I stood by and watched him as he wound-down from the experience…keeping my distance. Allowing him to have his moment, waiting for him to approach me…or not. Then the monitor came out of the room and told him he was free to go back to the waiting area.
Toby turns to me with a huge grin and wraps his arms around me in a big, strong full-body hug, so close and strong that I could feel the love in his heart bursting through his chest and sending an electric jolt through to mine. His belief in me was so deep and true, it made my bones ache. “You get in there and go for it, okay? You’re going to be awesome.”
“Okay.” I said.
He smiled at me with his reassuring grin and bounded away… As I turned to face the door…alone.