Saturday, February 4, 2012

131. Juilliard Drama Audition 2012: Part Four (Pantomime With Words)

(This is the fourth post relating my experience at Juilliard Drama Auditions 2012. Click here for Part One. Click here for Part Two. Click here for Part Three.)

Part Four: Pantomime With Words

I stared at the door, waiting for it to open. It's was finally my turn! I’m the last person selected to audition for the entire faculty of Juilliard Drama today. YIKES!!!


Excitement. Fear. Joy.

Mind racing with a million thoughts and  a million outcomes.


"All you‘ve got to do is go in there and close-up the (imaginary) restaurant, Virginia." I thought to myself.

"You’ve worked in this place for years and scrubbed these tables a million times, right? You are completely comfortable here. This is YOUR space. You know what you’ve got to do. It’s been a looooong day and you can go home and relax as soon as the restaurant is clean.

That’s all. Just clean the restaurant.

Clear the tables. Wipe them down. Clean the menus. Sweep. Grab your stuff. Lock the door. Done.

Simple. Easy.

No need to control anything. No need to be a fancy actor. No need to impress anybody.

The words of the monologue will be there for you. You know them. Trust yourself.

And if you get distracted and forget… Just make it up. Who cares!? You know where you are and who you are and the story you’re telling. That’s all you need.

So go clean the f*%ing restaurant and get it done!"

As I was ushered into the room I was greeted by the gentle hum of laughter and conversation. The room was a-buzz with energy and the faculty clearly seemed to be having a good time together. James Houghton took the lead (naturally) and asked me what play my piece was from. I told him and he asked me to give him a second to write it down.

As he wrote, I scanned around the room, turning on my heels...taking in the acting space…figuring out mentally where the door was…and the kitchen…the counter…the stools…the 6 tables and 12 chairs (all imaginary…but very clearly defined in my head). It was as if I was creating a movie in my head...with chairs and tables coalescing from the ether and into my reality. God…Acting is such a weird job.

Anyway, I woke from my conjuring trance and looked back at Jim Houghton, who was staring back at me intently.

“Oh! You ready?” I said.

“Yes.” He said.

That was my cue. GO!

I began to move with purpose walking stage right toward the “door” while removing my glasses, my zip-up jacket and putting my hair up with a hair-tie. I had work to do…Don’t want to deal with hair in my eyes.

Then I walked across the room to the “kitchen” to grab my tray. I imagined that the person I was speaking to was sitting on a stool at the counter, friend Josh to be exact, who had stopped by the restaurant to hang-out and watch me close. He's telling me to quit this crappy job...and I'm explaining to him why I can't and why I won't and how I see a greater purpose in my work...even in the very un-glamorous job of waitressing. That I want to be good at everything I do...And that my job here touches people's lives...and that has value.

So as I began to clear the tables, I was speaking to him…But I wasn’t thinking about speaking to him…I was thinking about clearing the table without breaking things. And then I grabbed an imaginary rag and spray bottle filled with cleaning fluid and sprayed down the first table and wiped it off. Then I continued with this process for the rest of the six tables…still talking…managing to remember my lines…turning away from the audience sometimes…oblivious to their presence (as much as possible). Then I threw the spray bottle in a cabinet and pulled up a real chair to imaginary table #1. I grabbed a stack of my imaginary menus and sat down to wipe them clean. Some of them I’d clean vigorously and some slowly or sometimes I’d stop and check in with my imaginary Josh…to make sure he was still listening to me… which he was. It all depended on what I was saying in the moment and how that made me feel.

Then I realized I was about to run out of words. So I thought, f*%k the sweeping. There's no time for it now. I gotta get outta this place. I’ll do it before I open tomorrow. Then I put away my imaginary menus and walked back across the room toward the door to grab my jacket and my glasses. I scanned the room to make sure that everything was done and I hadn’t forgotten anything. I zipped up my jacket, said the last line and turned away as if to leave.

Of course, in reality I was just standing in a huge studio staring at a wall. LOL! Again…Acting is such a weird job.

I took a moment to breathe and let the imaginary world I had created fade away gently behind me…for both myself and my audience.

That was my pantomime with words.

How did I feel about it? I really don’t know!!! I was just doing it…So I don’t know if it was any “good” or not…But one thing I DO know for sure…that imaginary restaurant is CLEAN. ;-p

Then I turned back around, smiled gently and slowly walked back to the center of the room.

Then Jim asked me what I would like to sing. I said, “Make Someone Happy…Oh, Richard…Would you like me to do the regular version or the version with the adjustment?”

Richard smiled at me and said, “Oh, just sing the song.”

"Oh, right...sorry. Sure. Okay."

So I did.

Then the room got quiet after I had finished and Jim leaned forward and asked me THE QUESTION…
“So, why grad school, Virginia?”

Oh, my God in heaven. How to even BEGIN?

My heart began to pound all the way in my toes...

Singing ain't scary...Confessing to an entire panel of people that have the ability to make this girl's grad-school acceptance DREAMS come true...NOW THAT'S SCARY.

The passion of all these years of trying and dreaming and hoping and trying again and hoping and failing and trying AGAIN…all welled up in my eyes.

“I want to be a part of this community,” I said, as I fought to keep my composure. I was NOT going to lose my s#%t now. OH, HELL NO. I have worked tooooo hard at this to come off like a blubbering fool!

I continued to speak...Gathering momentum...Trying to breathe and stay focused... “I felt such a connection to this place from the first time I took a tour and met Kathy and then every time I’ve visited here since…or seen a show...I feel it more and more.” And then I went on and on about the camaraderie amongst the faculty and the respect and care they have for the students and my desire to invest in myself with this training and building a foundation for a life-long career and I how much I love this…"

And so on and so on. Ya-da, Ya-da.

Confession: I have no idea WHAT I said, actually. It was really a blur. But I meant it all with every piece of my heart...And the above is my best estimation of what I think I probably said (for posterity’s sake.)

Jim thanked me for my audition. I thanked him and the rest of the faculty and walked out the door and back into the quiet of the hallway. 

It was done. I had survived my pantomime with the faculty of Juilliard.

I sat down in a chair. Grabbed onto the edge of the seat for support. Looked up to the ceiling. And I let myself cry.

It felt good, actually...good to cry. It's what I needed to do.

Austin, one of the current grad students, gently sat down next to me and told me about one of the times he’d had a breakdown in class and how it’s all par-for-the-course in the Juilliard experience. He made me smile. It was comforting.

I could breathe again.

Enough of the angst, Wilcox...Now it’s time for games!

I wiped away my tears, ran up the stairs and removed my shoes and socks, leaving them in my bag.

I found Toby and gave him a HUGE hug and said. "Thank you. Your hug gave me the love to get through that audition. You gave me your energy. I could feel it. Thank you. That was awesome."

He grinned at me. I grinned back.

We joined up with the rest of our group as we all made our way back down the stairs and into the audition room again with the faculty.

The next hour or so was sooooo much fun. We did so many fun exercises/activities/games together. I won’t bore you with all the details, but lets just was just like being a kid again and playing pretend....Only, this time, I was playing pretend with a room full of the BEST pretenders you’ve ever played with. Everyone’s imaginations were bouncing off the walls!!! It was fantastic to behold and to participate in. There was excitement in the air. It was electric! Laughter one moment, silence the next, cheers and then tears.

Ahhhh, actors...we are a unique breed. We are sensitive and yet, bold. We express our way of experiencing the world passionately and (ideally) public.

After we we’re all done running around and playing fun games, exhaustion started to set in. We all tromped back up-stairs and collapsed in the waiting area...just bodies laying on the floor, slouching on the seats and benches...It’s about 9pm at this point... And I’ve been up since 6am...and I'm sure I wasn't the only one. So, everyone’s a bit punchy, for sure.

Then Kathy appears, clipboard in hand. “Okay, everyone. Hope you had fun in there!”

We all responded with cheers and comments of joy and laughter.

Kathy continued, “Wonderful! I had so much fun watching you all working and playing in there. Thank you for that...Now, I know it’s getting late and you must be feeling the length of the day by now. However, we’re going to as some of you to stay and interview, if you are up for it. You’re all under consideration for the final callback weekend. So if you’re asked to stay for an interview tonight or not, it doesn’t “mean anything” either way, just know that. And we may be contacting you at a later date for a phone or Skype interview, if we feel that’s necessary, okay? Now, I’m going to call you over one-by-one to discuss with each of you individually.”

I love Kathy. She is one of the most genuinely warm-hearted human beings alive. Juilliard is soooooo lucky to have her.

So she started calling each of us over to her, alphabetically from the top of the list. Ha! You know what that means? I’m last.

Patience is a virtue and having a “W” name allows me to practice it often.

After a few moments of checking my phone and biting my cuticles and checking my phone again and looking around to see if people were getting ready to leave or settling-in for more waiting...I hear Kathy’s voice above the mild chatter in the room...


My turn. ~gulp~

I get up from the floor where I’ve been sitting and trot over to Kathy Hood. Holding my breath and smiling...hoping that I would be asked to stay, but trying hard not to expect anything more than the already ammmmmazing experience that I’ve had.

I’m standing with Kathy, away from all of the others. She looks down at her clipboard for a second and then back at me...


P.S. Will Virginia be asked to stay for an interview? What will tomorrow's post be all about?

...Stay tuned...I hope you will enjoy PART FIVE, the final chapter in my Juilliard Drama audition tale.


  1. Seriously? You said we would find out if you got an interview last time! You big fat TEASE!!! I still love you, but SERIOUSLY!? -mpg

  2. LOL! So glad you are enjoying the story and anticipation of the final installment in the series! :-)

  3. Ahhh!!! I am giddy with anticipation!

  4. Got an email from a reader asking for more specifics about the games...and I figured...if I'm getting an email about it...other people are probably wondering the same thing...So here is a little more info about the games...For those of you that are interested in such things...

    We played a game where the entire group had to count how many times we could hit a ball into the air and not let it touch the floor. (We got to something like 200.) Then we were asked to do some patterned"right, left, right, left"...that kind of thing(just to make sure we were coordinated, I suppose). Then we were divided into groups of 6 and given imaginary scenarios to act out heart is a balloon and as it inflates you float up to the ceiling...GO! And...what else? Um...OH! There was an exercise where we were imagining a room and we knew we had to leave it and then we found an object in the room and we had to say one phrase about the object before we left...I said..."never again" and my imaginary object was a necklace...Lots of people were crying in that exercise...Oh, and we also did a voice and speech thing... where we each individually had to repeat a tongue-twister type phrase. That's where my California accent started to become VEEEEERY clear to everyone...Especially Kate Wilson (who was taking notes).

    That's about it.

    Hope that helps!!!