How would you like to go to a school where the theatre looks like this?...
(Photo by Brendan Hughes)
Well, first you have to walk through this door to audition...
(Photo by Zoe Gorman)
You will be auditioning for a man who looks like this...
Or a man who looks like this...
For the third year in a row...I took the two hour train ride to New Haven and walked through that door to audition for the MFA Acting program at the Yale School of Drama. The first two times...I didn't even make the first cut.
Alllllll that preparation and...BAM!...It's all over in 5 minutes. But I chose not to see these rejections as a "NO"...but rather as a "NOT YET." Ya know what I mean?...
So I'm back...To put my name "in the hat" again and see if this will be my year. Three times is the charm, right? Will Yale be receptive to my work this year or will I get cut...yet again?...Read on to find out...
For some reason, writing about my experience at Yale this year has become more like a series of bullet points than a narrative structure. So, I’m going to trust that and go with it. Hope you’ll still able to follow the story… If not,…use your imagination to fill-in the blanks.
New Haven in the stillness of the winter morning. Cold, crisp air. No snow.
Hands warming around a small coffee from JoJo’s Coffee (around the corner).
Push open the the heavy red door. Noticed a thumb-tack on the floor. Picked it up. (Somebody might step on it! That'd really ruin your audition experience.)
Check-in with the desk. Give them my headshot and resume. Friendly grad students running the show, as always! Love them.
Called in with the rest of my group for the 10am pre-audition talk with Ron and Walton. Didn't bother to take off my coat this year. (It was freezing!) The "talk" seemed more rushed than the past two years. But maybe they're pressed for time? Still, it’s nice to be able to meet them before hand, see their faces. Definitely helps to calm the nerves. Walton will be seeing half the audition group upstairs and Ron will be seeing the other half downstairs.
Spending time in the downstairs audition room (where I will be auditioning for Ron) helped to relax me… gotta love all the cracks in the plaster, the light coming through the cloudy, rectangular panes of glass and all the quirkiness of this oddly-converted-castle-to-studio-space. (Much less intimidating than my first year when I auditioned in this room last, back then all the black curtains were drawn...Oooooo, dark and scary!)
Ron, however, is still an intimidating figure to me. He's so quiet and grounded. Even the way he dresses, with his light t-shirt, sport jacket and his clean-cut white hair... Then he looks at you with this sense of knowing…as if he can see right into your soul…it’s spooky! He's seriously a legend among acting teachers. His former students talk about him like he's Yoda or something.
Walton was wearing a plaid poncho and New Balance sneakers. So his intimidation factor was not-so-much. Love that!!! He just seemed homey and comfortable. All of us auditioning just seemed a little over-dressed for the occasion in comparison. The word-on-the-street about Walton, from those that've worked with him...He's one of the sweetest human beings alive.
Since I've been assigned to audition in Ron’s room this year. Courage is key here. Goal: talk to him. (My first year…I was too scared to talk to him. My second year I auditioned for Walton...which was less scary...that one went better. You can read about my first & second year Yale auditions by clicking HERE.)
Back in the waiting room. The air is thick with nervous energy. Bleh!!! Gotta shake it off…
Did my best to get into my own little "zone" and did some yoga and deep breathing in the waiting room. Probably looked like a fool, but I don’t care. If it's gonna helped me stay focused, I'll look like a fool, any day of the week. So people can think what they will…At least the floor was clean.
I went online on my phone and chose an actor affirmation from Jack Plotnick's website that I felt would be most helpful to me that morning. It was...
"I release and destroy my need to be an “Actor”. Let them be the “Actors”, and have all the responsibilities that come with it. I am just here to be myself and have fun."
Kept saying it over and over to myself...every time my brain would wander to some negative, insecure place. None of those thoughts are going to help me right now. So I'll choose to focus on my affirmation...because that thought actually makes me feel GOOD about myself...and when I feel good...I'm going to do waaaaay better work in the audition room.
My turn to audition. (The last one in my group.)
I always feel like I have to pee at this moment…right before I’m about to go in for an audition…always. But I don’t really need to…it’s just psychosomatic.
Walk into the room and actually start a CONVERSATION with Ron Van Lieu! Score! Nothing profound, just remarking on the room and the fireplace and how it’s like auditioning in a castle. Some of the tension was released. Helped me to remember that we’re both human beings. Nice thing to be reminded of in this strange situation we know as "auditioning." Hooray! Success!
Chose to do my scary monologue first: Shakespeare….Goes fine. Not spectacular. But Shakespeare’s NooooooTTTT my thing, so that’s to be expected.
Did not RUSH to transition into my second monologue. Grabbed a chair and brought it downstage center. REALLY took my time to shift the mood. Felt good. Success.
Went into my second monologue…Contemporary piece…Same one I did for Mark and Janet at NYU…Different one than I did at Juilliard. Why did I choose this one? Just feel like I'm more connected to it this morning than the other one. Gotta trust your instincts on these things. If you can't trust your instincts, what can you trust? GOAL is to surprise myself in the monologue. I will not make choices, rather I will allow choices to happen to me. Do NOT want to seem rehearsed. Ugh. Hate that.
Goes REALLY, SUPER AWESOME. I am surprised at myself in several moments. "Where the hell did THAT come from?"...Feeeeeels fantastic…Definitely the best (most fearless) audition I’ve ever given at Yale. No question.
Totally showed my heart. Didn’t pre-plan. Wasn’t just “reciting lines.” Really felt like I put those given circumstances in my stomach and then just let the monologue happen to me. Freedom!
Back to the waiting area…Which is as freezing as an ice box.
The LIST for the 10am hour is posted on the door. Everybody in the waiting room starts for the door...
TWO names on the page…out of a group of about 20 people or so…there were TWO names on the list. It's been this way every year. I've never seen more than three names. (They clearly know EXACTLY what they're looking for and aren't going to waste your time if they're not interested. But...man...only two names...that's HARSH.)
The second name...
HOLY F*#K! I JUST MADE IT THROUGH THE FIRST CUT AT YALE!!!
Look up in the sky, people!!! Pigs are flying through the air.
Brrrrrrr!!! Hell is freezing over.
Seriously. I am in total shock. I have never made it to a "preliminary call-back" before. This RULES!
Why did I make it this year, as opposed to other years? Don’t know. Better monologue selection probably.
Maybe my previous "NOT YET" is about to turn into a "YES...NOW!"
Oh, hopes...don't get up toooo high. It ain't over yet...In fact, it hasn't really even begun...
I can hardly believe it. I am overcome. I hug the audition monitor, Sheria, and tell her how thrilled I am at the opportunity to do my pieces again...and that this is my third try at this...SOOOO EXCITED.
No time to think, I've only got a minute to catch my breath as I’m waiting outside the door to go back into the audition room and do my pieces for both Ron and Walton.
Damn, feels like I have to pee again...
Will my "preliminary callback" be a total disaster? Will I make the next cut and be invited to the "end-of-day" callbacks? Is Yale finally going to see me as a valuable candidate for admission in Fall of 2012? Or will I be taking the walk-of-shame back to the New Haven train station yet again?
Check back tomorrow and see what happens next...in PART TWO.