4/30/2017 0 Comments
Grad School Auditions: US vs. UK
Looking back it's been almost two years since my last blog post and a lot has happened. So over the next few months I'm going to try and cover all the major events from those two years, and then start regularly updating this blog. There is so much I've learned as an actor, an American living abroad, and as a person that I would like to share with you all. I have a list of topics that I'll be covering but if there's anything specific you want to hear about, please feel free to let me know in the comments!
If you’re thinking about pursuing your masters in the performing arts then you need to do your research, the same as you would looking into any potential job or academic endeavor. There are many different programs throughout the US, and the world over, but not every program is going to benefit you. When I started truly considering graduate school I was in the final semester of my undergraduate at Marymount Manhattan College in New York City. I loved the training I got at Marymount but everything I was being told about being an actor is that you never stop learning. This doesn’t mean everyone has to get his or her masters, but you should always be open to new forms of expression and taking classes to keep yourself sharp. Personally, I knew after my time in the military that I was still very rigid and stiff on stage which prevented me from utilizing one of my biggest tools as an actor, my body. So in the fall of 2013 I applied to the top two graduate programs in the city, the MFA program at Tisch NYU and Juilliard, on a whim with the mentality of “if I get in I’ll go from there”. I did my research on the alumni who had come from these programs and what teachers were teaching there at the time, but I didn’t look in depth into the programs themselves.
When I went in to audition for NYU it felt very near to the atmosphere of what I was used to at Marymount. The building was larger and the studios were bigger, it is NYU after all, but I never felt out of place. For each graduate school they ask you to prepare 4 monologues; two contrasting classical pieces and two contrasting modern pieces. I prepared pieces from King Lear, King John, Beyond the Horizon, & Dead Accounts. The way it worked for NYU is they brought us all in to a small studio where we were “on deck” or up next, and then you were called into the room to do your pieces to a panel of 4 or 5 people. Full disclosure, I was not ready for graduate school. Looking back on that audition I know there were so many things I would do differently, but hindsight is 20/20. They ask you to present two pieces in whatever order you prefer and then you go back out in the waiting area. Once they’ve gone through all of the people in that time group, they announce the people who they’d like to stick around for an afternoon callback session. I was asked to stay since I had presented my two strongest pieces, King Lear & Beyond the Horizon. The callbacks went much quicker and we just went straight into the audition room this time. I remember standing next to a vending machine going over my other two monologues just trying to slow my breathing. When I got into the room they asked what my other two pieces were and then it was all up to me. The King John piece was the stronger of the two so I started from there and then when I transitioned to the Dead Accounts piece, which involved miming eating ice cream; I planted myself on the ground and got stuck. Ironically the ice cream monologue will come into play a few years later for my London showcase. I left feeling like I gave it my all but that somehow it wasn’t enough. As you may or may not know, I didn’t end up at NYU and it’s probably for the best. I would have spent 3 years in a graduate program, which means I’d still be in school.
My audition day at Juilliard was a little more short lived. A friend who is an alumnus gave me a tour of the school prior to my audition day, so I wasn’t as nervous going in. The day was set up a little differently from NYU though. We were all herded into this grand room with chairs and given individual time slots, but as we were brought in all of the student helpers and staff were smiling, clapping, and cheering for us. If you’ve ever seen the movie Bubble Boy it was a little like the bright & shiny cult, which kind of threw me off, but I tried not to think about it. I had prepared the same 4 pieces and felt a little more confident in my performance this time around, but when the time came to check the list for afternoon callbacks my name was nowhere to be found. In this business you have to roll with the punches and just forget about an audition as soon as it’s over because you never know why they do or do not choose you.
After these events I put graduate school in the back of my mind and focused on finishing up my bachelors degree and graduation! Funny thing is, I was offered the lead role in Basetrack’s inaugural national tour the day of my Marymount showcase. A role I would not have been able to accept had I been gearing up for grad school in the fall (if you want to know more about Basetrack click here) So off I went on my first big job as an actor. Yet there was still that little voice in the back of my head saying “what happens when you are cast in a show that isn’t about Marines?”
Keep an eye out for Part II in a few days!
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