Juilliard is every young actors wet dream. It is the Alpha and the Omega. It is a wasp among flies, a spark among mist, a god among men. Someone from Juilliard saying “yes” to you, is someone confirming your life: Yes, you are great. Yes, you are talented. Yes, I see you are gifted.
If you don’t get a callback at Juilliard does it mean the opposite? That you are not talented? Not gifted? Not great?
Juilliard sees thousands of students, and like most of the best Theatre schools in the nation, they are looking for a certain type. They may not know what that type is, so don’t try to fit in, or be like him/her, or try to act like the person that moves you the most. Just be you. No one can be you, as well as you can. Not getting a callback means you’re normal and probably very talented. Honestly, having the courage to stand up and audition at Juilliard qualifies you as bold, and strident.
There are a number of articles in and around the web, on what it’s like to audition at Juilliard—I’ll let you in on what is like for me….
Very friendly. From the person at the door, the monitors in the hall, the woman who went around and let us know approximately what will be happening. Every one was sweet and friendly. Big smiles, big handshakes. Really nice people. Except this one kid. He was awkward. I think he was a fourth year student—it’s not easy to remember as I was pretty focused and didn’t talk to anyone, but he sat down in the holding area and chatted up some of the younger aspiring actresses and asked when they were going back home, and his energy was creepy, he seemed pompous, and arrogant. These women were like seventeen years old and he was asking what they were doing that night. And not in a way of being friendly. It was really slimy, and a little upsetting. I wanted to tap the kid on the shoulder and say you’re being inappropriate, but I figured it wasn’t my business, and anyway these girls have their parents waiting for them downstairs.
The holding room is horrible. It is Auschwitz, except everyone is nervous-chatty with the blah, blah, blah, about nothing. It made me ill. It made me hate actors. I kept going for walks and using different warm up rooms. They have them upstairs. I used them about three times. They say you can only use them once, but there were so many of us, the Juilliard students had no idea I continued to use the rooms. Also, and I don’t think I recommend doing this: I snuck into a room that was empty and just did some vocal warm ups and physical warm ups which was very helpful in giving me an idea of how my voice would sound in the room. The third time I used the room wasn’t for warm ups is was just to get out of Sobibor the holding pen. It really made me sick. So I sat in the warm up room and breathed. Just me and the grand piano.
I get called into ‘on deck,’ position. I’m waiting in the hall. I’m sitting down on a bench very focused. The person who is in the room comes out and the monitor says to him “give me a second.” The monitor enters the room, where the audition is taking place, comes back out a moment later and either says “they’d like to see you again,” or, “great, thanks so much.”
I felt very calm when I entered the room and saw three people sitting behind a desk. One of them was named Richard (I think), he was the one who spoke to the auditionees (in an assembly sort of way), when we first arrived. (An orientation, of sorts, prior to being led through a vocal group exercise. I thought the whole speech was a little unnecessary, but I appreciated it. I think it’s important to mention I’m thirty-five years old and no longer have that cultish devotion to people who speak in truths about art. I simply register it; it warms my insides, and I move on.) I remember feeling powerful. Not in a ‘fuck you’ get ready for me,’ but in a ‘you are all masters of your craft, and I take this craft very seriously.” I really wanted to share my monologues with these guys. I performed my Shakespeare and my contemporary (I had four more, and a song, in reserve). They said thank you. They called me back in the room. They asked why I chose my particular Shakespeare monologue. I told them. They said drop your character, just be you, and let me see the reason you chose this monologue. I did that, and felt very connected. I remember thinking, fuck, why didn’t my coach tell me that? They said thank you and I left the room. They called me back into the room and asked me to sit in the chair. I did. They asked me to perform my contemporary monologue, but sitting in the chair. They asked me who I was speaking to and I told them, and they told me to take myself out of the circumstances of that play and just simply sit in the chair, drop my character, my accent, my movements, and go for what I want. I did. I felt chills all around my neck and eyes as I performed the monologue with their adjustments (it’s important to note that during my rehearsing of these monologues, I had imagined what they would say to me after performing. I imagined what adjustments they would give me and how I would incorporate them. What I am saying is, I was surprised only by the feelings their adjustments elicited, not by the actual adjustments). They sent me out of the room. They called me back in the room and asked me to sing. But sing to myself, as if I was the only person in the room. I did. They said ‘thank you,’ and the moment they said it—I knew I was getting a call back.
Next up….What happend at the Callbacks?