The auditor lead me into a room and handed me a picture showing two smiling women standing side by side, a fern, a plane, and a Canadian flag. And from that picture I understood what Yale was asking me to do. With my monologue, I had to incorporate three facts: Someone in the office where I worked has recently died; I quit my job and became homosexual; I moved to Canada.
I began imagining how I could apply those three facts into my Iago monologue from Othello. I could start off looking to and fro, as though I didn’t know what to say, acting like I didn’t know the dead man in my office that well.
Add an extra zing, “And by the faith of man; I know my price,‘ to let them know I was considering homosexuality—though I ingeniously thought I could say the words of my monologue as though I was discovering something really important about myself (coming out).
Finally, I could switch into a Canadian accent at the end of my monologue to let them know I was planning to move (notice: not at the beginning, because then they might think I had already moved to Canada).
I was working my way through the magic of my Yale audition for an M.F.A. in acting when the monitor gave me yet another prompt, “Stand in the middle of all [the students], as though you are a judge, and say your lines like sentences you must pronounce. Look at all of us as if we are the reason you are being sentenced.” This was a little distracting because a) was I being sentenced? Or, was I the one sentencing? and b) I hadn’t counted on looking into the faces of all the other auditioner’s, but I felt sharp and true, and continued my monologue; fighting the beast “That never set a squadron in the field. Nor the division of a battle knows more than a spinster.” I was doing fine.
It was at this point I noticed the auditor’s TV set, which was drilled into the far right corner of the room. I didn’t notice it before till I glanced, triumphantly, from my fellow auditioner’s (during a pause of my great speech) to the eyes of the auditor who had white light flashing on her face and was staring up, zoned out, bored, watching telly. In fact, the volume was on. I raised my hand, indicating I was finished, and she lowered the volume. I remember thinking ‘I am not getting into this program.’ Not only because I had completely lost the attention of my auditor, but because I looked into my hands and realized I brought the play? I had the book in my hands, inside the audition room. Which is probably why she turned on the TV in the first place. It dawned on me I only brought the copy with me because I kept forgetting my lines, which is really unlike me. And I had brought in a Chekhov play, but I wasn’t performing a Chekhov monologue.
I was turning pages. I couldn’t find my place. Instead of words I saw pictures. The pictures fell to the floor. The auditor stared at me in disbelief, and I desperately tried to play it off as, ‘This is improv. Eat up the funny.” I lied “Sorry. There were five different texts I was using; just want to make sure It’s right one,” then thought—she knows exactly how many texts there are. What if there aren’t five?
I finally started performing: making up lines, no idea what my monologue was about. I looked over at her, less triumphantly, during my speech, and she had her head turned and although she lowered the volume on the TV (grateful for that), she still kept the TV on, and flipped through the channels as I improvised Chekhov.