My Juilliard Drama Audition Story
I have never been to the United States prior to my Juilliard Drama audition which took place on January 24, 2015. I lived in the Philippines all my life and wanted to be an actress with a broad career. I took an undergraduate degree in Theater Arts and worked as a resident actress in a professional acting company for five years until I realized that I had hit a wall. If I continued my work in the Philippines, the trajectory of my career (and my life) would probably be something like this: continue to act in the theater, act in some indie films, play support to a showbiz actress who more clearly fit the standards of beauty in Philippine showbiz, and retire playing mother or grandmother roles in soap operas.
I asked myself if I wanted to live and work like this and the answer was, no. I wanted to give myself better opportunities and a chance to live a larger life. I knew that pursuing a graduate acting program in the US has always been at the back of my mind. To my great discomfort, it slowly dawned on me that the time to act on that dream had begun.
Acting on dreams can be one of the most terrifying things one has to face in one’s life. I began to face mine the year I turned 25 – right smack in the middle of my 20’s. It seemed the odds were against me: I didn’t have a US VISA, nor did my family had the means to fly me to the US only to audition for graduate school, and it didn’t help that the drama schools I wanted to apply to were the most competitive drama schools in the world.
I decided to take on this journey anyway. This was one of those dreams that, if ignored, could cause the sort of regret that is often depicted in stories with bitter old men. If I did not embark on this journey I would die having lived a small life like a yolk that withered and died inside the shell. I didn’t want that to happen to me. I wanted to break open that shell and learn how to fly.
I took on this journey one step at a time. I started to see if I could get all these people to write recommendation letters for me. When they said yes, I took it as a sign to move on to the next step. I then tried to find someone who can help me with my monologues. When I found a delightful young acting coach from undergrad (who also went to acting school in New York) to help me, I took it as another sign to keep going. This is the way I operated until I got the pre-screening video (a requirement for all International Drama applicants) submitted.
One evening, my mother came to my room and told me regretfully that they will not be able to support me to fly to the US to audition for drama school for the upcoming school year. I was devastated. I very badly wanted to take on this journey now. I could no longer stand living and working the way I did.
The following morning, as I was preparing to go to rehearsals, I received an e-mail from Drama Admissions: “The Drama Division faculty have reviewed your pre-screening materials and would like to invite you to an in-person audition for The Juilliard School's Actor Training Program.” I remember vividly bursting into tears as I read that email. I thought, “maybe I have talent after all.” I called my mother on the phone and told her that I got an audition invite from The Juilliard School and that I would use my childhood savings to buy a round-trip ticket to New York to audition in January.
I remember walking into that beautiful orchestra rehearsal room (room 309, I think) on January 24, 2015 with 200 other applicants. As I was sitting on the floor with all these actors listening to Richard Feldman speak about acting and what this day meant to all of us (including them), I thought, “so many people have told me that this was not possible and yet here I am.” I was quietly crying to myself as I listened to Richard.
As I sat on the floor outside Room 306 waiting for my turn to audition I had the impulse to run away. I had to make a decision whether to run or go in there and give it all I’ve got. Then I remembered how in the past I would work so hard to get to a certain point and when the moment of reckoning arrived I would back out in fear. I asked myself, “do I want to keep doing that in my life?” I decided to stay and go for it. I have come so far. I needed to honor the journey I set out to do.
I met three actors who eventually became my classmates in Group 48 during the initial callbacks that evening. After I was finally offered admission on March 18, 2015, I had to run an online crowd-funding campaign in order to raise funds for my first year of studies for The Juilliard School. I needed to do this because my financial award letter only covered a partial amount of the overall cost of living for one year of studies. The #GoFundRegina campaign raised a total of $26,789.69 in four weeks, making it in time for the Office of International Advisement’s deadline for proof of funds for international students.
I am now in the second semester of my second year in Juilliard Drama. I’m living in my first apartment in New York City. I have learned to cook and prepare my own meals. I have conquered New York bed bugs. And I’m training to become a pretty darn good actor.