by Max Woertendyke, 1st year Actor
Just over a year ago I woke up early, took a shower, got dressed, packed my lunch, shoveled the walk (it had snowed terribly the night before), and headed into the still cold morning to my audition for Juilliard’s drama division.
I had been gearing up for this over the past month, and as I rode the subway up to Lincoln Center, I did my best not to let my nerves get the best of me. I had worked hard on the monologues and song I needed for my audition and I felt confident in my preparedness. None the less, it was impossible to not feel a little anxious; I found myself scoping out other commuters on the train trying to guess whether they too might be headed in the same direction as me.
Upon arriving and signing in, I was ushered to the 3rd floor, where I was dropped off in what can’t be described as anything other than a holding pen. There were about 100 of us in the room. A room down the hall held about another 100 hopefuls. A strange nervous, excited energy permeated the rooms – some people were goofing off and performing for anyone who would listen, some were running through their monologues in harsh whispers, others sat quietly and seemed to be working on staying focused and relaxed. Current Juilliard students were there to answer any questions we might have – both about the school and the audition process – and I have to say that despite the odd energy coming from the auditioners (myself included) I was immediately struck by the warmth of current students. I had expected them to regard me with a kind of suspicion and superiority, a kind of “So…you really think you can get into Juilliard…?” mentality. What I found instead was an incredible openness and generosity of spirit. I felt welcomed and encouraged. It was the attitude of these students (along with the faculty) that helped make my day such a good first experience at Juilliard.
The morning ticked by slowly – I was one of the very last people to go. When my turn came, I walked into a room that I now know like the back of my hand, but then it was just a huge, daunting, white room, with four people sitting behind a table at the far end, including Richard Feldman, the associate director of the division. I won’t lie. Standing there, I was nervous. It felt like this was the moment of truth, and I didn’t want to disappoint myself with a less-than-stellar audition. I took a deep breath, gathered my focus and dived into my monologues and song. And that was it. My audition was over.
The next two hours, waiting for the afternoon call-back list to go up, were the slowest and most stressful of the whole day. My monologues had gone well, but I couldn’t say they were a sure thing; I was hopeful, but not certain. When the list did eventually go up, I took a deep breath, walked down the hallway and scrolled down the list of names. At the very end, in alphabetical order, was my name. I had made it to the second half of the afternoon. The hardest part of the day was over.
The second half of the day was less nerve-wracking but proved to be an exercise in patience and perseverance. A lot of the pressure to prove that I was good enough had been lifted and I was able to have more fun, but there were a lot of hours of auditioning to go before the day was done. One by one we did our audition pieces in front of the entire faculty – about twenty-five people or so. We were asked to write a short essay about a creative experience, and fill out some paper work. We had group game time, where we played theater games, improv games, did movement and vocal exercises. And between it all we waited: we talked to each other about our audition and where we were coming from, we talked to current students about what they liked most and least about the program, some people took short naps on the benches in the hallway to rejuvenate themselves. We alternated between auditioning and waiting for a few hours until a second cut was made. Of the twenty people that had been carried through from the morning auditions, about ten of us were asked to stay for interviews. We were told that being cut at this didn’t necessarily mean you wouldn’t be invited back for the Final 40 weekend – but I was happy and relieved when they asked me to stay. I waited some more, trying to fight off the headache that was beginning to develop, and finally around 10:30pm I walked into the head of the division, Jim Houghton’s office. We chatted for fifteen, twenty minutes about why I wanted to go back to school, what my audition experience had been like, about Abe Lincoln and Tony Kushner.
After my interview, almost fifteen hours after I had first arrived at the building, my audition had finally come to an end. I grabbed my stuff, said goodbye to the faculty and friends I had met over the course of the day, and started home. It had been a marathon. I was exhausted, but I had loved it. I had felt so comfortable in the hallways of Juilliard. I had felt at home, and I was hopeful that I would be invited back to the callback weekend, which would make this first audition day seem short in comparison. I had had a great day…and now all there was left to do, was wait some more.