by Julia Warren, 1st-year actor
After rehearsing monologues tirelessly the night before in my hotel room, it was time for me to face the long-awaited and most anticipated event of my life: THE JUILLIARD AUDITION. I had checked and rechecked my audition checklist. I had nursed and rehearsed my monologues and songs. I had carefully selected what I felt was the perfect audition outfit, set my alarm so that I could wake up in enough time to run through all of my material and get some grub. Since my mom and I were totally unfamiliar with the city and being hyper-vigilant about everything, we planned to walk from our hotel to the school. Twenty-three blocks later we discovered that was probably not the ideal choice in transportation but quite possibly the best way to soak in the city while venting some of our nervousness.
Basking in the awe of finally being there, we walked into the Juilliard foyer, climbed the unforgettable staircase, and were immediately and enthusiastically welcomed by current students who were so inviting and, to my surprise, very interested in trying to get to know me right off the bat. After registering I was escorted to the 3rd floor waiting room while my mom was invited to wait downstairs in the main lobby. This was the largest audition I had ever been to. Each candidate that entered the waiting room – ultimately 120, I think – added an additional butterfly to my stomach. I thought I might explode. I felt nervous/anxious energy spread throughout the waiting room as I tried to sit patiently. I listened to music to help me get/stay as calm as possible, under the circumstances. While waiting, I watched as others reviewed their monologues to themselves, talked with current students in the room, or kept to themselves.
Turned out I was to be one of the last ones to audition so I decided to take advantage of the extra time to check out one of the practice rooms they had told us about on the 4th floor. I “signed out” a room with one of the current students and was able to practice my monologues a couple of times. I left the practice room feeling more confident than I did when I entered. When I left the room I ran into a random Juilliard Music student who encouraged me that “everything would be okay” and that I would “end up where I needed to be”. Wow!! I loved that every single Juilliard student I came in contact with “somehow” offered genuine encouragement. How could they know? Maybe I was THAT nervous. I guess they each just sensed that I needed to hear that. I had heard that Juilliard was full of elitist know-it-alls but that was not my first impression, or my impression now. I felt at home – already – and I had already fallen in love with the school and I hadn’t even auditioned yet. Great.
My nerves were running high when I entered the audition. The audition room was all white with a chair positioned behind a red tape line to separate me from the faculty. I introduced myself to them and went right into my material. I stopped half-way through my first monologue. I didn’t forget my lines, but I wasn’t showing them who I was – I was so excited by the process that I realized I was leaving out the most important thing. I did not come all the way from Atlanta to not show them who I was. So, I started over. I went straight through my monologue for the second time, was asked to sing the song I had prepared, and the audition was over.
I knew that if I didn’t get called back it would not be the end of the world because I did my best and felt I gave an honest audition. So I started talking to people around me and even began beat boxing and free-styling with some of the other applicants. I was having a blast! Then finally………the callback list was posted. I took my time gathering my things as the others scrambled to see the list. My jaw dropped. I saw my name on the list and freaked out.
The sixteen applicants called back moved to the fourth floor to have pictures taken and find out the next phase of the audition. Kathy Hood, the Administrative Director for the Drama Division, told us that we would all re-audition for the entire faculty one-by-one. We were to do one monologue of their choosing from our initial audition and sing a song. Kathy assured us that the hardest part of the day was over and, while we waited for our turn, we needed to write a short essay and fill out some paper work. Thereafter, they provided us with lunch. This was the part of the audition where you couldn’t spend just three months preparing for. This was the part where you just needed to be yourself.
A majority of the audition consisted of waiting, getting to know current students, and doing whatever it took to keep your energy up because we would be staying at the school for the rest of the day. There were all types of people that were auditioning. I met a girl from Bulgaria, someone who had gotten their B.A. from Yale, and a guy who had traveled from Switzerland – Juilliard was the only arts school he had applied to in the U.S. I experienced all of those “firsts” within that audition day at Juilliard. I was smitten like a kitten for this school.
After each of the 16 auditioned, we did a group audition where select faculty members conducted various theatre exercises with us. We did improvisation, theatre games, etc. Then we sat in the lobby on the fourth floor and waited for the second round of “cuts”.
After the faculty deliberated, Kathy announced that they would hold one-on-one interviews with some students but if you were not asked to do an interview it didn’t necessarily mean that you were out of the running to be chosen for the callback weekend. Five people were selected to be interviewed and I was one of them. I was interviewed by Jim Houghton, the head of the Drama Division, and Rebecca Guy, an acting teacher and project director. The interview gave me a chance to just talk to them. Though I’m pretty sure the faculty had a good idea of who I was through my audition, it was great to sit down and truly open up to them. The questions were as basic as “what do your parents do for a living” to “what’s your biggest fear.” I interviewed for about 20 minutes and then that was it. I was done.
I gathered my things, said my goodbyes to the remaining staff, and left with someone who was called back. Coincidentally, that person happened to be staying in the same hotel I was in and they knew how to ride the subway. When we walked outside we couldn’t believe that we had spent the entire day auditioning. By the time we reached our hotel we had gushed about how in love we both were with the school. I opened the door to my hotel room and my mom who had been patiently waiting to hear all the details. After filling her in over room service we laid down to get some rest for the next day of auditions with other schools. She told me that no matter the result, whether I got into Juilliard or not, she was proud of me. She had told me before my audition that the most important thing was that I showed them exactly who I was. She was right. I showed them exactly who I was. Now it was completely out of my hands. They had given me an experience that I would remember for the rest of my life and all I could do now is…wait.