The Drama March Callback – An International Perspective

By: Gayle Rankin, First-Year Drama Student

I’m a bit late joining the Juilliard blog bandwagon, but I thought it would be cool to reach out to all the international students out there who, like me, thought and think that Juilliard is unattainable. I was very fortunate to have very supportive parents who traveled with me over to New York for both auditions. Coming straight from high school in Scotland to the prestige of The Juilliard School in Manhattan was very daunting for me; I still have to pinch myself every day. After coming through the first audition it was a painful wait to see if I had received a callback for an intense weekend in March – St. Patrick’s weekend – so I had the luck of the Celts on my side. We came a couple of days before my audition so I had time to spend in New York, which just made me more and more nervous.

Group 40 (my class) was the first class to undergo the weekend callback process. I wore a mustard colored woolen jumper to my audition and I remember it to this day as I have a very vivid memory of what happened to the jumper and in turn what happened to me on that day. My nerves had me changing every five minutes. I was sweating, I was freezing – it was bitterly cold outside and New York had been hit by a snowstorm. My dad and I arrived at Juilliard and we were quickly informed that this was to be an interesting weekend; half of the auditionees hadn’t arrived due to travel constrictions because of the weather. Juilliard was busy and there were several cliques of people from the same school or who knew each other from another training programme, and I was sitting worrying if people could understand my accent. Quickly I had no time worry – at all. When they said “intensive weekend” I had no clue that I would be living and breathing the Juilliard life for two days. I felt and still feel so privileged to have gotten the chance to do this before being accepted.

We had a schedule for the two days; we ate, worked and basically lived with the faculty and each other from very early in the morning to very late at night. What shocked me the most was, when we were having breakfast the faculty were all chatting to us, and they remembered us! I didn’t want to get my hopes up and so ate a piece of pineapple (I was too nervous to eat anything else) and changed out of my wooly jumper. We were ushered around the corridors from class to class. I have a specific memory from each class; we had such a mixed bag of opportunity, mask class, movement, voice, theatre games, singing, approaching the play, poetry and we had to show our monologues again. Each class was really exciting and fresh and not anything to be frightened of in retrospective. Being from a different country I had what I thought were massive disadvantages or worries: “Will the exercises be completely foreign to me?” “Will they be able to understand my accent?” “Will I be able to adapt to how they work here?” What I realized is that everyone who is willing to come here and share a part of themselves with a group of people can be understood; the way in which the weekend and Juilliard is constructed is totally international and universal. So any prospective student, whether they are from California or Scotland, the teachers just want you to do well and see how you do it in your part of the world! The exciting part of the callback is the fact the faculty would like to see you work some more and just have fun with them, as most of them are in the room for the classes that you take, which isn’t as scary as it sounds. I remember I was surprised when some of the faculty were laughing during mask class, which put me and everyone else at ease

I remember needing to drink a lot of water after each class (sounds silly); I had either cried or perspired and it really proved all the teachers were really allowing us to experience something. We got the chance to meet some of the first years who would be our prospective second year, they were so excited to meet us and genuinely interested in what we had to bring to the weekend. After doing some classes, eating with the faculty and students we were given a taste of the community meetings the Juilliard drama students have once a week. I was really taken with this idea before I even stepped in the room: a large gathering of enthusiastic people willing to learn more about Art and how it fits into society and humanity. The event that was arranged for us was a poetic performance by Robert Bonair-Agard. I was so touched by his performance.

The memory that will stay in my mind from the callback weekend was the last game we played, in studio 306. I was beside a girl from Minnesota and a boy from Dallas, and I tried to replay everything that had happened during the weekend but I realized it was something that I couldn’t change and even though I had the most fun I still thought I could have relaxed even more and had more fun rather than worrying. Looking back it’s kind of amazing the amount of different emotions you go through during this weekend and the great thing is, they are all integral to your enjoyment and will help in a weird way. Whether you feel nervous, unsociable, detached, insecure or ecstatic and hyper, you will find a way to feed you and that adrenaline will make the experience even more intense.

As for New York the city itself is a piece of art, it’s somewhere and something that can’t be duplicated, something that’s happened by sheer accident of so many diverse cultures existing in several boroughs. Coming to this wonderful, but overwhelming city you can let it get to you and allow it to take over your experience. It’s not something to worry about, I was able to feel safe and comfortable, if a little crazy, on the subway in Times Square and at night in my hotel.