A Thespian’s Tale: Auditioning for Drama at Juilliard

  by Mary Chieffo, 1st year actor

I spent much of my winter break last year in my garage with a punching bag, four monologues and endless trepidation.

When I returned to school in January, I entered full throttle rehearsals for the Spring Musical and review classes for first semester finals. I was, without a doubt, stressed to the max. I would go home after rehearsal and drill and drill my monologues – instead of counting sheep, I whispered the words of Antigone until my nerves finally gave way to a much needed slumber. I realized this was not a healthy way to function around the time I ripped a hole in the knee of my pajamas out of pure panic. That Friday I approached my drama teacher.

“Mr. Adell, I was wondering…well…I mean…I am really…struggling with…anxiety about…college auditions.”

Tears began to swell in my eyes.

“Sit down, let’s talk”

And we did, and my wonderfully insightful drama teacher reminded me that college does not define the entirety of my life or the overall value of my character. It will encompass much of the next four years, yes, but whether I become a success or failure is more dependent on what I do for myself within those four years wherever I end up physically. I decide what external forces can say about who I am as a person. If a school “rejects” me, that does not mean I am not worthy – it means that I am not the right fit for this particular year and class. So many incredible actors have auditioned for Juilliard Drama multiple times before they entered the program. I don’t think they let their first tries make them feel inferior enough to not try again.

My teacher also reminded me that the application and audition process are not a one-way street: the school is auditioning for you too. Maybe it isn’t the right fit for you right at this moment. Most importantly, my teacher made me realize that my audition was in the simplest way an opportunity to act in front of people who love and understand the profound beauty of theatre. What could be better?

So I decided to come in with the attitude that I indeed was auditioning Juilliard just as much as it was auditioning me. This mentality combined with the excessive amount of butterflies in my stomach morphed into a sort of false self-assuredness that could have been my demise had I not been exposed to the generosity of spirit emanating from Kathy Hood, Richard Feldman and Becky Guy at the beginning of my initial audition in San Francisco. They were everything I could have hoped for: from the moment the audition process began, I felt safe, appreciated, and at peace. Kathy was so gracious – she walked around the room shaking every single person’s hand, looking him or her in the eye, welcoming and acknowledging everyone for putting themselves out there. I fell in love with the program all over again.

It feels dangerous to fall in love with a program that you haven’t been admitted into yet doesn’t it? But there is something so exhilarating about knowing you would truly love to be a part of an institution because it appreciates all artists for their art as well as their humanity. This intrinsic sense of belonging and trust helped me reach a serene mindset I have experienced only once or twice before in my life: I would be satisfied with whatever happened that day because I knew I was going to give it my all and learn something in the process.

Because sure, eighteen people are selected out of thousands, but that still leaves eighteen spots to be filled – why shouldn’t you be one of them?

Imagine yourself here...my Juilliard Dance audition

Great ideas on a platter - blogs from Eastman