15 Aug 2020by Dan Pavacic
The Callback for American Conservatory Theater
American Conservatory Theater‘s MFA callback audition is something I’ll never forget. I get into the room. Domenique Lozano and another woman representing The American Conservatory Theater were conducting the callback. Nothing had changed from my first audition in front of the two audition judges.
It was the same room. The same people behind the table. The same opportunity ahead of me. Only now I was one step closer in the audition process to seizing that opportunity. One step closer to obtaining an MFA acting degree. And from one of the best acting schools in the world: The American Conservatory Theater, also known as, A.C.T.
Types of Auditions at American Conservatory Theater
Every single one of the best acting schools is different based on a few key factors. One of these factors is location. One great program, like N.Y.U., is located in New York City while one other great program, like American Conservatory Theater, is located in San Francisco. Attending The American Conservatory Theater is financially more affordable than attending N.Y.U.’s graduate MFA acting program. However, should one be accepted by both programs, NYC’s market may be a better fit. That actor may decide to attend N.Y.U.
Every school has their own advantages that make them more appealing for different types of actors. Take the Yale School of Drama for instance. It’s the only Master of Fine Arts program to offer a Masters degree in every theatrical discipline. Going to Yale would mean that you not only learn how to act. You leave fully prepared to work in the professional industry. Another excellent program, UCSD, however, offers their graduates a Master of Fine Arts Degree, an Equity card, and free tuition. Both are highly respected programs. Both have some differences with how they each conduct their auditions. Fundamentally, however, the audition process is somewhat the same.
The Audition Process
Some of the best acting schools have no callbacks. Others only have one callback. And several have multiple types of callback auditions. Here are the typical callback scenarios that an applicant may encounter, and what they all mean:
End of Hour Callback
After the initial audition, if a school is interested in an applicant, they would callback that individual. At this audition, an applicant would most likely work one-on-one with an audition judge. Many times its the same person who saw their preliminary audition moments prior. Sometimes, it may be a new person or multiple people. They may also be asked to present another piece of material, most likely a monologue. If the school conducts this type of callback, it means that they probably see more applicants than most other schools. This is their solution to best organize their audition process. The Yale School of Drama and U.C.S.D., due to what I know from personal experience, conduct end of hour callbacks. This is mainly because the number of applicants to these schools is so high.
The End of Day Callback
The American Conservatory Theater did not conduct an end of hour callback. Like Yale and UCSD, the American Conservatory Theater conducted an initial audition. I always learn so much from every audition. You can read about what I’ve learned in my article: Acting Tips for Beginners. Or you can read about my experience at the Mason Gross School of The Arts at Rutgers. Or about my audition for The Yale School of Drama.
If an applicant was successful, A.C.T. would invite them to what is referred to as an “End of Day Callback”.
The end of day callback occurs after all of the applicants have been seen that day. The school will then decide to callback the few they are still interested in. The audition can be a group audition, or possibly another set of individual auditions. From my experience, the best acting schools do this for two reasons: To narrow down their applicant pool. And for the opportunity to observe the group as a whole. By doing so, audition judges can see how actors work together and collaborate; something that could not be evaluated in the preliminary auditions.
The Callback Weekend
If an applicant got to this stage of the process, they would be contacted by A.C.T.. This call would let them know that they had been invited to a three-day “Callback Weekend” at the school itself. They would then have to travel to San Francisco, California, in order to participate in the multi-day audition. Many MFA programs have begun hosting a final callback weekend for their incoming hopefuls. Although, there are a few schools that do not hold such auditions.
There is a purpose of the callback weekend. The applicants can get a taste for the atmosphere of a particular MFA program. Each person will be introduced to faculty, current students, facilities and theater spaces. The program also gets to learn about the actors walking through their door. A hopeful applicant would likely audition for most, if not all, of the faculty, and maybe current students. After all, they would be learning with them for the subsequent three years. The particulars surrounding the callback weekend do vary depending on which program you choose. Of the several callback weekends I was fortunate enough to attend, the details pertaining to each school’s process was similar.
“End of Day” Callback at American Conservatory Theater
How the American Conservatory Theater structures their audition process. The best acting schools, like American Conservatory Theater, hold auditions in three or more major U.S. cities each year. They do this in order to audition more applicants. My audition was in N.Y.C. and The American Conservatory Theater was using N.Y.U.’s graduate acting building to conduct their auditions.
The day of my audition was separated into three parts. A morning audition. Then afternoon audition. Followed by an end of day callback. The morning session began at around 9AM until the judges broke for lunch around 12PM. Lunch was then followed by an afternoon session that went until about 2 or 3 PM. I was one of the final people to audition for the afternoon session. My audition slot was at 3:20 PM. You can read about my experience in my last post: Audition Tips: How to audition.
I leave the hallway after my audition to call my dad. Confident I did a great job, I tell him a I love him. “I won’t get my hopes up,” I say. But there is this feeling I experience after I do something I am proud of. And I can’t describe it. But I try my best to remain calm; To not get my hopes up. So I go back into the hallway and there is now a crowd of people standing in a group. They are all looking at something on the wall. It is the callback list. The crowd clears. And only myself and a few others are still standing there.
Got a Callback at American Conservatory Theater
I look at the callback list. My name is on it. I remember feeling such joy! There was only about an hour or so before my “End of Day Callback” audition. I chose not to grab any dinner and prepare my monologues. I ask the moderator outside the room if this is the callback sheet. He tells me yes. I freakout. I have no idea what to expect. All I know is that I had received a callback. My first ever end of day callback! So I am especially nervous.
The same warmth I felt during the initial audition was present in the room for the callback. However, something was considerably different. As I mentioned earlier, some of the best acting school hold group auditions at the end of the day. At this end of day callback, American Conservatory Theater also required the entire applicant pool to audition as a group. Auditioning in a group setting is way different from auditioning while you are alone in the room. The psychology in the room changes as the environment changes. For the initial audition, it can be intimidating to audition in front of two strangers. Imagine what it is like to audition for 10 or more strangers who are also your competition.
Acting for Auditions
At my callback for The American Conservatory Theater, Domenique Lozano ran the end of day callback. First, we were all given a short greeting. Domenique and another audition judge spoke to all of us about American Conservatory Theater’s MFA acting program. Then, we participated in various acting exercises led by Domenique. After, we each presented two pieces of our choosing to perform. But this time, we performed in front of the entire group. Some applicants chose to perform the two pieces they initially auditioned with during the preliminary round hours prior. Other applicants chose to do two totally different pieces than what they had already shown.
I decided to do one of my original pieces, a contemporary dramatic monologue, and a new piece. The new piece was a funny Irish folk song that I love to sing. By presenting a piece they had already seen, I could prove my ability to remain consistent with my performance. However, instead of the comedic monologue I had done earlier that day, I wanted to sing a comedic song instead. I wanted to showcase my ability to sing. In addition to showcasing singing range and voice type, the song showed my ability to perform musical comedy and improvisation.
Actor Success at American Conservatory Theater
I made a breakthrough! My first end of day callback. I had yet to know what was to come. The countless other auditions in NYC, traveling to Chicago, URTA auditions, getting more callbacks… I was at the very beginning of my journey. The successes came. And the mistakes happened. But without the mistakes, I would have never learned what I am writing about now. This one small success was a sign: something I was doing was working. And all I had to do was build on it. I took my newfound confidence with me for every school I auditioned for after The American Conservatory Theater.
Acting Tips for Acting Auditions
I learned a lot when on my callback audition for The American Conservatory Theater. Read about the acting tips I learned on my callback in my next post: The Best Acting Schools: Acting Tips & Audition Tips.