How should I prepare for an audition?No Distractions. If you are auditioning for graduate school, or really any audition in general, do not allow for any distractions. Stay focused on your work, warm-up before you get to the audition location, and always present yourself as a professional. The moment you enter the building, your audition has begun. You never know who is watching so be prepared and stay focused. I had already auditioned for The Yale School of Drama, The Actors Studio Drama School and The Mason Gross School of The Arts at Rutgers University prior to my audition for The American Conservatory Theater. Now, what made this audition for The American Conservatory Theater different?
End of Day CallbackIt was the first of many ‘End of Day’ callbacks I was about to experience over the approaching months. The acting tips I learned because of this experience absolutely changed the outcome of all my MFA auditions. First, I want to tell you about what the atmosphere was like before my audition. To start, it was a cold afternoon. My father, who accompanied me on every audition, gave me a hug, wished me luck and watched me cross the street to enter the audition building. As I opened a glass door I saw a group of applicants, crowded in what seemed like a waiting room area. They were all chatting, laughing or watching videos on their phones. As I was walking further down the hall, I remember seeing the classy Edi Gathegi, (NYU Grad. Acting Class of 2005) who must have been assisting or sitting in on NYU’s auditions. He walked out of the general lobby area, passed the dozens of other applicants, passed me and probably went to grab lunch. No one else besides me seemed to notice Gathegi, but I immediately recognized him.
Remember: On any audition, be professional.The thing is, I don’t get starstruck and I didn’t know much of his film credits besides his work in the Twilight film series and X-Men: First Class. However, what I knew was that MFA acting training was a serious business. If you take advantage of the resources that these programs offer, it can lead to more opportunities. Those opportunities, if taken advantage of, can lead to a lucrative career in theater, TV and film. And I wanted to achieve a successful career in all three mediums. In order to do that, I needed to focus on one thing and one thing only: The audition. Overwhelmed, I decided to head to the one place I felt I could go to in order to feel centered: the bathroom. I looked in the mirror and made sure I looked as presentable as possible… Now before I go any further, I want to address a common question that many students have when preparing for these auditions. From my research, the most frequently asked question in regards to auditions is…
What should I wear to an audition?Be Comfortable. You should wear something comfortable and something you think showcases your type and brand most successfully. Another way of evaluating this decision is to ask yourself,”is this something I would wear on a date?” If it’s not something you would wear on a date, you probably shouldn’t wear it to an audition. Wear something you love and that you feel good in. An outfit that reflects how you wish to be perceived. First impressions are everything in the dating world, and so is honesty. The same is true for auditions. So, go in there and be your best self. Oh and remember to have fun. Feeling unconfident with one of my comedic monologues, I was pacing back and forth trying to distract myself and re-focus. Sometimes before an audition, especially Grad School auditions, when the stakes are so high (at least, they’re high if you’ve been prepping for two years like I had) I need to remember to breathe and, most importantly, I must stay in the moment. With the weight of the rejection from YSD looming in the back of my mind, it was fair to say I was experiencing some difficulty focusing. I remember habitually pulling out my phone, looking down at the screen and noticing that I had a missed call from a fellow actor: my good friend, Peter Tarantino.
Breathe, relax and have fun!Peter and I go way back to my first years in college and training with Steven Lantz-Gefroh. Besides helping me out with acting tips, Peter always knows how to make me laugh so it was a relief he had called. I called him back and he immediately answered “Bruthaaaaa. What’s up?!”. And we got to talking, and as always, I began to laugh. The conversation turned to my audition for ACT; how I was extremely nervous about this comedic monologue that did not do so well at my audition for Yale. In my opinion, I didn’t think it did so well at Rutgers (The Actors Studio Drama School audition is the only MFA Acting Program that asks for a scene, not monologues. I actually think they have the best audition process for this reason and wish all MFA programs offered the same option for applicants).
Trust is Everything!Follow your intuition! As an actor you must follow your instincts and impulses, (as long as they are safe) and trust your instrument. If you’ve done the work, let it go and stay in the moment. Trust that all the work you’ve done and the acting tips you’ve learned, will reveal themselves in your performance. The lighthearted conversation with my friend sparked something in my gut; It was telling me to replace my comedic monologue. I listened and decided to do a monologue I loved to perform back when Peter and I were in college. It was a funny monologue, but not vulgar like the piece I had done for Yale . I hadn’t considered this replacement monologue to be suitable for an MFA audition. That perception turned out to be a silly one…
Monologue Acting TipsDon’t judge your monologues. Of course, research and do as much work as you can to find pieces that are appropriate for you and your type. At the end of the day, if it’s a monologue that you LOVE to do and HAVE FUN doing, then by all means, DO IT. Don’t worry about what others say, think or believe in… as long as you believe in the piece, you will be the better for it. I guess anyone would have felt nervous (and I was), but I actually remembered what my coach Steven Lantz-Gefroh would tell me back home. After a performance as Eddie in David Rabe’s Hurlyburly, Gefroh asked me why I was nervous after a particular performance. I was more than nervous, I felt ashamed of how I did on stage, but Gef calmed me down and gave me a piece of advice, perhaps one the best acting tips I have ever been taught. He said “admit the fear to yourself.” I still use all the acting tips Gef has taught me. As actors, we strive to be truthful on stage. Admitting I am afraid before I enter an audition room helps me start with truth.
Do all actors get nervous before they get on stage?The truth is, whether its admitted or not… Every actor gets nervous…some just deal with nerves better than others. It’s a skill that has to be cultivated. Before anything you do in acting, whether it be an audition, rehearsal or performance… BREATHE and RELAX. An actor’s body, their movement and sensitivity, their instrument, cannot be tense in order to work at its best, most honest level. If a person stops breathing in life, they will cease to live. The same thing happens to an actor’s performance when they hold their breath on stage… the performance dies. I admitted the fear, trusted my intuition, relaxed my breathing and decided to go with my “old” comedic monologue. At this point, I knew I had been rejected from The Yale School of Drama and although I did not have an official rejection from the other two schools, the weight of The Yale School of Drama’s rejection really began to take its toll on my confidence going into my audition. Amazingly, this ended up being a blessing in disguise… I walked up to the audition room and saw the callback list from the morning session. There were less than 10 names on it. I spoke to the moderator, the audition began and I got to work.
Confidence in Acting AuditionsMake the room your own. From the moment you step into the audition room, that time is yours. You spent an average of $50 for the application fee and you are paying for the time in the audition room. Unless it’s an URTA audition, you have a good amount of time to showcase what you can do as an actor. Take advantage of it. One of the best audition tips I have received truly has to do with the way you enter a room. It may be surprising, but many actors open a door timidly, only to turn their back on the judges behind the table in order to gently close the door. This kind of act signals to the moderator of the audition that you are there to please them. You are not; you are there to do your work. When you first walk into acting auditions, open the door confidently, let it close on its own behind you like you would any other door you walk through on a daily basis. The judges want to see you and how you act, not what you think they want. You don’t know what they want and most times neither do they. Just be yourself. Yes, of course say hello, be kind, but also stay focused. You are there to act. You are selling your brand; from the minute you enter the room, make an impression.
How to Prepare for an AuditionVisualize. For the months, weeks and days leading up to your audition, take the necessary time to visualize your audition day. If possible (should you wish to do it) close your eyes and envision yourself walking up to the audition building. Imagine the successful audition day from the moment you get out of bed to the moment you walk into the audition room. How do you want to look? Hair style, wardrobe, etc.? How do you imagine your selected audition pieces being received? The process of auditioning introduces many uncertainties and problems that actors cannot control. With so many factors beyond an actor’s control, the ability to focus on what you can control will be the difference maker for the outcome of your audition season and ultimately, your life and career. Do your research! Make sure to research the program you are auditioning for as best you can. This means that you know who the faculty are, their names, positions, what they teach, etc. You should also have knowledge of any notable alumni and their work. Also, research the environment of your audition to minimize the amount of distractions or surprises that arise on your audition day. Not knowing which subway line is best to take can cost you time. Being unclear of the proper building entrance for your acting auditions can cause you stress. Do not sabotage yourself. Be as prepared as you can be. It will only serve you and allow you to relax. The ability to remain as relaxed as you can be is essential to success in these acting auditions. Added stress that actors encounter from not being prepared can cost them an audition. You get one shot at this, take the best one you can!
How many monologues should I prepare?You can never be too prepared. Always be ready to perform more than the minimum amount of monologues requested for any audition. Rehearse regularly to know them extremely well in case you are asked to present alternative material to what the person behind the table initially asked for. For instance, when I was preparing for my MFA auditions, I spent nearly two years choosing and rehearsing my pieces. Once I was auditioning, I had as many as contemporary and classical 12 pieces to choose from. To audition for the American Conservatory Theater MFA program, you have to do two monologues, one classical and one contemporary, that contrast in mood and tone (one from a classical verse play and one from a contemporary play). According to their website, sonnets, poems, songs, and other nondramatic materials are not acceptable. This is actually pretty standard for most MFA programs. However, in the case there are individual differences, always check the website of the program you are applying to. The audition must be no more than four minutes in length (On average, 2 minutes per monologue to allot time for an interview)
Auditioning is like DatingDon’t “fit in”. Most actors enter an audition trying to “fit” an MFA program, though they seldom realize their power in the situation. Before I auditioned for the American Conservatory Theater, all I remember thinking was “is this school a good fit for me?” I thought to myself…”let’s find out” as I opened the door, prepared to make the room my own. The door swung shut behind me as I entered with confidence, energy and unafraid to be my best self. Don’t fit in… stand out! There were two women who were conducting the audition for the American Conservatory Theater. I greeted them warmly, but stayed focused on two things: playing my actions and staying in the moment. I felt grounded during my soliloquy and witnessed the judges smile and sit back while they observed my work. So far, so good. Then came the second piece; a comedic monologue. When I had auditioned for Yale and Rutgers, the primary comedic piece I performed had not adequately showcased my range and did not receive a callback. I had a feeling in my gut that doing a different monologue would increase my chances of getting a callback. In hindsight, it certainly was a risk, but I had to take away the pressure as best I could and trusting my decision is what I chose to do. All I needed to do now was breathe into my second piece.
The truth about of RelaxationJust breathe. I knew this other comedic piece well, but I had not performed it in front of another person in at least a year. My nerves were certainly beginning to creep up and my breathing shallowed. Many actors experience a similar response, whether it be nervousness, adrenaline or excitement before performing. When this response occurs, the simplest thing an actor can do is to come back to their breath. Holding one’s breath and lack of relaxation can deter an otherwise great performance. Stage fright. It even happens to me. Surely enough, it happens to some of the greatest actors in the world. Fear is common and happens to almost everyone, but how an actor deals with fear is what truly elevates their performance. My mentor Steven Lantz-Gefroh shares so many audition tips with his students. One of them is the idea of “admitting the fear” before acting auditions. Before all acting auditions and performances, I say to myself “I am afraid and its okay.” Why does it work for me? Admitting the fear to yourself when experiencing some form of stage fright allows you as the actor to start your performance with something truthful. Try it the next time you are nervous and you may notice that acknowledging your fear is the first step to conquering it. However, truthfully, you should always strive to be “word perfect” in your monologues.
What does “Word Perfect” mean?Being word perfect means that, as an actor, it is your job to have the text of a monologue completely memorized. This also means that you are not neglecting, adding, or substituting any words other than what the playwright has written. A playwright dedicates so much time writing and revising their writing countless times. Each word is chosen carefully and for good reason. Respect their work and honor it by being word perfect. This is especially so when performing a Shakespearean text. Be word perfect for your classical monologue, down to the punctuation. Mostly everyone who is teaching at an MFA acting program knows them (or, at least, they should!) Play your actions. Another one of my mentor’s audition tips? Steven Lantz-Gefroh always says to “play your actions.” Actions, also known as a tactic, are used by actors to help attain their objectives in the scene. The more specific an action is, the better. Whenever I am having difficulty selecting an action to play on a line of a character’s text, I consult The Actors Thesaurus. It’s only about $12 to purchase on Amazon, but I truly think it can be an actors best friend. If you need help understanding what actions are, you can also consult a trusted resource, Backstage.com and check out this article on actions.
The Actor’s Process for Acting AuditionsTreat every audition as you would a rehearsal. Not only will this take some pressure off of you when auditioning, but it will even free you and your instrument up to take risks and to explore! I am going to be honest, for some acting auditions, you may find that what you were rehearsing that day did not work as well as you initially thought, however, in the long run, you will be better for it on all of your auditions. An actor is always in the process of discovery and the judges behind an audition table want to see a working actor. You are auditioning for an acting program that offers a Masters in Fine Arts. We don’t call them “plays” for no reason. So… play! When I finished my pieces, both judges laughed. They both really seemed to have enjoyed my work and, to my surprise, they even said to me that they enjoyed my work. Prior to my audition for The American Conservatory Theater, I had not yet received an openly positive response for any of my monologues. Remember, the fact that someone reacts positively to your work is not necessarily an indication that an audition is successful. Stay in your lane and do your work. Use the energy the audience gives you but do not let it deter you.
Be YourselfBe honest. It is the actors job to be honest at all times, and not just during the performance. Never lie about anything, whether it be on your resume or when answering a question after an audition. The acting world is small, and because everyone is connected, word will travel fast. Telling a lie can potentially hurt your career. Also, be who you are. You want people to work with the real you, not with who you want them to perceive you to be. It may be difficult, but being your truest self is the quickest way to attaining success in this industry. After I finished performing, the judges asked me a few questions about why I love acting and my goals. I wanted to ask something, but because this was unchartered territory, I decided to opt out. When my work is appreciated, it means more to me than actually getting the end of day callback.
Getting the CallbackHow to get the callback. Before my audition for The American Conservatory Theater, I was so focused on actually getting accepted to an MFA acting program, that I was not very focused on enjoying the process during my acting auditions. As I said above, these programs want to see you…not who you want them to think you are. So…what made my audition for The American Conservatory Theater different? I genuinely wanted to do good work that I was proud of and present the character as truthfully as possible. The reason I got the callback was because I did not focused on getting in– I was focused on having fun, discovering the character, and allowing myself to play. On your next audition, focus on the work, the character and the circumstances of the scene or piece you are performing. Your job as an actor is not to book the job; it is to audition and breathe life into the character. Love what you get to do every day, love the pieces you choose to perform and be grateful for the opportunity to act! You cannot fake passion, and casting directors and MFA audition judges always know the difference. I went outside and realized that I was the last name of the afternoon session to audition for ACT. Immediately, a callback list was posted. I could not believe it. My name had been written down among 4 other names. I kept my external composure, but internally I was ecstatic. I called my father immediately.
Follow your Actor IntuitionTrust your instincts. There are going to be moments where you need to trust your gut. Plain and simple. As long as the decision is appropriate and safe, allow yourself to freely follow your impulse on acting auditions. Based on previous lack of success, I have now realized how important actor’s intuition is during acting auditions. If I hadn’t trusted my instincts for The American Conservatory Theater MFA audition process, I most likely would not have reached the callback portion of the audition day. I am proud that I made the decision that best showed off my range as an actor. Learn from failure. I thought programs like Yale were the end-all-be-all. They are not. No program is. What truly matters is that you follow your intuition; go to the program that believes in you as much as you believe in it. Thank goodness Yale rejected me. If I had received a callback at Yale, I never would have re-evaluated my choice of monologues that got me my first callback at ACT. And this callback, and the audition wisdom I had just received, would lead to much more success for me during the rest of my MFA audition tour. Which brings me to the last of my audition tips…
Rejection from Acting AuditionsRejection is not actually a bad thing. It’s a great thing. The only bad thing about rejection is the way most actors react to it. Be the actor who uses rejection to empower their next move, their next audition and, ultimately, their next performance. If you focus on a rejection, you will miss the next opportunity to succeed, because you will not be paying attention. All acting auditions are important. Pay attention. Learn from failure. Stay focused. And give it 100%.
How to stay active
Your body is your instrument. Although I usually write content geared toward actors (audition tips, acting tips, MFA auditions, info on MFA programs, etc.) this information can be applied to anyone looking for ideas to remain physically active while in quarantine. On this day last year, thousands of aspiring actors were working out their bodies all across the United States. Whether it be in a gym, outdoors or in movement classes, actors had a reliable fitness routine. Now that Covid-19 has caused a worldwide Pandemic, the landscape for our industry has changed until further notice.
The Pandemic of Covid-19 has restricted access to gyms. Now actors have to workout from home. Exercise or movement classes necessary to develop their instruments are now online. I have experienced this firsthand, having to finish my MFA degree online. My movement teacher is doing amazing work, and honestly, the transition has been as great as I could have imagined. However, I have to admit that self-quarantining takes a toll on my motivation. Staying physically active when I do not have movement class is becoming increasingly difficult.So, I did some research. What are some ways we can all stay physically active during this Covid-19 pandemic? I made a list of some ideas that I have gathered over the past few weeks in isolation. They have worked for me. I hope that they can only help anyone who needs it to get through this difficult time.
Stay MotivatedAccountability. No matter what, you must remain accountable. The actor who does will be most prepared when the Covid-19 Pandemic is all over. A few suggestions to increase self-accountability and to remain motivated for your physical fitness are:
- Get an accountability partner. Find a trusted friend. Someone who is also looking to maintain their physical fitness. Plan and share your weekly goals with this person. Check in with each other daily.
- Keep a fitness journal. This goes hand-in-hand with having an accountability partner, but its also worthwhile to keep a journal for yourself! Why? Sometimes motivation can only get us so far. 2 or 3 days go by and we lose sight of our goals and call it quits. A journal makes it so that you don’t lose sight of your goals. Why? Because you wrote out your plan
- Set realistic, personal goals. Set goals that you can achieve. Goals that you can feasibly complete. All that matters is that you are getting active and doing something to maintain a healthy routine while in quarantine. Running up the stairs 10 times and doing 25 push-ups is great! Put a checkmark in your journal. Shower. Rinse. Repeat. Stay focused. Feel awesome.
- Challenge yourself. Every time you achieve a goal, set another one to rival it. So, if you successfully completed 25 push-ups and sit-ups on a Monday, on Tuesday, try exercising while saying a monologue! A few minutes of focus and dedication adds up. Your work will show in a few months when Covid-19 is over and you are auditioning again.
Home Workout IdeasHome Workouts. Here are some resources I found that can help give you ideas for any workouts you can do at home! Both were especially made to help anyone that is looking to stay physically active while self-quarantining during Covid-19.
- Jeff Cavalier
- Katrina Kaif (Bharat) shares her at home workout! Want an actor’s approach to staying physically fit? Who better than a headliner of Bollywood’s biggest films!
- Henry Cavill And if you do have weights at home, checkout this workout video!
Support Shakespeare’s GlobeOn the Shakespeare Globe’s website, it reads:
In an unprecedented time for theatre, as a charity that receives no annual government subsidy, we need your help more than ever before. To fund the work we do, we are entirely reliant on the tickets you buy and the generosity of supporters. We ask at this time of huge risk to our beloved theatre that you donate if you can, helping us continue to strive in the future. There remains much to be done at the Globe, both to complete existing projects and to create new programmes which will enable a greater number of people to enjoy the work of Shakespeare and his contemporaries. Your support is critical for the future of Shakespeare’s Globe. If you make a donation now, we can continue to work towards our cause, and our mission of making Shakespeare accessible for all.Support. If you’d like to support Shakespeare’s Globe, you can donate on their website’s donation page. The production. One of William Shakespeare’s most beloved tragedies. Directed by the wonderful Dominic Dromgoole. This particular performance of Romeo and Juliet proves why Shakespeare is still relevant today. Visit danpavacic.com for more theater related news, audition tips and information. Find out how you can stay fit and healthy during Covid-19 social-distancing.
Streaming On YouTube. From 12-8PM today, Irondale Ensemble Project is airing a live Shakespeare Marathon. The company made the announcement this past month that a 7 and a half hour virtual event was being arranged. Actors of all ages can benefit in their craft and pick up some acting tips while they’re at it.
How to Watch
The Irondale Ensemble. Streaming live on YouTube. All are welcome to watch this new project by the Irondale Ensemble Project, as actors the likes of Ralph Fiennes, Daphne Rubin-Vega, Cady Huffman, Lea DeLaria, John Ventimiglia, Kenyon Phillips, and James Whiteside. Over 100 people are joining these celebrated artists. Its truly a small world. Even my undergrad director of ‘Measure for Measure’ Nancee Moes, has joined the celebrated cast. A member of both The Alan Alda Center for Communication Science and The Asylum Theater Company, Nancee is a veteran director and avid teacher of The Bard’s works. I am excited to watch and support her, as well as many of these artists, in their performances.Streaming: Watch Now On YouTube
Shakespeare is relevant today
The Performance. According to BroadwayWorld.com, the Executive Director of Irondale, Terry Greiss was quoted saying
“We are all stressed by what we are living through and it may calm a few nerves, my own included, to hear the ‘eternal lines’ read by pros and non-pros alike…”
I could not agree more. Being cooped up in a house and trying to find ways to stay physically active during Covid-19 pandemic, I am excited to watch this event, as it has already gotten off to a great start. 456 total minutes of William Shakespeare’s Sonnet’s all in one ensemble performance. What day could be better? After all, today is April 23rd, what is widely believed to be Shakespeare’s birthday.
“My own favorite sonnet has a couplet that keeps running through my mind: So long as men can breathe and eyes can see/So long live this and this gives life to thee. We will all get through this and when we do, art, music, dance and theater will be there for us to help future generations understand and make sense of what we are living through today.”
Celebrate. What better way to celebrate the work of Shakespeare, than to showcase his 154 celebrated 14-line sonnets. A great project for theater community to learn from and enjoy, particularly in a time of so much angst. Thank you Irondale Ensemble Project and all the participants! And thank you William Shakespeare! I imagine this work can only benefit actors on stage, behind the camera and give them some audition tips to draw from.
The Shakespeare Sonnet Marathon will be streaming Thursday, April 23, from 12:00 p.m. – 8:00 p.m., EST over the Zoom platform.
Advice to Actors
Acting tips. Recently I published an article for Google News about acting tips that all actors can consider when auditioning. The industry is completely virtual, therefore, actors need to do their best to adjust to the challenge at hand. So now that our industry is changing due to complications of Covid-19, I found myself asking the same question…
How can actors audition right now?Auditions. It turns out, actors can audition as most casting calls are happening via websites like Backstage.com or ActorsAccess.com. In addition to acting classes, the best thing actors can do right now is to adapt to the current layout of the industry. Everything is online. Therefore, the best investment an actor can make right now is to purchase proper lighting equipment for self-tapes as well as a quality microphone to record voiceover auditions. But another question remains: “How can actors show their work to agents, managers and casting directors in order to audition in the first place?”
Meet Agents, Casting Directors and Managers
Acting Classes. Actors are looking for ways to get in front of the industry right now. Usually, I post content to help actors navigate the ever-changing landscape of our industry. Last week, I had posted a blog for Google News, Audition Tips: How to audition (for Actors). It caught the attention of ActingMasterClassesNYC’s founder, actor and audition coach, Anthony Aibel.
After seeing my blog posts, his team contacted me through social media. Aibel informed me of the work his company, ActingMasterclassesNYC, is doing. He says he wants to help actors stay connected with industry representatives, despite social distancing. After speaking over the phone, Aibel quickly revealed he has been coaching for years, successfully introducing actors to talent agents, managers and casting directors in the process. He coaches actors who regularly book work for various TV networks, including CBS, NBC, Amazon, Netflix, Fox, and many others.
Aibel wanted to share the message of ActorsMasterClassesNYC, and what his company can do for actors right now. Here is what he had to say:
Acting ClassesDuring the upcoming weeks, Anthony Aibel is offering on-camera and agent prep classes at discounted prices. However, you can also audit the class on Zoom at 1PM EST tomorrow, Tuesday April 28th. To audit or participate, contact Myla Marino at (646) 246-9735. Tomorrow, April 28th: Commercial Master Class with DDO Artists Head of On-Camera Department and commercial agent of the year, Gina Manfredi. Thursday, April 30th: Masterclass with legit agent Diana Doussant of Leading Artists Agency! Next month- May 13th: Kid/Teen master class with Bonnie Shumofsky with Stewart Talent!
On May 11th: Masterclass with Jackie Gubow with Professional Artists
May 22nd: Masterclass with Mikey Nagy with The Krasny OfficeTo contact Anthony Aibel, visit his website AnthonyAibel.com or call his office: Myla Marino (646) 246-9735. Currently they are offering discounts and willing to accommodate actors who are in need.
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 TheaterEvery 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 ProcessSome 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 CallbackAfter 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 WeekendIf 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 AuditionsAt 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 TheaterI 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 AuditionsI 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.
Before I begin, I’d like to take some time to thank a special mentor and friend to me since I started acting: Professor Steven Lantz-Gefroh. A quick correction on that, he is actually more than a mentor or friend. He’s family. I would not be where I am today, or on the path I am, without his guidance. During my time in undergrad, Gef pushed me to develop my skills and improve my work ethic in order to be prepared for the arduous life of an actor. This guidance essentially began on one particular night, after I had performed poorly in a scene. I remember sitting outside in the theater department hallway, reading the script over and over. I was overly tired and stressed about other events in my life, and I remember feeling absolutely lost with no direction. Gef came out and spoke to me. He asked me if I was going to be okay. And all I could say was “I just don’t know which path to choose.” Not many people, let alone a mentor whose job is to push you by any means, feel obligated to genuinely care for their students. And I didn’t know if I should get an MFA or not. I had begun to doubt myself and the choices I had made. Then something miraculous happened. Truly out of the ordinary. He sat with me, and he just listened. After hours conversing, Gef had comforted my fears, telling me to be afraid and “admit the fear” to myself whenever I get on stage; To welcome fear with open arms. I knew that we are only afraid of what we don’t know and understand. So I came to the conclusion that I needed to develop my plan. I realized I needed to trust the process. In probably the kindest act, or gift, a teacher can give to their student, it’s what Steven Lantz-Gefroh did for me. He listened to me to understand. He was not afraid to help and guide. He welcomed the challenge and does so every day for his students. I have never witnessed a professor that will go to such lengths to help a student achieve their potential. He just is a man who never, ever quits on anyone. He tries his best for his students. And that’s more than most ever do. So it was Gef who encouraged me to trust myself and pursue an MFA degree in acting. Without that talk, I might be working behind a desk at a job I hate instead of writing this. I have him to thank for why I am acting today. He gave me something extremely special: belief in myself. For that, I just want to say thank you, Gef. And I love you.
You may be wondering about why I mention my mentor. Well he actually is an alumni of the MFA program I am about to discuss. He encouraged me to audition for grad school as he did when he was in his 20s. And as it must have been a tough road for him, I can certainly affirm that it was also an extremely tough road for me. Only just the beginning of a 2-year journey, here’s all I have to say about my experience auditioning at The Yale School of Drama.
Was I right to go for my MFA degree in acting? Well, to find out, I had to experience an audition for myself. A year after my talk with Gef, at 19 years old, I paid the audition fee and booked a slot for the New Haven auditions for YSD. (Generally, most MFA programs hold auditions in their local city, New York City, Chicago and Los Angeles) Some of you might wonder if I had any collegiate degree. The answer is actually no, I had not graduated community college yet and received even half of a 4-year degree. But for those of you interested, YSD does have a certificate they award to graduates of their program. To qualify for a certificate, students who apply to YSD that are without a bachelors degree can do so if they have been out of high school for more than 5 years. The certificate becomes an MFA if the student ever completes their bachelors degree during or after their time at Yale. I actually did not realize the necessary requirements one needed to be applicable for a certificate, but applied anyway. Although I didn’t officially qualify, somehow the application was accepted and I was given an audition date and time. And I drove up to New Haven, Connecticut with my Dad (Who, by the way, is the the greatest Dad there is. He’s been there for me my entire life and sacrifices so much to help his kids) the night before, monologues prepared. To be honest, despite being ineligible for admission, I was no where near prepared enough, having only two solid monologues to audition with (I did have two alternate monologues, but they were not nearly as prepared as my first pair). But before I elaborate any further, here’s the breakdown of how The Yale School of Drama conducts their audition process.
At YSD, each audition day is broken up into several hourly slots that applicants sign up for when they register for auditions on online. (Typically, applicants can register up to several months prior to their audition scheduled date). These hourly auditions consist of usually at least 20 actors, who are subsequently split up into two separate groups. Group A auditions for one of two audition judges. Group B auditions for the other. When I auditioned in 2015, the two judges were Walton Wilson, The Chair of the Acting Department, and Ron Van Lieu, The Lloyd Richards Adjunct of Acting at YSD since 2004. Prior to each hour, both men speak to the group of actors. (I really enjoyed this part of the process because it calmed my nerves somewhat and made me reaffirm that this is just an audition, and we are all just human beings). Ron and Walton told us the most important thing was to to breathe. Now, years later, and having received further training, I gladly agree with that statement. Which brings about my first tip for many of you hopeful MFA applicants reading this: Breathe and enjoy each breath. You cannot be connected to anything in life if you don’t breathe. Forget doing it right. Forget impressing others. Forget showing all your emotion in one speech. That’s not what we do in our daily lives. Stop thinking about it all. Just breathe. Obviously, you can’t live if you stop breathing, so how can you possibly live as another character, if only for a moment, if you tighten up and strain through an entire monologue by holding your breath. You’ll suffocate the life of the character you are playing!
I recall walking into the audition room in front of Ron Van Lieu. And I was terrified. I had done so much research about the program and put so much pressure on myself prior to my audition that I didn’t value the one opportunity I really was guaranteed. Was I guaranteed to get admitted into YSD? No. No one is. Was I guaranteed to do my best performance of this pair of monologues? No. However, I was guaranteed to get just one audition, an audition approximately 2-4 minutes in front of one other human being whom I had never met. I was guaranteed one, and only one opportunity: to act. There actually was a student sitting beside Ron Van Lieu, a young man and MFA actor in the YSD program. Both men were kind to me and seemed welcoming. As I walked in I noticed a yellow line on the classroom’s floor, drawn about 30 feet from Ron and the student. Earlier, Ron and Walton had told us to stand behind that line when doing our pieces. I was so nervous when I first entered the room and almost blanked about the yellow line. The reason I was nervous was not because I was unprepared or scared of the man behind the table. The reason I was nervous was not because I doubted my ability to play the characters in my audition pieces. The reason I was nervous was because I was worried about impressing the judge in front of me. I was more worried about my chances of getting into the school, than I was about actually enjoying this opportunity to act. And that’s my next tip: Pick pieces that you want to do, that you have fun doing and that you love because of your connection to them. I say this because my first time auditioning for Yale was like a test run, an experiment, and I was more focused on getting it right than I was on having fun. But I learned so much from failing. I learned you only have so much time in front of these audition monitors and judges, so enjoy that little bit of time you are lucky to have! You may have spent money for that time. Why not HAVE FUN!!!
Also, remember that in any audition, those behind the table are just people who share similar traits and experiences to your own. We’re all human and breathe the same air. So ease up a little, take over the space and have confidence in your own self-worth. You all have something that makes you, you. Whatever quality that is your strength, reinforce it with the pieces you love!
Obviously, I didn’t know any of this during my first MFA audition. I actually didn’t apply this relaxed, “what do I have to lose”/have fun mentality until after my Yale School of Drama audition. That is, after my second time auditioning.
You see, the next year, (I didn’t get in the first time) I tried again, this time prepared with 6 Shakespeare pieces and 6 contemporary. I had prepared all of these pieces over the course of about 2 years prior to my entire audition tour. And Yale was once again first on the list. (It just worked out that way with flight scheduling) This time around, I tried to breathe, relax, and have fun with my pieces. (Side note: recently, Yale implemented an audition limit of three attempts per applicant. To my knowledge, you can still apply to audition, but it is discouraged by the program). Being my second experience with YSD, I knew what to expect and welcomed the fear as Gef taught me to do so very well. I had this mentality that it’s not just about me being right for a school; The school has to be right for me. And that mentality gave me confidence to do the pieces I wanted to do, however I wanted to do them! I walked into the room and auditioned for Walton Wilson this time. He was extremely kind and told me to start whenever I was ready. Unlike Ron, Walton actually looked up and watched me while I performed my two speeches. I remember seeing him smile and feeling much better about my audition than the year prior. I even called my Dad to tell him I thought I had a shot at a callback…
But I still didn’t get a callback. All that work and nothing to validate it… or so it seemed. Only one name out of 20 hopeful actors was written on the callback sheet. It hurt. All rejection can hurt. But were dreams crushed? Eh, not for me. If it’s your dream school, that’s one thing. But mine was Actors Studio Drama School and I had yet to audition for it. Watching Bradley Cooper in Silver Linings Playbook and being moved by his performance; becoming inspired to pursue acting at ASDS where he had trained was the whole reason I met Gef, and started acting in college. And Yale wasn’t for nothing. I’m glad I didn’t get in. It made me better. My whole MFA audition tour was course corrected and improved because I learned what monologues didn’t work well together. It was practice. It was rehearsal. And that’s another tip: Treat every audition like it’s a rehearsal. Of course rejection hurts. But does it mean I should pack up and switch my major? No. All a rejection means is “not this year. Try again if you would like to”. And that’s my fourth tip: Let the “no’s” roll off. Do not worry if you don’t get in anywhere. I mean it. The only loss you could ever have is if you were to quit. By applying to schools and doing your best work, you are forcing yourself to develop your auditioning skills and better your craft! You’ll become a better actor by trying, rather than not trying at all. And after getting my first “no” out of the way, it was like something clicked for me: I realized I have nothing to lose. I got home, worked on my pieces for four or five hours and went to bed. And then I got up the next day and worked on arranging my pieces in different orders. And then my song. And my scene. Then once a day’s work was done you know what I did? I filled up the little time remaining in each day by spending time with the people I love and enjoying the things I loved to do! I read plays for fun and Shakespeare for fun. I went swimming, hiking, played basketball, and played some Super Smash Brothers with my best friends. I worked on classes for my online college, (I really enjoyed my online college experience at Empire State College. If you’re interested in knowing more about it, feel free to write me by hitting the ‘Contact’ button on my website’s home page) saw some new and old movies, read other books on my list, played piano (poorly) and I worked on singing. To be successful at auditioning for these schools, you have to allow yourself to play and be creative in your approach to each monologue. And I enjoyed playing and learning from each and every school audition, all while completing my degree and assistant directing/understudying a show. Keeping busy and allowing yourself to play will not only help you achieve more, but it will leave you having fun and staying relaxed in the process. And by being relaxed and having fun, you won’t obsess if you are right for a school…you’ll be able to take a step back and assess if the school is right for you. If you surround yourself with things to do that you love and people you love, these auditions will feel like a piece of cake. They can be so fun as long as you allow them to be! Think about it: You get to travel. You get to meet new people. You get to learn! I know I did. So stay tuned, because even though Yale didn’t work out for me, it helped me learn so much for auditions going forward. I am proud to be on this path. And I am proud to be an actor.
Next stop? I’m going to dive into the audition process of The Mason Gross School of the Arts at Rutgers University: First Round.
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