The Best Acting SchoolsAt the American Conservatory Theater, one of the best acting schools in the world, I had made a breakthrough! You can read about it in my last article: The Callback for American Conservatory Theater. I had made it to an end of day callback. I had yet to know what was to come (countless other auditions in NYC, traveling to Chicago, URTA auditions, getting more callbacks, etc.). 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. And here are the acting tips that I learned:
Rejection from Acting Schools1. Use Rejection to Fuel You. Sometimes, the rejection from school auditions, or any professional audition, can seem overwhelming. By staying focused, persistent and aware, an actor can learn what tends to work for them, and what doesn’t. Build on what works, but remember to also strengthen your weaknesses. By doing so, you can shorten the amount of time it will take to improve your acting craft. Attributing one’s focus to their weakest links will ultimately strengthen performance as they progress. Realize that if you put in the work, believe in yourself, and trust your good instincts, you can turn your dreams into reality.
Talent vs Work Ethic2. Talent Takes Time. Everyday, I like to remind myself what Bradley Cooper says in A Star is Born, “Look, talent comes everywhere, but having something to say and a way to say it to have people listen to it, that’s a whole other bag. And unless you get out and you try to do it, you’ll never know. That’s just the truth.” And Jackson Maine is right. Talent is nothing without craft; without skill. And skill, and therefore, talent, must be developed. Every failure you will ever experience will be an opportunity to learn. It is your choice to take that opportunity. So if you walk away from an audition and have learned nothing, then that is on you.
Auditioning for Acting Schools3. Perspective in Rejection. You may get into grad school on your first try. You may not. The truth is: it doesn’t matter. Just the endeavor of auditioning is the success. No matter how established or famous an actor may be, they will all tell you the same thing: “You will be rejected way more than you are accepted.” And while that may seem like a bad thing, it is not. It takes time to grow as an actor. It takes time to become proficient in anything. And it takes time to find the right school for you, and for a school to find who is right for them. That last part is important, so I am going to repeat it. It takes time for a school to find who is right for them. The same goes for the best acting schools. The same goes for the professional entertainment industry. 4. It is not your job to get the job. Casting directors, directors, producers, agents, managers, and yes, even the best acting schools, are all looking for someone who will solve their problem; someone who “fits” their creative, artistic vision. Sometimes, those people are spot on. Sometimes, they fail and misjudge. Whether you succeed or fail, it is not your problem to wonder why. It is only your job to do the best you can, to learn from what doesn’t work for you, to experiment and, when you do fail, it is your responsibility to get up and do it again. Now, having looked back on my time auditioning for dozens and dozens of MFA programs, and several of the top 25, I can tell you that: 5. Nobody knows what they are looking for, they only think they know. This includes you and the audition judge.
Trust the Work6. Trust Yourself. If you receive a callback, it means that the person on the other side of the table saw something they think they may want. Allow any doubts to pass from your mind and trust the work you are doing. It is what got you the callback in the first place. They didn’t call you back by mistake. They may not have any clue what they want. So show them what they want. You are in control. Allow your choices to be full and free.
7. Take Direction: Many times when an actor is called back, whether it is for one of the best acting schools in the world, or if its for a production of some kind, that actor may unknowingly impressed the person behind the table so much that they have virtually secured the part. The actor has proven that they have enough mastery of the craft and acting skill to do the role. However, the creative team or school judges want to see if the actor can take direction. In other words, they want to see if an actor is collaborative and good to work with. This doesn’t just happen in a callback audition. It happens in every audition.
Learn from Mistakes
For instance, The Yale School of Drama has its applicants stand behind a Yellow Line. I auditioned for Yale at 19 years old, and was illegitimately auditioning, without knowing it. (I had not yet received my bachelors degree and was too young to qualify to audition. Somehow, I slipped through the application process and got an audition) I was naive and green, having little experience in audition etiquette, and lacked awareness for what the purpose of an audition truly was. Ron Van Lieu, the Head of Acting at the time, and Walton Wilson, the Professor in the Practice of Acting and Chair, instructed applicants prior to our initial auditions. The instructions were to breathe and…
“Do not step over the yellow line…”Well. I stepped over the yellow line. Needless to say I did not get admitted to The Yale School of Drama after that audition. And my failure to take direction certainly didn’t help me.
So, one year later when I auditioned for The American Conservatory Theater, I had still not learned my lesson. I allowed myself to be blinded by this momentary success that I lost focused. When Domenique Lozano conducted a series of theater games with us, and gave us instructions, my excitement overcame my composure.
During one particular game, I recall Domenique saying to focus on listening to our partners during. I realized I was doing a poor job and had not been truly listening for the previous several minutes. By the time I reminded myself that she was evaluating us as a group to see who could take direction, it may have been too late. I had not been focused. It may have cost me the audition. I may never truly know, but Domenique could have evaluated me as being someone not worth calling back again. After all, if I couldn’t take a theater game seriously, how on Earth would I be able to perform in a show or in class at A.C.T?
I performed my pieces well. And everyone laughed a lot. But I was not asked to The American Conservatory Theater’s Callback Weekend. If I had been more focused, maybe the outcome would have been different. However, I quickly moved on, learned from it and, to the best of my ability, was never unfocused for an audition again. As a result, I was called back to many of the best acting schools in the world.