It’s official: Grad school audition season is upon us. Every year around this time, actors all over the country are dusting off their two contrasting monologues, steaming their audition outfits and heading out to various locales in search of the MFA acting program perfect for them. I’ve been through it all myself as an actor and work each year with a number of actors on putting together grad school auditions. With all the nerves and excitement I’ve been seeing these last few weeks, I thought it would be a good time to share some things you might want to remember if you’re auditioning soon.
- Remember you are a person, not a resume
It is so easy as someone auditioning for a graduate acting program to forget that your acting credits don’t tell your whole story. A great resume is a wonderful thing, but this isn’t just an acting job you are going out for. You are auditioning to spend years of your life with these people. Having thoughts and feelings outside of acting and being ready to talk about yourself as more than just a collection of roles played will serve you well. Acting is an art that depends on personal connection. Letting go of the need to impress and instead letting yourself be open and authentic with your auditors will benefit both sides of the table.
- Remember you are auditioning them, too
This one is tough to remember when you are eager to get into a school, but the truth is not every school or faculty is the right fit for you. Of course there are the tangible things like cost of admission, whether or not you get to teach, the type of training you’ll receive, etc., but there are also intangibles. When I auditioned for schools, I was surprised to find that places I had really wanted to go based on my research were not the same as the places I wanted to go once I got in the room. Not all faculty members will be at the audition, but I do think you can get a sense of the culture of a school from the people you meet in the audition. Don’t ignore those feelings, good or bad.
- Remember you are there for you
By committing to an MFA in acting, you are investing time and money in your art and craft. Follow your instincts and your heart as you make this huge choice. A lot of people leave MFA programs after the first year because they figure out that they don’t really want to commit themselves to the work or they realize that they went to a school that was a bad fit. The way to avoid this is to worry less about what the various auditors want and more about what you want. Auditioning for schools, meeting teachers and hearing about all the programs out there can teach you a lot about where you are coming from as an actor and what type of artist you want to be. Let yourself diverge from the plan and be open to the possibilities that open themselves to you. These years of training are yours.
- Remember to breathe and have a sense of humor
Look, grad school auditions are a big deal. They can determine, in a very real way, what the next few years of your life is going to look like. In the midst of that headiness, it’s easy to stress yourself the hell out. That one audition didn’t go great? You didn’t get called back to the schools you wanted? You botched a line? Take a breath and laugh at yourself. It will help you to no end. I remember when I got in the room for one of my dream schools, it became instantly clear that they were in no way interested in me and I was frankly pretty turned off by them. Instead of walking out of that room and beating myself up and trying to sort out why they didn’t like me, I just let myself laugh a little at how absurd it was. Auditioning is full of moments like that. Breathe and laugh. Life continues.
- Remember the world will not end
Really, it won’t. Don’t believe me? Let me tell you about a friend of mine who auditioned four years in a row for pretty much every school. The first three years? Nothing. Not a callback. Nada. But he really was hungry for training, so he kept at it. He took classes at various places around town and kept developing his craft. He kept auditioning for shows and did some good work in some storefront theaters. Then, year four rolled around and, for whatever reason, that year he was on fire. He got called back to NYU, Yale, Columbia, UCSD, and USC and was offered a spot at Brown. I won’t tell you where he wound up going, but I will tell you that it worked out great for him. Because he knew what he wanted and put in the work. The great thing about grad school season is that it comes around every year. If you want to go to school, it will happen when the time is right. Do your work and trust.