MFA Auditions 2018: Part 2: Yale Drama

Originally Published: 22 March 2018

For those of you just now joining us, I shall set the scene:

Chicago. 2018. It’s cold and overcast. Windy, too. Luckily, the auditions are held indoors (although I would like to petition for next year’s to be outside, as acting is not for the weak-willed). We’re in the cramped, yet oddly comfortable hallways of the Hyatt Regency Hotel. There had been a mix-up with room scheduling due to construction, so everyone is holding their auditions in regular guest rooms, sans beds. It was humbling to see these big name schools relent and take what they were given.

After having checked in with the lovely stage management student at Yale a couple of times throughout my NYU audition and callback waiting period, I was finally ready.

The stage manager told me that I would be in a room just down the hall and would go after a girl named: (I’m so sorry I don’t remember your name so I’m going to call you Stephanie) Stephanie.

I located Stephanie and she seemed totally sweet and unassuming. Sensing I had a while, I put in my earphones and turned on my Spotify playlist. I had my winter coat on and took up two seats in the narrow hallway – which I knew to be a bit rude, but my coat was so big and no one else was sitting there and I was tired from my NYU callback. And hey, if anyone had a problem, they were more than welcome to ask me to scootch.

I was super beat, though. NYU really wore me out physically and emotionally. It was my first test of the day – to rally and not sabotage myself because I was tired. I was not going to let, “I’m tired” become an excuse today. Again, I tried to not do anything. Not to replicate what I had done before my successful NYU audition. But I was getting nervous.

I tried to focus on the music and take a little nap. The kid next to me was with his mom and I thought that was very sweet. He was playing some sort of space-like game on his phone.

Each person was taking a long time in the room. It felt like 10 or 15 minutes per person. I was on high alert, since I knew it was 100% my responsibility to go into the room after Stephanie. The monitor was holding down the fort in the holding room, checking people in for the next hour’s time slot.

Oh, here’s how Yale does things: You get split into two groups (or three, depending on how many people are scheduled in your hour). Each group auditions for one faculty member from the school, one at a time, in alphabetical order. In Chicago, one room had Walton Wilson, Department Chair (he’s an absolute doll); the other had the new Head of Acting, Gregory Wallace. In New Haven, a monitor tells you when it’s time for you to go in and they announce your name to the room. In Chicago, they didn’t do that, it was up to me to give a long pause after the previous person came out before knocking and going in myself. Then you go back to the holding room and wait. A golden yellow piece of paper is passed between Walton and Gregory’s rooms and they each decide on their own who they want to callback. That golden ticket is then posted on a door or wall and those whose name are on it then get to do their pieces again, this time for Walton AND Gregory. Now, I won’t spoil the whole process for you right now, that’s for another time. Soon I’ll link this very sentence to the story of the time when I got to the end of day callbacks at Yale. I mean, I have to keep you reading somehow, right?

Where was I…ah, yes! My audition! Gregory’s room sure was taking it’s sweet time, let me tell you. I was on such high alert for when I would go in the room that I wasn’t really focusing on myself. I got a little too wrapped up in my surroundings and judging people around me. 

Finally, Stephanie went in, and came out about 2 years later. I gave it a little pause, knocked, and walked in.

I was happy and smiley, introduced myself. Gregory seemed removed, but I didn’t let that phase me.r maybe I did. He asked how I was today, so I told him about how I was staying in the same hotel and it was great to get to audition in rooms that were just like my own. As per usual, I was charming and personable. He said that was nice and asked for my pieces.

I began and was like, sooooo not with it. Look, it was fine. I was fine. I was well rehearsed, but was definitely not in the room. No laughs, no energy from him, no nothing.

Keep in mind that at this point, I’d been performing a comedy for a few weeks where I got a laugh on nearly every line I spoke. So adjusting to the lack of laughter was something I knew I’d have to do, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t jarring in the moment. 

He was looking down during most of my first piece, as I trudged through it like I was neck-deep in mud. I kept taking bites of the mud thinking it was Kozy Shack pudding, but it kept being mud for some reason. 

Onto the classical and by God he looked up! Now, maybe his strategy was to only look up when something piqued his interest. Yes, some of the faculty you are auditioning for do that. So practice as much as you can with people in the room who you desperately want to look at you, not looking at you. 

I felt a similar way with the classical. I was painting by numbers, trying to manufacture something real rather that telling the story. 

It was over. I said thank you, as did he. The energy didn’t feel right. It felt like, “impress me” instead of “let’s see what you’re working on”. Honestly, I knew I didn’t want to go to Yale. I told a couple of my coaches this weeks and months before auditioning, but felt like I couldn’t go through this again without doing Yale. I actually felt similarly about NYU and boy am I glad I went for it with NYU (more on that later).

I went back to the holding room and felt meh. I chatted briefly with some other women who seemed meh and confused about their experiences. I peed in the incredibly convenient bathroom of the hotel room. The list went up. It was almost my name. Almost. I think the kid’s name was Brandon Burditt (congrats!). So close!!! I looked at it a couple more times, like Evgenia Medvedeva at the scoreboard after narrowly missing the figure skating gold medal to her teammate and arch rival Alina Zagitova #PyongChang #Olympics. What if they got our names confused? It’s totally possible! Right? Right!?! If I look at it hard enough, the name will magically change before my eyes.

Nope, no change. You know what was amazing though? I wasn’t terribly upset. In previous years, I cried. Even that year I got to end of day callbacks, I had this release on my way home and sobbed. Nope, not this year. Yale was not the place for me, and I knew that. I felt that in the room. I let Yale go. And I was happier for it. 

Four more to go today! We’ve barely even begun! USC is next and it’s in a different hotel *gasp*! They told me to come anytime between 9am and 12pm or between 1pm and next audition at 2:30pm. The time now is 10:43am.

Will I take a nap? How will I get there? Will I eat a snack?!? Stay tuned…

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