Friday, June 18, 2010

The London Experience - Part Two

                     Crappy web picture of the MacOwan Theatre

  At about 9:30 on Sunday, 13 June, I walked up to the front doors of LAMDA. Just before I ascended the steps, I noticed a penny on the ground, face up. A modestly superstitious lad like myself instantly recognized this as a sign of good luck. I stuck the penny in my shoe and proceeded on my way.
  After signing in, I was led into the student lounge, where I met my fellow applicants. There were about eight of us total, and the group was a mix of English, Irish, Welsh, Italian and French, with two Americans (myself included) thrown in for good measure. It was a warm group, and we all got along pretty well almost immediately.
  None of us knew quite what to expect at 10:00 when we were led into one of the studios. We knew we'd be starting the day with a movement session, followed by some improv, but those are such broad terms anymore. Having taken two movement classes at Studio, I figured I knew what was up. I couldn't have been more wrong.
  Our extremely fiery movement instructor, Donna, cranked up some music in the room and immediately put us into a workout routine that I was sure was going to make a couple of people throw up. Within about two minutes, I was dripping so much sweat that the polished wood floor around me was literally wet. The worst part of it was the 20 minute core session, which included singing while holding ab-stress positions. I thanked my stars that I was in good enough shape to make it through without faltering.
  I was hoping there wouldn't be any kind of dance routines, because that's a horribly weak spot for me, but my worst fears were confirmed shortly. It started out simply enough, but then escalated into a complex routine of right-left coordination. "On the four count, cross the room diagonally, right foot first, each step on the beat. Every fourth beat, make a complete turn to your right. The turn will take exactly four beats." Things like that are probably simple enough for somebody with even remedial dance training, but they're a nightmare for me.
  Nobody was perfect in any of these routines, but I struggled badly. I got right and left mixed up. I moved off beat. Sometimes, during group routines, I lost the beat and had to stop, watch for a moment, and then catch up again. I soon realized I was standing out as "the guy who can't keep up." We were being graded on all of these things, and I felt myself losing points. It was not a heartening way to start the audition process.
  Finally, we moved into the improv portion and were handed off to another instructor. This part of the day, while a lot more entertaining, was also incredibly difficult. There were a lot of "quick reaction" type exercises. A lot of games where you had to remember fifteen different things at the same time and remember them with lightning speed. We also did a fair amount of playing and situational exercises. These were scenes where you'd get called to the floor, given a character and a situation, and then immediately begin playing. There was a lot of laughter, and it was fun, but I really wished I had worked harder and really gone for it. Not my finest work. I consoled myself by thinking about the upcoming acting portion of the audition. I planned to shine.
  We broke for lunch at 1:00, but I didn't eat anything. I didn't want to get bogged down with a full stomach and go into a food coma. Instead, I just fueled up with some vitamin water and rehydrated myself.
  Just before two, we all headed to the Tube and rode a couple of stops down to the MacOwan Theatre, where the panel portion of the audition was to be held. Everybody was suddenly noticeably nervous, and people were pacing the lobby, reciting their monologues. I didn't have long to wait, as I was second in the queue, and at 2:30, they called for me.
  I walked through the double doors into the theatre and saw a panel of twelve department heads seated in front of the stage behind tables. It was an intimidating sight, for sure, but I knew what was coming. I was introduced to each faculty member and then told to take a seat. There was a bit of small talk, and then I was asked what pieces I'd be performing. Then, I was told to take the stage and begin. To give you an idea of the stress I was feeling, my hands are visibly shaking right now as I type this, just thinking about it.
  It was an avalance of performance with no breaks in between pieces. I opened with Petruchio's soliloquouy from "Taming of the Shrew" and unfortunately bombed it, much like I did when I performed it in final scenes at Studio. I instantly regretted not choosing a different piece to go with. Next, I did a monologue from "The Woolgatherer." It went fairly well, but could have been stronger. I rolled right into my song next, which was "Put on a Happy Face." It was flat and uninspired, mostly because I held back the emotion of the piece. This is a common failing to my performance, and something I'm desperately trying to work through. At this point in the audition, I started to feel like I was drowning. My time to shine wasn't shining. At all. I was failing. All this way. All this way, and to have this opportunity offered to me be wasted. I was failing because I was holding back.
  I pressed onward to the next piece, which was a scene I had memorized from three that were assigned by LAMDA. A graduate student I had never met stepped in to play opposite me, and we began. No rehearsal, no read through. Just go. As I expected, it didn't go well. I thought it would be fairly impossible to pull off a decent scene with somebody you had never rehearsed with, and I was right. I didn't go up on my lines, but she played the scene completely differently from how I expected it would go, and it threw me a bit. This caused me to revert again to flattening out the emotion of the scene and just concentrating on remembering the words. No good. I was dying up there.
  Last came the only portion of the auditon that I felt I nailed; the sight read. I was handed a paper with a paragraph of text, which I was to read aloud. This has always been a strength of mine, and the text was an easy read. I didn't fumble, I didn't hesitate. The words rang out loud and clear, and had good tone color and emotion. I got a good reaction from the panel.
  And like that, I was done. I sat in front of the group again and was asked a few more questions about myself and my goals. It was mentioned that I had been offered a spot in the one year program, and we discussed what I might gain from the undergrad two year program. Then, I was out the door.
  Nobody I talked to that day really felt like they had soared in the audition. Everybody was beating themselves up pretty badly. The stakes are incredibly high here. The school is renowned, and is extremely selective. They only take 28 students per year. Those 28 are split amongst the three programs. To know that I was already one of those 28 should have been comforting to me, but it wasn't. I felt like I had really let myself down. My incredibly good audition in New York started to feel like a fluke.

  I didn't sleep much that night.


Part Three: The Last Day


  1. When I first read "I thanked my stars that I was in good enough shape to make it through without faltering" -- I substituted "farting" for the last word and had a good laugh before I realized that you have more class than that.

  2. Hahaha, no, you had it right. It's a typo. I really AM glad I made it through without farting.