Be True to Yourself | Student Blog

Wednesday, Jan 29, 2020
Gabriela Saker
Admissions Blog
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Gabriela and other drama students onstage
One of my favorite auditions was when I tried out to be Abigail Williams in ‘The Crucible,’ at the University of Puerto Rico. Photo: SMJEG

Since starting my drama studies here, I have received messages from young artists around the world asking me for advice on auditioning for Juilliard.

I always feel a huge sense of responsibility to really find the time to address each person and give them truthful and heartfelt answers but also remind these new colleagues that auditioning is a very personal process. I only speak from my own experience; from what I have learned in my path, and from the advice I have received from my teachers and colleagues. Let me share some thoughts:

Be true to yourself: Especially in the process of auditioning, I believe the most crucial aspect is to be as true to yourself as possible. When sharing your work in the room, allow a piece of your soul— your authentic soul—to be seen, and know that the people on the other side of the room are rooting for you. My classmate Lennox T. Duong’s piece of advice about the whole process—from the first audition to the Final Callback Weekend—is: “Be yourself, enjoy, and don’t let the thoughts of the outcome color or cloud the experience.”

Gabriela and a friend pose in front of lockers
Drama students will accompany you throughout the day as room monitors, floaters, and question answerers

Build up your stamina: Auditions at Juilliard are quite long. You start the group warm-up at 8:45am and you might not end up auditioning until 1pm, so figure out what you can do to keep yourself centered, at peace, and with your creative fuel on. For me, sometimes it is putting on music and creating my circle of concentration, sometimes it’s meeting new people and getting in touch with their stories, and sometimes it’s taking a walk around the school or going out to take some fresh air before your round starts. Stay open and connected.

The skyline at night
The process of auditions at Juilliard can be really long—be sure to build up your stamina

Share the love for the work: Choose monologues that you really love and are deeply connected to. Have fun! Sometimes we forget that we really love to do this. It is a work day—another chance to create and contribute to the craft. As our wonderful mentor Richard Feldman says, allow yourself to be seen, with all the courage and generosity that implies. My classmate Alexia Pores adds: “Preparation will bring freedom. Once you walk into the audition room, everything is up to chance and that is thrilling. Know your pieces in your core and spend the rest of the time in the room living the moment.”

Gabriela warming up backstage
Sometimes we forget that we absolutely love to do this—this photo was in Santiago de Compostela, Spain, before our call for a performance—magic

Tell the character’s story: Auditions are a rare beast. How can you tap into the core of another human being in 120 seconds? Bare it to the essence. What does your character want? What is in their way? What do you do to get what you want? Stay open to this equation of objective-obstacle-action and all it can give you. Everything else will be a reaction to your burning need as the character. Also, engage your imagination with the given circumstances of your character so you feel you can enter the world of the play and tell the story as an insider.

A quote from Marlon Brando
Here are some words about simplicity by Marlon Brando that were posted by our mask professor, Kathleen McNenny

Stay open for adjustments: In the audition room, the faculty may ask you to make some adjustments to a piece. Don’t freak out! This means they want to work with you. Even though, by the time you show your pieces, you should have specific creative choices about the story you want to tell, do not allow those choices to be fixed to the point of rigidness. Stay open and vulnerable so you can react to a different set of given circumstances, a different need, a different action or tactic to fulfill your objective. This is the beauty of our work as actors, this is where are creativity comes to fruition: trying new choices and discovering multiple possibilites.

Don’t allow external pressures in: Sometimes we put extra pressure on ourselves that pull our concentration away from the actual work. Maybe you feel the need to prove to your parents that this is your true calling, or you want to make your mentors proud. Especially when we are young, we can be unaware of of the tension we carry because of external forces. Find your own voice amid all the chaos and liberate it. Breathe. Do it for yourself. You’re tapping on your soul and choosing your own path.

Finally, if you get nervous before the auditions, know that you are not alone. I remember feeling that incessant tickling in my stomach. Make peace with those feelings, be gentle with them, and allow yourself to be vulnerable. The important thing is that they don’t overshadow your fire, your passion, your creative freedom, your truth, and your love for this.

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