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AUDITIONING FOR GRADUATE SCHOOL

I have helped many students get into such graduate schools as NYU, YALE, JUILLIARD, BROWN, THE OLD GLOBE, ART at Harvard, GEORGE WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY, RUTGERS, and the LAB at the NY Shakespeare Festival. This letter is designed to inform you of my experiences.

Deciding to apply to graduate school is a huge step in the development of your acting skills and your commitment to your chosen profession. When you are applying to study acting at a graduate school, there are many things to consider. For example, what type of training will you be receiving?  Is there a professional theater attached to the school? Where did the faculty train, and what is their methodology? How many hours per week will you be given instruction?  Is the location of the school an environment that you want to be in for several years?

The first thing you should do when considering a school is to visit their website, carefully study how they train their actors, and closely examine the biographies of the faculty. You will learn a lot about your future by investigating the type of voice training the program offers. The development of any actor always begins with voice training.

The second most important component in your training will be increasing your physical expression. Programs drastically vary in this area and you will want to be very thorough in your investigation. Do they offer Suzuki training (University of Washington and Delaware)? Clown (NYU, Yale and Brown)?

If there is a professional theater attached to the school, you will want to find out the policy for Mainstage performances. Some schools will take their graduate students and put them in small roles in Mainstage shows, rather than actually TRAIN and develop the actor. While this may be enticing at times, it is a short term solution to what you are seeking, and at the current prices of education, an expensive way to subsidize a theater.

I encourage my students to apply for many schools because it is so competitive. I even encourage students to audition for University Resident Theater Association, or URTA. Some people feel that the URTA schools offer a secondary education, but depending on your needs, it may be the right place for you, and there can be large scholarships and stipends offered.

Here is some BASIC information about some of the larger schools in the United States If you would like to discuss any of these programs in greater detail, please let me know.

For younger people looking for conservatory or undergrad training, some of the most respected are: Juilliard, North Carolina School of the Arts, SUNY Purchase, Carnegie Mellon, Boston University, Northwestern, NYU undergrad, and Syracuse University.

The theater industry in New York currently holds these training programs in the highest regard: Juilliard, NYU Graduate Acting, and Yale.

Some other excellent schools are:

Brown University in Providence, R.I. attached to Trinity Repertory

Harvard at ART (American Repertory Theater)

University of Washington, Seattle

University of San Diego attached to the Old Globe Theater (also free);

University of California at San Diego attached to La Jolla Playhouse

University of Tennessee in Knoxville (a large international training program, and also free) attached to Clarence Brown Theater

Columbia University (graduates can work at CSC in NYC after graduation)

George Washington University (a one year classical acting program) affiliated with Shakespeare Theater of Washington, D.C.

University of Florida at the Asolo Theater, Sarasota (with paid stipend)

University of Missouri, Kansas City attached to Missouri Repertory Theater

University of Texas, Austin

Rutgers in New Brunswick, N.J

University of Delaware (one class every three years)

 

The process of selecting students has four components. In order of importance they are:

The Audition. You should be prepared with at least four monologues for your audition including two Shakespeare monologues, IN VERSE, one comedic and one serious.

The Contemporary Piece:

It is my experience that the most successful auditions are those that include a very realistic modern piece by writers such as David Hare, Arthur Miller, Edward Albee, Sam Shepard, Rebecca Gilman, Susan Lori Parks, Frank Gilroy, David Rabe, August Wilson, Diana Son among others. Many people are drawn to works by Christopher Durang  or Nicky Silver, and while this material may indicate a particular facility with language, it rarely lets the auditors know much about YOU. In short, it may get you a call back, but I have never known an actor to get into a leading MFA program with a monologue from one of these writers.

Shakespeare:

When it comes to Shakespeare, there is hardly a monologue they haven’t seen, so don’t get wrapped up in selecting one that isn’t known. It doesn’t exist. Put your attention on bringing yourself to the material and making it your own. The auditioners are looking to see if you have something that can be developed, not a finished performance. Several intimate, connected, full moments strung together will get you a lot farther than spending your time and energy being clever with your choice of material.

I will say this to the women: there are fewer pieces for you than the men. I personally would find it more interesting for a woman to come in with a man’s monologue than to see any piece of Rosalind’s or Viola’s. There are five women in the canon that cross dress. An actor who took an opportunity to try on how a man thinks would interest me more than a traditional choice. There are many roles in the canon that are non-gender specific (and are often played by women in contemporary stagings) I would consider these as well.

Remember, you are going to be paying this school a lot of money to train you. I think you should be concerned about, and put your attention on, whether or not this is the right school for your development as an artist, and not whether you are right for them. I hope you will show them work you are proud of and the kind of work you would like to invest yourself in during your training.

You may be asked to sing in your audition. This is not to make a determination whether you have a future in musical theater. It is strictly so that someone on the faculty can observe you breathing and creating vocal production. That’s all. Don’t worry about singing well. It has nothing to do with that aspect of performance.

The Inteview. This is an opportunity for the faculty to get to know you more personally. Be prepared to answer the question, “Why do you want to go to graduate school?” You should also be prepared to talk about things you enjoy.  Stay away from talking about the theater, but talk about your hobbies, sports activities you enjoy, novels you have read, or recent vacations for example. It will reveal a lot more about you than you may realize and it will put you at ease, rather than make you feel you need to answer the question “correctly.”

When the interviewer asks you “Do you have any questions for us?” Don’t say, “not really.” If you have really done your research, there must be some aspect of the program that you would like more information about. Now is the time to investigate. Remember that you are interviewing them as much as they are interviewing you. If you are potentially spending $100,000.00 or more on an education, I think you should have a few questions in mind.

The Personal Statement on the Application.

This needs to be PERSONAL. There is no need to talk about when you first discovered the theater, or how much you LOVE it, unless, I suppose you are talking about how it healed, or challenged you in some way as an adult. Write about who you are as an individual, what makes you unique. Perhaps your family, or loved ones if appropriate.

The letters of recommendation.

This is the most over-rated area of the process. These letters are only opened toward the end of the selection process (and in one case I know of not until the applicant has been accepted). They are not as important as the other application elements. Since this is out of your control anyway, I am not going to spend time on it. I just don’t want you putting any undue pressure on yourself when it comes to this aspect of the selection process.


I wish you the best during this rigorous process. If nothing else, you should walk away with several pieces that are in great shape to audition with, so you will come out ahead no matter what happens.  I hope your work will also get stronger during the process of preparing.  If, during the course of our working together you need any assistance, please feel free to email me at Charletuthill@yahoo.com or phone at 917-747-8630.