“Are you ready to devote the next three years of your life towards working on your craft?”
When I graduated with my Bachelor’s Degree in Theater Arts in 2009, I was very confused. I had no idea what to do next. At 22 years old, I was at the same place as I was four years prior, except I held a degree in my hand and student loans next to my name. I applied for apprenticeships in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Rhode Island. I applied to internships and jobs. Nothing. No one wanted to hire me. I didn’t have anywhere to go.
It was until a very small theatre company near Danbury, CT began casting me in their shows. It was all volunteer work, but I didn’t care. I was building my resume. I was getting work and pretty decent reviews for my performances. I was learning far more about productions and tech work than I did in college, and learning more about the professional lives of the actors that worked there. I was getting everything I needed. I was ready to move on.
One of the actors I worked with was from England. I still keep in touch with him. His name is John Taylor. He checks in from time to time to hear about my progress as an actor. He was one of the first people after undergrad who advocated for my talent. I love him dearly. His training blew my mind. He would talk about the intensity of his studies, his rigorous physical training, and how his classes stretched every muscle and brain cell to their breaking point. I was envious of his vocal work and his deep understanding of the text. He would point out important moments in the script that I wouldn’t know existed. His instincts were also sharp. He knew every specific detail of what every character wanted and how they were going to get it. I definitely lacked the knowledge of how to properly analyze a script from an actor’s stand point. The terms “objective,” “motivation,” and “tactics” were not in my vocabulary. I knew that I had more learning to do.
During the Fall of 2009, I applied to the Central School for Speech and Drama in London, England. Why London? In my mind, I really wanted to reach the caliber of my fellow cast mate. He was so spectacular. I wanted to be like him. I wanted to experience all that he experienced throughout his career. I felt like London was the place. I wasn’t thinking about airfare, how i’m going to acclimate to living in a new country, or how this experience would help advance my career. I didn’t care. I only wanted to be a great actor.
As I started my research, I found that most MFA programs were three years. THREE YEARS?!? Who’s got time for a three year program? I’ve got places to go, things to do, and people to meet. I do not have time to spend three years stuck in a classroom. I recently finished four years of that insanity. Why would I want to do this again? I stumbled across The Actor’s Studio Drama School during my research. The program looked interesting. It was located in New York City, which was the biggest attraction for me. Lastly, I grew up watching “Inside the Actor’s Studio” with my grandmother when I was living with her. The downside: it was a three year program.
So I came across the Central School for Speech and Drama. The program was an accelerated one year program. (Check!) It was located in London, England. (Check!) Auditions were coming up in November 2009 (Check!) This program was perfect! I was going to be a masterful actress in no time!
I spent the next few weeks prepping for the big audition. I picked two monologues: Miranda from Shakespeare’s “The Tempest” and a monologue from “The Vagina Monologues.” (As I’m reminiscing on this day, I cringe at the monologue choices I made. I DEFINITELY would have picked something more edgy and daring if I knew any better!) I worked on them, rehearsed them, received coaching, and I was ready to go. The day of the audition arrived and my mom came with me. We were at a studio in New York City and I was extremely nervous, but excited! We started with a movement exercise, followed by vocal exercises, and then we went in for our individual auditions.
I walked in feeling great. I move really well so I didn’t feel insecure about my movement audition. I’ve also been singing since I was little; therefore, the vocal audition was a breeze. We were to slate (announce ourselves and the monologues we were performing) and then perform. After I finished with my monologues, the auditioner asked me to recite my Miranda monologue to the actor in the room. I did what he asked and he kept asking me about what was going on around the moment: where were they, what did Miranda want, how did she feel, who would be mad, what goes on in the story. I answered all of his questions. I know “The Tempest” but I didn’t realize he was asking me all about given circumstances. All of the events surrounding the play that motivates the character in that moment. Gahhhh! If I only knew! I recited the monologue a total of 4 times…leaving me as the longest auditionee who was present. At the end of it all, I received the most shocking news of my life:
“You have so much potential. You are very good, but you are not ready for this program.”
*Blank Stare* (fighting tears, fighting tears, fighting tears)
“Okay. Is there anything you recommend me to do?”
“Give yourself some time to obtain more training, read, and live life. When you know you are ready, then audition for a grad program again.”
(fighting tears, fighting tears, fighting tears)
“Okay. Thank you.”
Defeat. Shame. Insecurity. Doubt. Failure…
Looking back on this experience, I realized that this man was right. I had to live life. I gained so much experience throughout the last five years. I learned that you can’t rush experiences. You need to take time to discover, learn, and grow. Time really does heal wounds. Time allows you to grow. Time allows you to experience all the little things this great world has to offer. Time gives you the chance to reflect, evaluate, and try again. You do not need to rush time. Yes, try out new things. Take risks and see what happens. Make a million mistakes. Don’t let them keep you back. Use your mistakes as a spring to move you further. Look at Fear in the face and tell him that you don’t need him. You can do whatever you set your mind to, no matter how short or how long it will take. You will only become a more intelligent, well-rounded, and bright human being…and one hell of an artist. So, am I finally ready to take the time and devote the next three years of my life working on my craft?
“Yes. Yes I am.”
Kat The Artist