I know, the photo isn’t much. But- This may be the tastiest, most deliciously nourishing and emotionally fulfilling ramen bowl ever. I normally go a day without eating for important auditions. Mostly because I like the way I perform on an empty stomach, but also because the general hit-or-miss way food settles (or doesn’t settle, lol) in my tummy leaves too much room for worry. So, at 7:00pm at the San Francisco airport, after fasting with coconut water all day, finally, hot and spicy sustenance greets my empty belly.
There is a certain whole-ness after finishing an audition that you worked damn hard to prepare for. And then again, a part of you while not performing feels empty once again; nothing else to work towards, no other pending auditions on the horizon, just the waiting game. This is when the questions begin: did they like me? Did I mess anything up? Will they call me? Was I horrible? Am I crazy? And so on, and so forth.
Whether or not I am accepted into the school’s program, today was exceptional. And, despite what I had read or watched online, and as a result of that, what I had prepared for, it was an easy going and relaxing day. Nothing like what I expected!
So, without further ado: here is a little insight into the American auditions for the Royal Central School for Speech and Drama in London!
I arrived to the San Francisco airport around 11:00am, and there was a question and answer session hosted by CSSD starting at around noon at the audition location, 30 Grant Ave at the A.C.T Rehearsal Studios, so I wanted to head straight there. I took a Lyft; the driver, a Russian guy visiting San Francisco for the first time, and a rough-looking DJ with dreadlocks would be my companions for the following 30 minutes. We had both pleasant and strange conversation up until we arrived to my drop off point, where they all wished me luck and drove off.
The A.C.T. Studios were located in a central area and were easy to find. The studio itself was not in the greatest condition. The rented 8th floor of the office building seemed to be stuffed full of creative agencies, theatre groups, acting coaches and related industry folks- not one of which had any flair for decorating or cleanliness, but I digress.
I was checked in by Daniel at the front, who was sitting at a makeshift table surrounded by Royal Central pamphlets and bags. I was given the heads up about Daniel in advance, from my representative at admissions in London, Dominic Tulett. Daniel was very friendly, and informative. He checked me in and ushered me upstairs to a waiting room.
At first, I was surprised to see so few people. I had heard about auditions in London being for hundreds. But upon arriving upstairs, there were only several others waiting with me. Maybe ten in total. I was early, so I didn’t let the lack of people calm my nerves entirely.
The waiting room was pleasant enough, and full of great, warm San Francisco light so we all sat peacefully enjoying the sun and waiting for questions to begin.
Just when I was mellowing out, a swarm of young looking folks emerged from another room- and I remembered, there must be other programs auditioning today and not just the MA for Screen. I was right, as everyone settled in I overheard they were the BA Acting and BA musical theatre groups.
Now, someone had recommended to me previously that I ought to audition for multiple categories (I’ve been chatting with a sweet girl named Erin in New York about her CSSD experience, and this had been her advice), and I had thought about it. But, at the end of the day I am a screen actor. Television, films and commercials are what I’ve always done, and I didn’t want to misrepresent myself. I have dabbled in theatre, which I may dabble in again some day, but it is not my primary focus. If I had auditioned for the BA Acting and been accepted, I probably would have declined. So, I stuck with my original plan.
I was surprised to hear that shortly after the BA auditions were held, our attention was called and Daniel had a list of call backs. Some names were called, not many. Maybe ten out of 30-35 applicants. Everyone else could go home! That really got my nerves going, and I was reminded of the brutal Disneyland Princess auditions back in Los Angeles. A hundred girls in a room performing in front of each other and being cut and asked to leave immediately mid-audition. I had been prepared for this style of audition, mentally, just in case, but had hoped I was wrong in that preparation.
A short Q and A took place for people beginning to arrive for later auditions (it was about 12:30pm at this time and my audition was at 3:30pm). I listened in, several good questions were asked about life in London, housing, program schedules, etc. Though I had had a list of questions prepared, I found myself being silent and taking it all in.
Those that made the call back list would be staying to Audition until 1:45pm, so their group and new arrivals waiting for a later audition mixed together. In the mean time, some people ran next door to grab Starbucks or snacks, I walked around to practice my monologue.
To my shock-and delight, however- another Portland based actress arrived! I was completely surprised for some reason, although I don’t see why that is. I suppose I just didn’t think anyone else had this on their radar. But, it was great to see a familiar face and eased my nerves a bit.
I noticed that only one or two other people seemed to be going over their lines, which was definitely a surprise. At any audition normally, there’s a gaggle of individuals tucked into corners all throughout the facility interior and exterior, madly talking to themselves facing walls and so on and so forth. I was trying to decide if it was because everyone was so prepared, or they were too young to know how to use their time well (LOL). Hard to be sure. I can say for sure that no one seemed nervous, and that there was a general air of quiet comfort in the room that both puzzled me and made me feel relaxed.
It felt like waiting days, but when 3:30pm finally rolled around, it was time for my audition group. A sweet older British gentleman called us in to studio 9B, and I looked around and realized that there were maybe 12 of us in total! Far less than the BA group. We were told to circle up, and that the group warm up would begin. So, the other Portland actress and myself hustled into a circle ready to take our direction.
The warm up was interesting and nothing I had done in acting classes previously. We started by walking in circles at different speeds throughout the room, not making eye contact. We were then told to label our speed any number between 1-10, and that when he gave us a new speed to adjust accordingly. We went from casually moping about the room to buzzing across like jets. Next, anyone could yell out a number. And then we were supposed to greet only the person on our right side, and then we couldn’t even make eye contact on the left side, all while maintaining whatever speed was shouted out.
While we worked on those other elements- each of us were supposed to throw our arms back, make an “AHHHHH” noise and fall backwards, expecting to be caught.
I was first to do this, and it felt great. I threw my whole weight back not really knowing what to expect, and the entire room came to my rescue. This went on for maybe 15 minutes or so.
The next activity started as another circle, where we received a word, “bip” and carried the word along with an arm motion to our neighbor to the right. It all started easy enough, but other elements were soon added. To learn to trust our instincts, we were given a second word, “bop” and told to stay put. A choice had to be made within a beat, and we all tapped our feet for guidance. The “bip” would continue the circle, the “bop” would stop it and put it back in the other direction. We soon added several other words that had us all confused, rambling, shouting, laughing and jumping up and down.
By the end of the activity, 30 minutes had passed and we were all warm and loosened up. As I had read, I thought the next step would be to have us each audition our monologue of choice. I had expected this to be done in front of everyone, and was so excited to hear otherwise: we were to wait in the hall as they called each one of us into a room privately.
Because of the nature of film, I do think this is the better method. Although you do perform in front of a room of other actors and crew members, you don’t perform in front of masses as you would in a theatre preparation course.
So, we all sat down patiently and waited. It was about 4:00pm by this time, and we were given an order so we knew who was going directly ahead of us which also helped for mental preparation. Again, no one seemed nervous. I pulled out my lines and ran them over in my head several more times.
Once inside the room, I auditioned my monologue of choosing in front of two Royal Central faculty members while being taped. After reciting the monologue one time, I was given a specific direction and the opportunity to recite again- with direction normally opposite of how we originally performed. I always think of this as a chance to see how well a talent takes direction, and can go with the flow. On set, the director often bumps heads with actors who aren’t working with their ‘vision’ of how a scene is to be performed. Granted, most of the time it usually ends up that the actor gets a take that he or she likes, and the director gets the scene that he or she had in mind, and it comes down to the editors to pick their favorite option (unless the director is wildly opposed to having it any other way- which can also happen). So, I find this exercise especially pertinent to real world situations.
After the two monologues, the tape was turned off and a series of 8 questions were asked. They emphasize that this is your opportunity to share your strengths, communicate your goals and best represent your personality, so they encourage taking your time and providing thorough answers. Although I don’t recall the exact 8 questions, they were similar to the following:
1. What is your previous actor training?
2. What is your reason for wanting to go to Royal Central?
3. What films or performances have you watched recently and what was great about them?
4. Are you involved in film in any other capacity; such as producing, directing or editing?
5. Have you ever worked on a film set or worked as a professional actor?
6. Would you plan to stay in London after completion of the program or head right back to your home country?
7. Do you have any financial support such as family, student loans, FAFSA, etc?
8. Have you trained with any acting coaches, if so, who?
At the end of these questions, I was asked if there was anything else I wanted to add. I relished in the opportunity to express how serious I was about my training, how no other film program worked quite as well for me as Royal Central, and put a special emphasis on my plan for staying relevant in the film industry while living in London for a year as well as paying for the full program, my cost of living and related expenses.
I felt happy and relaxed at the end of my audition. Walking out of the room felt like a massive accomplishment in and of itself- and thus- is another reason why I would recommend it to anyone interested.
Auditioning does get easier. The more you know yourself and your drive to succeed intensifies, the more you accept that you walk into the room either prepared or not, and that ultimately who you are and who they perceive you to be cannot be altered. I chose to walk into the room prepared, but the other elements of that experience can not be changed. Whether they accept me, whether they like me, is all out of my hands.
So, of course the freedom of having a clear mind afterwards is the most enjoyable part.
Considering this was my first college acting program audition, I think it went well. It was a rewarding experience regardless of the outcome, and I hope anyone who is taking college level training seriously has the opportunity to audition for Central; it was truly a delightful experience.
Thanks for reading- and to all of you- good luck!