49: Audition

49: Audition

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Teens Talk Getting In...To College

Audition

Always act like you’re wearing an invisible crown.

~Author Unknown

My three-year-old daughter Carolyn picked an apple from the bowl on her Nana’s table, took a bite, and murmured, “I feel strange.” She fell to the floor, the apple rolling dramatically from her hand.

My mom was horrified, and jumped up from her chair. I continued to drink my coffee. I had witnessed this hundreds of times. Carolyn was Snow White, and had reenacted the famous poisoned apple scene. This was her debut, the first time she played a role for an audience. It wouldn’t be the last.

Drama has always been a part of our household—not always in a good way. She had her share of door-slams and eye-rolls on the way to winning awards at speech competitions and landing leads in school plays. So it was no surprise when Carolyn decided to go to college to study drama.

In the summer before twelfth grade, while we were on vacation, we toured New York University. The campus visit was very upbeat. The dean of the theater department was encouraging, but he stressed that getting accepted was no small feat. NYU was a highly competitive school, and required great SAT scores, excellent grades, stellar recommendations, extracurricular activities, and... an audition.

After the presentation, we were led to a reception room. As I gathered brochures and information sheets and the requisite coffee and chocolate chip cookies that are part of every tour, I noticed Carolyn looking out the thirteenth floor window. Before us was New York City—Washington Square Park, the Empire State Building, the flood of cars and people and life. She loved the rhythm, the heartbeat, the opportunities, the future. “Why would anyone go anywhere else if they could go here?” she said.

That day we bought an SAT prep book to take on the rest of our vacation.

So Carolyn prepared. Like other students, she studied for the SATs and labored over the admission applications and essays. But she also had to worry about the audition. Working with her drama club director, Carolyn prepared the two required monologues. Her chances of acceptance to her dream school were hanging not only on the accumulation of four years of work, but also on an audition. She had one shot to prove she had talent.

Although NYU was her first choice, she investigated other schools. Her second choice had a great program, and would be a fine place to live and study. She sent in her applications and scheduled her second choice audition in Boston before NYU’s, just so she could get a feel for the process.

We drove the five hours to Boston. Even though this was not her first choice, it was a very competitive school and Carolyn knew the stakes were high. She was nervous when I left her at the audition, but when we met just a few hours later, she was beaming.

“I think I really nailed it!”

As we walked through the chilly dusk of Boston, she gave me the details. “The professor who ran the audition was really nice. I did my monologues. Then she asked me to do them different ways — like a cartoon bird, and running around the room in circles. It was crazy, but it was actually fun. Then we talked for awhile. She smiled a lot.” Carolyn paused. “I feel really good about it.”

The NYU audition was a week later. Again, she was nervous, but gave me a happy smile when I wished her good luck.

After this audition, however, there were no smiles, just Carolyn acting stoic, holding herself together. “Let’s go home,” she said, not wanting to stop for dinner before the long ride home.

When she was safely in the car, she burst into tears. “I did everything wrong. I’ll never get in.”

And for days, that was all she would say about it.

Finally, weeks later, she let me know what happened.

“There were several professors conducting the auditions. They all looked really friendly except for one, and that’s the one I got. He asked me to start my monologue. He took notes and wasn’t even watching at the emotional parts to see my facial expressions. Then he stopped me in the middle and asked me to do my second piece. He didn’t let me finish that piece either. He asked me to do it a different way. ‘Do it without moving.’ ‘Don’t say that line angrily.’ And I tried to follow his direction, but I couldn’t give him exactly what he wanted. He asked me some questions, and I felt like I answered every one wrong. Then he said thank you and that was it. The whole thing took about fifteen minutes. That was my chance and I ruined it.”

Still she waited for the early decision envelope, confirmation of the bad news so she could move on. Every day when she came in from school she asked, “Any mail?”

Finally the much anticipated letter arrived. The envelope was thick — a good sign according to conventional wisdom. Carolyn came home with some friends, and I immediately handed her the envelope.

She ripped it open and glanced at the letter. She jumped up, then fell to the floor, the letter dramatically drifting from her hand. Her friends looked horrified. I had never witnessed this scene, but I knew my daughter. She was in.

The rest of the day was a flurry of phone calls, a celebratory dinner, and lots of cheering. Right before bed, Carolyn and I sat at the computer and ordered an NYU sweatshirt. For the millionth time that day, we talked about the audition. Whatever Carolyn did must have been right. Despite his stony reaction, the not-so-friendly professor liked what he saw. The acceptance letter posted on the refrigerator proved it. “I’ll never doubt myself again,” Carolyn said.

“Yes, you will,” I told her. “Everybody does. But when you do, remember this moment.”

~Lauren Andreano

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