Airports are my ideal writing environment. As I write this post, my flight from Seattle to San Francisco is currently delayed by three hours, due to high winds in the Bay Area.
When I bought my ticket online in October, there was no way of knowing about the storm. It seems fitting, though, and I really wouldn’t have it any other way.
I’m flying to San Francisco to audition for graduate programs in acting. The auditions that I’m attending are commonly referred to as URTAs, which stands for the University/Resident Theatre Association. URTAs allow theatre artists interested in pursuing graduate studies in acting, design, directing and stage management to audition for or interview with many schools at once instead of flying out to different campuses.
As I mentioned before, I made the decision to attend these auditions in October. I had just opened a production of Into the Woods at Whidbey Island Center for the Arts. I was playing Little Red Riding Hood, a role which combined three of my favorite things: belting Sondheim, throwing tantrums and eating pastries onstage.
Sometimes, actors are lucky enough to receive accolades from audience members. After our opening night performance, we had a post-show reception in Zech Hall. I was approached by a woman I didn’t know. She came up to me and explained that her granddaughter played the role of Little Red in Oregon Shakespeare Festival‘s production of Into the Woods.
“Have you auditioned for OSF?” she asked. “I think you would be great there.”
I warmly thanked her for her comments and replied that I hadn’t auditioned for OSF, but hoped to in the future.
Driving home that night, I thought about what she had said. Her words had a profound impact on me. Her words inspired me to revisit the idea of researching MFA in Acting programs. As soon as I got home, I visited the URTA website and made note of the San Francisco audition dates on my calendar. By the time we had closed Into the Woods, I had registered for URTAs and booked my flight.
Remember that scene in Office Space where Peter recalls the exercise of asking someone “If you had a million dollars, what would you do?” How you decide to spend your time if money were no object represents what you’re most passionate about.
If I had a million dollars, I would spend the rest of my life in theatres. Acting, directing, writing plays, marketing, fundraising, engaging audiences, teaching students–that’s the dream. That’s my dream.
Of course, I’m working on a more eloquent answer than this for potential graduate programs. My audition is on Saturday morning. I’ll arrive at the hotel where they’re being held around 7:45. Orientation is at 8:30, and then at roughly 9:17, I’ll have two minutes and thirty seconds to perform two monologues and 14 measures of a song.
My preparation started in November. I pulled together a list of potential monologues and songs, some that I had worked on before, and some of which were new to me. I enlisted actor, playwright and Hedgebrook Executive Director Amy Wheeler to be my audition coach.
On Wednesday night, we worked on my pieces for two hours at her house. Her wife, Kate, renovated the 100-year old dance hall they call home. (An amazing story around which Kate let me create an original solo performance piece.) At one end of the dance hall, there is a stage. When I arrived, red velvet curtains framed a single chair placed at center stage.
I have a lot of amazing memories about this space. It was on this stage that I performed the roles of Dot and Blaine in Amy’s play, Wizzer Pizzer. Close by is the sofa that I sat on while reading the role of Elizabeth Cady Stanton in a draft of Kate’s screenplay about Seneca Falls and Women’s Suffrage. Next to the sofa is the chair I sat in next to Gloria Steinem at a staged reading of Amy’s new play, Atomic Agape.
But on Wednesday night, all that was on that stage was me. And I felt overwhelming gratitude. For Amy’s coaching, for that woman’s comments on opening night, for my middle school math teacher and her family for letting me stay with them while I’m in the Bay Area, and for my supportive parents who realized early on that I loved acting and drove me to countless hours of rehearsals and attended dozens of performances.
If you’re reading this and have acted with me, directed me, or seen one of my shows, I’m also grateful for you. You have helped to shape me as a theatre artist. It’s because of you that I have the motivation, courage, and gumption to attend these auditions.