Monday, January 28, 2013

URTA NYC Auditions - If I Can Make it There...

Executive Director Philip Cuomo is in New York City for the University/Resident Theatre Association (URTA) auditions. Here are his thoughts from the first day:

Sitting in the lobby of the Times Square Hilton Hotel, I am surrounded by excited student actors, many of whom participated in the screening audition yesterday. They performed two contrasting monologues for two auditors. Later in the evening they were notified if they were accepted to participate in the final auditions.

The majority of them heard "No."

For most of those students this was their first major rejection. Many of them are used to the positive feedback they received in their undergraduate programs. They spent weeks choosing monologues and working with teachers to develop those pieces. They spent much of their student budgets traveling to New York City: paying for transportation, hotels and food. And now they are told they won’t make it to the final audition.

But it’s not over yet. They are lucky because three years ago URTA began an open call, in which the students not accepted for the final audition may participate.

Though instead of performing two contrasting monologues in a comfortable five minutes, they have 60 seconds to perform whatever material they desire. Forget the work done with their teachers back at school, forget the 2-minute comic monologue that kills, or the 2-minute dramatic monologue that they know would bring people to tears if they had one more chance to perform it. They march in one after the other in a brisk 110-120 seconds of steady introductions, identification of material and edited performance.

The open call is a difficult environment for aspiring and seasoned actors alike. The student actors wait in a large conference room, the nervous energy thick like smoke, and then they march into another large conference room, with terrible acoustics and auditors facing them from rows of folding chairs.

But these students are lucky – they have another chance. In the years before the open call, students not participating in the finals were sent home, not seen by any schools. I know the effects of this type of rejection, because I failed to be accepted into the final auditions three years in a row.

Yet I was successful making a life in the theatre. Like the successful young actors participating in this year’s open call, I hustled. I determinedly found the training and experience I needed and I persevered.

I am grateful to represent Portland Actors Conservatory at the URTA auditions in New York this winter. I have the chance to see many talented young actors express themselves. I will talk to several of them and educate them a bit about our conservatory program, and most importantly remind them they were seen by a successful theatre artist who recognized something specific in them.

I will be looking for the actor who states their name with confidence and charm, who commits fully to the circumstances of their text, who speaks their dialogue with conviction and simple clarity, who makes active choice, allowing energy to flow freely through their instrument and resonate among the rows of folding chairs. I am certain that today out of the hundred plus young actors that I will see, several of them will go on to have even more successful a life in the theatre than I am enjoying. I am glad to be a part of their journey.