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Remembering Callback Weekend

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This time last year, I participated in the Juilliard Drama Division’s callback weekend. Initially, when I received the three-day schedule, I was very anxious. I’d never experienced a “class-centric” audition process, and I wondered how I would keep my energy going for 72 hours.

Manon Gage
(Photo by Vincenzo Photography)

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James Houghton, the Richard Rodgers Director of the Drama Division, welcomed us and our family members on Friday. He told us to be relaxed, to enjoy ourselves, and, at the end of his talk, reminded us that this was the most important weekend of our lives. Everyone laughed, and perhaps the mood was set right then.

Afterward, having presented our monologues and songs, we embarked on three consecutive “days in the life of a Juilliard student.” Faculty members taught us many different classes including Voice, Movement, Improvisation, Masks, Singing, and Ballroom Dancing. We were also fortunate enough to watch students perform in readings of the current playwrights’ work and attend a play at the Signature Theater. A smaller detail I truly appreciated was sharing meals with faculty and students and having the opportunity to ask them anything at all.

It was clear that this weekend had been put together with the intention of putting each applicant at ease, seeing and hearing them as both actors and individuals, and providing the most enjoyable experience humanly possible.

I found that the best approach to callback weekend was to take every class, instruction, and experience as it came, as opposed to trying to predict them. In this way, I was able to absorb what was being taught one step at a time. As the weekend drew to a close, I found myself feeling a deep sense of calm; I was proud of myself for not having wasted energy attempting to control the outcome of the process—as if that were possible. I had allowed myself to give in to the work, and had learned a great amount from these phenomenal teachers and theater-makers. The result, no matter what it would be, would not take away from this experience.

Having now been a student at Juilliard for a semester and a half, I can confirm that callback weekend was as accurate an imitation of life here as the faculty could have possibly put together. A typical school day at Juilliard starts at 9 a.m. and ends at 10 p.m., and it includes classes and rehearsals as well as community meetings and seeing students in other years perform in rehearsal projects and shows. It is incredibly busy, highly grueling, strong on sleep deprivation, and intensely fulfilling.

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