The Boy from Virginia Begins his European Journey

One of the greatest memories I have, to this very day, is my memory of auditioning for the RSAMD three years ago, because it was the audition that changed my life…

I hadn’t looked at the weather forecast in that day, but I knew that upon leaving Harlem to head into Manhattan, I would need to wear multiple layers. Since I didn’t have my long underwear with me, I put on a pair of pajama bottoms underneath my dress slacks and headed out into the chilly New York winter. It was a Monday in January and I was spending my day auditioning for the top schools in America, hoping that I would eventually get a call back and an interview from the college what would be the best fit for me. Little did I know (that day) how soon those opportunities would come.

            After going to a very early cattle call audition in a hotel, I ran into a friend who was also on the graduate school search and she mentioned that she would be auditioning for “a small Scottish school” for fun. I said to myself, Scotland? Really? What is in Scotland besides Loch Ness? But I put my geographical questions aside and decided that any chance to audition would be a good one, so I began to run through my monologues in my head.

            I stepped into Ripley Grier studios that afternoon feeling very cool and nonchalant about auditioning for this school I’d never heard of before. I was sure that I would go into the room, not be able to understand a word of the Scottish accent, and then be told “we’ll be in touch.

That isn’t what happened at all.

            When I came into the audition room, I remember meeting Andrew Panton and another panel member. There was also a musical director in the room. The gentlemen asked me to recite my two monologues (I was interested heavily in classical texts at the time so I did  one from Hamlet and my contemporary piece was by Neil LaBute), and when I was finished, I was asked if I could sing. Go figure. I was so concerned about acting that I didn’t consider the idea of musical theatre. I told the panel that I could sing, but I was without sheet music. After singing a bit of a song acapella, I was asked to sit down.

            Andrew then asked me what I was looking for in a graduate program. I informed him. He did a lot of intent nodding as I spoke. Then I asked him about movement, to which he told me that he would love to see me at a dance call later that afternoon (coupled with a singing recall to which I needed to find sheet music).

            This was my interview, I’d assumed…and I had just received a call back!!!

            I was a bit bewildered, but extremely excited because it seemed I’d just had one of the most calm and productive auditions of my life. I called my mother with the good news, to which she responded with nothing but positivity.

 “Forget Yale, she told me. “Scotland has your name all over it!”

But I still had an issue. I was ill prepared for a dance call, better yet a singing audition. I needed to find materials, and fast!

            I ran eleven blocks to a music shop and purchased as many song-books as my pockets could afford, full of musical theatre songs I’d rehearsed before, or listened to as a kid. So, that was my sheet music sorted. Yet, there was still the problem of dance clothing. It soon hit me…I was wearing pajama bottoms. Though not the ideal choice for a dance call, they were moveable. I breathed easy for a minute. All I needed now was a shirt. So somewhere between the music shop and Ripley Grier studios, I found a t-shirt vendor who sold me an “I ♥ NY” t-shirt. At that moment, I did love New York for having exactly what I needed and I hurried, dodging the sea of city-folk, to my audition.

            Sweating and panting heavily, for fear that I would be late, I arrived in the dance studio ready to strip off and sing first, then dance later. When Andrew saw that I was nearly asthmatic an in desperate need of catching my breath, he said to me very calmly and with a reassuring smile “Take your time. We will wait until you are ready.” And for the first time in my theatrical career, I believed the sincerity behind those words.

            I went in for the dance call first and Andrew taught a routine to Stevie Wonder’s “Superstition.” When I heard the music coming from the boom box, I relaxed, did the choreography to the best of my ability, and just tried to go with the flow. I didn’t even think about the other two candidates in the room with me. After the dance call was over, I sang two carefully selected songs and was told I did a good job. I changed clothes, and left the dance studio to head back to the hotel which housed my first audition, and realized in transit, that I’d missed a phone call from a foreign number. The message was from Andrew Panton, asking me to give him a call (or, at least, that was what I could make out from his accent), but since I didn’t have an international service on my mobile phone, I didn’t know how I would contact him. I got worried. In situations where fate is involved, however, worry doesn’t make itself a lengthy visitor.

            No soon as I’d received notice about my previous hotel cattle-call audition, I ran into Andrew Panton. He was coming up the escalator as I was just about to step onto the downward one. We spoke briefly, and he informed me that he was well aware that Scotland wasn’t on my list of “life-long goals” but he expressed interest in having me on board at the Academy.

And just like my mother said, I forgot about Yale and the other schools I’d applied to in America and set my heart on a school that I felt truly believed in my potential and wanted to nurture my skills; A school that would mark a new beginning in more ways than one. That school was the RSAMD, and making the decision to attend was the best decision of my life thus far!

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