Breathe

The following entry was written by Sheldon Brown, class of 2014.

Walking into the Palmer House Hilton in Chicago was the first time I’d been away from home in Ohio. I’d practiced my monologues relentlessly with my theater instructor, fretted over the most minute things (should I smile, not smile, what to wear, etc.) and ended up with towering anxiety about this – my audition for Emerson College’s BFA Acting program.

Underneath all the panic was excitement, perpetuated by a hotel full of high school seniors hoping to leave an impression on the many colleges in attendance at Unifieds. But as I noticed these students armed with professional headshots and impressive resumes of national television commercials, independent films, and Off-Broadway productions, I started to worry that I didn’t fit in. I chose to channel that fear into determination to show my best side even though I couldn’t compare to the accolades of other auditioners.

Acting students recieve feedback from a directorEmerson was my final college audition. The other three schools I’d performed for were all distinct experiences: some were intimidating and uncomfortable, some allowed me to meet new people and connect with other actors, and some were impersonal — a quick 5 minute chance to show everything you’ve got and then you’re dismissed. But Emerson was different: I remember sitting outside the audition room with 6 or 7 other students. I knew I didn’t have the guts to go first and I also didn’t want to be the last to audition. Emerson asks students to self-select the order in which they would like to appear, so I sat quietly while everyone else decided. Naturally, I ended up last despite my reservations, but I was surprised that this self-selection created an amusing bonding opportunity. I sat chatting with people who I initially viewed as competition and soon realized they were just as scared and nervous as I was. We talked about our other auditions, quirky evaluators, bizarre directions we’d be given, and the infamous question “Why do you want to be actor?” At the very moment I felt a sense of ease, I heard “You’re next.”

In front of Emerson’s adjudicator, I ran the monologue once through and thought “Now I can go home.” But it wasn’t over: the instructor told me to sit down in my chair and breathe. As soon as he did, it was as if I had forgotten throughout this entire audition process that I had lungs, that I could breathe, that I if I let all of these emotions of fear, nervousness, and insecurity in, I could simply exhale them out. The instructor coached me to let the emotions work on me, to let them mold and inform my monologue. I breathed; I took in the space around me and completely immersed myself in pairing my emotions with this monologue I had chosen. On this delivery, I felt relief and release. Sure, it was probably because I bawled my eyes during the monologue, but it also had something to do with letting go of that need to impress and just enjoying the craft. I felt like the instructor from Emerson had taken the time to cater to what I personally needed to deliver my most successful monologue, and I never forgot that. To me, it spoke volumes about what I could learn if I spent four years getting my training from Emerson instructors. So when I was accepted to all the schools I auditioned for, the audition was the reason that I chose Emerson.

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