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I Failed Acting School Auditions: What I learned


A week ago, I lived my childhood dream again.

I saw a link on my feed recently. One of the rare moments I’m actually on Facebook.

A British Acting School was arriving in Kuala Lumpur to have auditions. They’re known to bring in students from all over the globe, with chances to study theatre, creative directing and most of all, acting.

I’m reminded of one of my many dreams: to be an actor. Being on the big screen, walking the red carpet, have a star with my name printed on it in Hollywood. The usual fluff. I went and joined Drama club throughout school, becoming the Mock Turtle in Alice in Wonderland in Year 6, and was the hand-puppet for little Audrey II in Little Shop of Horrors in High School.

I was a kid alright, it sounded really cool!

But hey, I failed. Here’s what happened:

I didn’t read the fine print.

First off, I was too excited. It said that you may audition if you’ve had a degree already (this was for the  Master’s Degree in Acting). I assumed that it was all you need. It talked about a change in career paths, the glory of being on stage, the words that tug at my poor, naive heart.

It could be just very effective and convincing copytext. Maybe, they were doing proper keyword planning and SEO. For an acting school, you never know: it’s a competitive world out there. Either way, trust me, I know this, I’m a marketing guy.

I still fell for it.

I wasn’t aware that you had to practice acting in your spare time, brushing up on different acting techniques. The audition was meant as a chance for you, the aspiring actor, to showcase said techniques in front of the Director of the School, Professor Leon Rubin.

….what? There are techniques?

This is where I boast of my ignorance: there are 8 different acting techniques according to this list. I take it from my performance, I didn’t even touch on any single one of them. For your convenience, here are the names of these techniques:

  1. Stanislavski’s System
  2. Lee Strasberg Method
  3. Stella Adler Method
  4. Meisner Technique
  5. Michael Chekhov Method
  6. Practical Aesthetics
  7. Uta Hagen
  8. Viola Spolin

After reading up on a few of them, it seemed like Chekhov’s method is the most interesting one. Some big names went with this: Clint Eastwood, Anthony Hopkins, Jack Nicholson. Damn son.

What did I learn from this?

Don’t underestimate acting.

The audition called for two, 2-minute monologues: 1 Shakespearean and 1 Contemporary.

I haven’t read Shakespearean literature in ages. The last time I did, it was for English class in the Netherlands back in 2007. That’s more than 10 years ago, and ever since then Shakespeare rarely played a role in my life. I had forgotten about Ye Olden English, whoops.

Looking back at my past only one story stood out for me: The Merchant of Venice. Particularly, the book as well as the 2004 movie. Did you know Shylock, the main character, was played by Al Pacino? Al ‘Say hello to my little friend’ Pacino?

Fun fact: He used the Strasberg Method, in case you wanted to know!

Next is choosing a contemporary monologue. Nothing came to mind other than the infamous V for Vendetta introduction scene. That monologue is amazing, but after looking at the lines, it’s so ridiculous I couldn’t even say it properly. I drown in my own spit by the time I’m finished (sorry for the imagery!).

Hence, I auditioned, with the following!

The Merchant of Venice: Act 3, Scene 1. Spoken by Shylock

The Field of Dreams (1989): “People Will Come”, delivered by  James Earl Jones

With only 2 days to rehearse, I memorized the speeches, practiced into my microphone over and over again (I have recordings somewhere, and nope they’re not seeing the light of day).

I wasn’t prepared.

In front of me, the Professor and one alumnus wrote on their papers. I handed in my application form. There was a chair in the middle of the studio.

“You can start anytime, Norman.” He motioned his hand to the middle.

I moved the chair out of the way and stated which monologues I will be doing. I closed my eyes, Let out a calming breath, and channeled my inner Pacino. I pictured myself being Shylock, pained from all the prejudice against Jews.
And I messed up. Multiple times.

Finishing the first speech, I hastily moved onto The Field of Dreams. I lowered my voice as per Darth Vader (Jones played him, in case you were wondering), and started. I talked about dreams and baseball.

I also messed up. I cracked under pressure.

Yet, Professor Rubin was very kind and gave me honest feedback. They didn’t have much to say really.

My feedback was that I lacked the technique (read: no technique) to deliver what I learned: this was a prerequisite for the Master’s Degree. They were expecting students who had gone to workshops for the past year, and delivered their lines as per these techniques. I had none of this. All I had was my obsession and enthusiasm. I guess that was the only thing he had noticed.

He went on to recommend me their foundation course: The Certificate of Higher Education in Theatre Arts so that I can touch up on my techniques. Well, actually learn them I mean. I could also start going to workshops around the city as an alternative. Either way, I needed more exposure and practice. Funnily enough, he mentioned that it’s called the Certificate of Higher Education because students can easily get grants if named that way. It would have been great if I was British, but nope. All is the same for a fleeting foreigner.

The Professor mentioned that it’s a good taste of what acting really is – for some, they stop after the first year. I’m trying to think of reasons why: maybe there are parts of the system that they do not agree with. It could be the rigidness of an acting degree. Maybe, the fun would be sucked out of theatre if you pursue it that seriously. Stress from acting in a certain character? Is it trauma from memory recall? I don’t think I’ll ever know until I get this cert.

Am I prepared for acting? No, not really. Maybe it’s better to pursue it when I’m independent enough. Money won’t be a problem once some of my passive projects are out. Once I have the ability to go anywhere without any problems, I can say yes and no at my own convenience. If I have no one to answer to, then I wouldn’t be such a burden. I’d be able to help others on my own will. I can start acting once I start acting like a real adult. Get it? Haaaaaaaaa.

It’s alright, this is one dream I can say I have attempted. For the time being, I’m already satisfied, so it’s all good. I appreciated the honest feedback.

Let me try again in a few years. I’ll kick ass on stage again someday.