By Chris Andersson, MA, IECA Associate (NY)
The world needs its stories to be told. Artists are storytellers. Educating artists to be the keepers of our collective memory—to take what they learn, what they observe, what they breathe in, and shape it and share it with the rest of us—so that we, together, can evolve as a human race is vital to our life on this planet. So, we need the planet’s voices. All of them. Arts schools around the world welcome students from every part of the globe, knowing that the mixing of cultures and perspectives—both life and artistic—will create a vibrant incubator of ideas.
Just as with any other college or university, the arts student is looking for a good match with an arts school. Encourage your students to research widely and deeply. Just as you would for any student, suggest that they look beyond the big names. What kind of program might be appropriate for them? Do they want the intense, immersive nature of a conservatory program or do they want a strong academic school with the opportunity to major in their desired art form? Maybe something in-between? Propose that your students attend a summer high school program at one of their top schools of interest. They will discover whether the program, the school, and the location are right for them. The philosophy, approaches, schools of thought, and disciplines offered will all factor into their decisions of where to apply.
The challenge for arts students is their two-pronged application process. They must not only submit an academic application, as does every other aspiring college student, but must also go through an artistic review as well. Many arts programs require applicants to submit a portfolio of work (e.g., photographs, drawings, writing samples, and short films), which they present either in person or online. Acting programs, however, require an audition, which, in most cases, is done in person. How, then, does an aspiring actor apply to a college drama program on the other side of the earth?
The good news is that international applicants to drama programs in the United States have options. If a student is fortunate enough to be able to make the trip to their desired school, they can audition alongside other international and US candidates and at the same time, see the campus, meet current students, and get a good feel for the place. They might even participate in the Unified Auditions, where a number of drama schools gather at the same location for a couple of days in New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles, which enables families to get a lot of bang for their travel buck. Many students, however, cannot travel to the United States for auditions because of class schedules or finances, which often includes other family members flying as well. The digital submission option has been created just for those students.
Not all schools offer the video option, so finding the answer to that question is a key part of students’ research. Some of the schools that do not offer the option for a digital submission for drama candidates are The Juilliard School, Carnegie Mellon University, the University of North Carolina School of the Arts, UCLA, DePaul University, CalArts, and Pace University.
On the flip side, NYU Tisch School of the Arts, Emerson College, The New School for Drama, Boston University, the University of Michigan, the University of South Carolina, and the University of Texas–Austin are among those that allow candidates to utilize the digital submission option to fulfill the requirements for an artistic review. Some schools encourage students to appear at an in-person audition, suggesting it is the best course of action, but still offer the video option; others view the digital submission as an equivalent alternative to the live audition. The different reasoning behind each school’s decision whether to offer a digital option may be affected by the size of the incoming class, the structure of the artistic review itself, and the philosophy behind the training offered.
At NYU Tisch School of the Arts, we receive applications from many different countries and the majority of those applicants submit digital artistic reviews in lieu of attending in-person auditions. We take digital submissions just as seriously as in-person reviews and digital applicants are accepted into the program every year. In fact, the same group of evaluators—teachers in the department—conduct both the live and digital reviews. Diversity is of great value to our department, especially because of our size. The digital submission option allows us to meet students from all over the world. Just this year, the top five countries from which we had applicants were the United Kingdom, Mexico, India, Singapore, and Australia, followed by Hong Kong, Brazil, UAE, Turkey, Israel, France, South Korea, and many others.
Here’s how we do it. An in-person acting artistic review consists of two monologues and a conversation with the evaluator. The whole thing takes about 15 minutes and occurs in New York or at one of our many regional audition locations around the country, as well as in London. A digital submission comprises two monologue videos and a Skype call. The evaluator first watches the two monologues and takes notes. Then, she contacts the applicant on Skype for the conversation portion of the artistic review.
While the candidates for the digital session are waiting to be contacted by their evaluator, they are all in a Skype chatroom with the NYU host for the session, so they can chat with each other and ask questions about the admissions process, the Drama Department, student life at NYU, or living in New York City—just like they could at a live session. We try to create a group atmosphere so the candidates who are sitting alone in their bedrooms or dorm rooms realize that they are part of a bigger process and that there are students from all over the world who are also auditioning from their bedrooms or dorm rooms.
Creating community is the important thing in this process: unifying the digital applicants in their adventure of auditioning; demonstrating that the candidates are being invited into a community of artists and scholars; and bringing them together once they arrive to connect and share their experiences in their new school, new city, and new country.
If you have international arts clients—drama or otherwise—let them know that their voices are valuable. Their stories need to be told. Their perspectives are welcome. Bringing together a diverse, multicultural student body of artists can only result in challenging, enlightening, invigorating, painful, deep, thoughtful, fascinating work. Please encourage them to apply. We are waiting for them with open arms.
Chris Andersson, Theater Education Specialist, Director of Admissions, NYU Tisch School of the Arts, can be reached at [email protected]