Sunday, May 07, 2006

The story of getting started part 10

Today I would like to share with you the story of my not so humble beginnings in theatre school. Because I wanted to really train, properly train and extensively train, I auditioned for the finest acting schools in the land and took great care with studying the roles to show off my variety of skills and talents in hope for a placement...In Germany, the state schools are the best because their auditions are gruesome. so only a small selection of applicants will get in. To be more precise, there are between 400 and 1000 young aspiring actors and actresses trying to get one of the 5 to 10 places in one of the 14 schools of the country. I had my whole tour planned out, I wasn't going to miss any opportunity! So for 3 years, I went from audition to audition and thus travelled my home country. I thought it was a nice way to visit different towns and cities- after all I wouldn't have done it otherwise. It was a great adventure each time and my utterly positive mind woud inspire me with great hopes that this time they would understand what I am about...One school told me I was a great risk: they could see I had talent but one would not know where I would go with it so they decided not to take me. Another school would say: you need to be more play too extrovert. They would admit me to the second round though. Then I would be told that my voice had slipped from its centre. This is my favorite feedback! I have a slipped voice centre. I was 19 or 20 at the time and asked what I could do but they just told me that I had to get it fixed with speech therapy or something but they only wanted to take a centred voice. Now I must tell you that I have a rather low voice ( check out my music..) and this is how I am. But because of my height (5ft 3, 154cm) one would expect a highter voice. Edith Piaf was smaller than me and had a low voice but what do Acting schools know about that? I wish I had known at the time. But I was left stranded with a slipped voice centre not knowing how to take it. The great thing about auditioning is: you get to be judged by some guys who I almost doubt were successful actors themselves...they will always find something wrong with you. They say: it's not easy to be simple is it Miss Brink? Or: you must relax. Why don't you relax? or: I didn't believe that scene or: julia is not like that.
However they rarely if ever help or encourage you to free your potential, to grow, to learn. I got to the last round in Rostock, in the north of ( and former eastern) Germany. I was only praying not to get admitted there. It seemed to be the irony of life that the shaggiest of all schools would like me. But they decided not to take me on anyway: "what a pity, but last time you were better" -what a great way to be rejected!
After 2.5 years I had collected enough rejection -I could have rebuilt the Berlin wall from it.
But at the same time I had been singing and developing my music programmes, took singing and voice therapy lessons ( gotta sort that slipped vocal centre!), had 5 jobs and studied at Uni. I did everything but getting bored. I didnt' have time for that. My spare time I spent with my boyfriend arguing a lot about having to move away when they would take me...
It was a happy time. A musical theatre competition was announced and I decided to go for it. I had never been part of a competition and after my extensive application process, this is not the first thing I would go for.
But I figured that before extending my school portfolio to the musical theatre schools, it may be clever to check out the talent. I was so nervous when I found out I was competing wiht actual students from the musical theatre schools! Totally unexpected, i won a third prize!! You should have seen my face looking like a car when they called my name. Not like the entire car, just imagine the front lights. ( To look like a car is a German expression btw. so if anything you have now extended your cultural knowledge!) I could not believe it. They said that the way I interpreted: Dance 10, looks 3 (also known as "tits and ass" was very different and unique, very real and believalble rather than the usual superficial ditsy way. I was smitten. Thus I had the honour of competing nationwide in Berlin. And to be judged by the heads of the musical theatre school, the University of perfoming Arts...with the best reputation for Musical theatre studies in Germany.
I did ok but didn't go on. However I wanted to know if they thought I would stand a chance to study musical theatre...the judges weren't so sure: your voice has a big gap in the middle and that is very hard to fix. The transition is a challenge as it is, yours needs extra extra work.
Always good to get professional advice! At least you have a reason to be depressed. I recommend this; if you feel blue and sligthly down, go and seek professional advice about what you care most for and then you can feel really bad BUT it's justified.
I found the Big cheese and it did take quite some guts after that feedback to ask him seperately. He had not been in the room.."Mr. Walden, do you think I could make it into musical theatre school?" I needed some hope. Please just a nice word. A twinkle, something that shows me I am not a hopeless case... "if you want to go to musical theatre school, you can apply and do an audition and we will watch you perform"
said the tall grown man in the cowboy hat wiht the papa smurf beard and turned away.
I was devastated, I didn't want to go on, I didn't know what to think, where to go anymore. I felt lost inside and out.
Was anything ever going to work out for me? Why was it such a challenge? Were the standing ovation I had experienced at my first performance of my solo show not telling me there was something there? Well, the press had ripped me to shreds the next day...did it always have to be such hot and cold showers? Can't I just be successful?
To cut a way to long story short, I decided that I was going to do the audition for Berlin becasue otherwise I would always be scared of the Cowboy. And this is not how I lead my life. I auditioned for another musical theatre school with not much success exept staying with a new found friend from the singing competition. She is now a well known German cabaret artist. ( Christiane Weber)
So then...Berlin...I had prepared, the songs, the drama pieces and a dance routine: 1 modern, 1 ballet. Not that I had had a ballet lesson in my life but Schumann writes pretty music and I was going to dance a girl in the spring picking a flower. I might not have technique but I have a fantasy!
They tested our fitness level by getting us to run around the small hall and do exercises until exhaustion. This played out to out to my advantage; I was way too tired to be nervous anymore.
I sang: there are worse things I could do from Grease and put all my vulnerabilty and hate into it and looked straight at the white haired cowboy. "but to cry in front of you...that's a thing I'll never do!" I felt like I told him. I got through the first round.
They lined us up: all the candidates of second round: to look the teachers in the eye or the other way round: to get inspected. This was my chance. My singing teacher had taught me just before the competition that winning happened in your mind. It's all in your head. I had looked at him with doubt, he had simply smiled and said: give it a try. Today was this day I used this knowledge. I looked, piercingly at each of the teachers, one by one, especially when they looked at me and said in my mind and through my eyes wiht all my being: I belong in this school. You are going to choose me. I am the one. You want me to be in this school, I want to be in this school.
I looked at them until they would turn their eyes away, which felt great. The cowboy got the " I am not afraid of you, ok I am afraid of you but I will not let this stop me, you can't stop me being who I am and I will win."
I got through to the third round. We had to improvise a scene in the group. We were kids in an orphanage. My character evolved as an slightly autisitc girl who could not communicate well and with all force encapsulated herself in her world lying out her hair bands in different orders to mark her space, rocking back and forth, getting petrified at any interruption..
I don't know where this came from, I just let it be and went with it and enjoyed not having to get involved wiht the clashing egos that emerged in front of my eyes...I was busy being and playing being petrified and trying to protect my world.
We were taken in one by one for a final "talk". They sat me down and said: do you have anybody autistic in your family? No. Do you know anybody like that? no, this just came to me, I didin't know where from, I just went wiht it.
I could see they were fascinated. You are an actress, they said. I wasn't sure if that was a bad thing applying for musical theatre but can you imagine how good that felt?
We were not going to be told yes or no...we had to come back in the evening when a list would hang at the glass front doors, showing the names of the new University students...
I am used to being rejected, 27 auditions had passed and this was already a success because I had come to overcome my fear and to show what I could do. I had done well.
So for the afternoon, I treated myself with some Berlin culture: the sex museum.
Unfortunately it was boring and didn't manage to take away my thoughts about the big question...only by 5pm when I knew the names were hanging there, did I start to relax, understanding that it didn't really matter. One more or life was going to be good regardless. if not here, than somewhere else. I am the creator of my happiness and I decided I am good at it. I strolled back leisurely...6pm I think it was. only 1 other guy came that late. I slowly slowly walked up to the glass door. Pacing every step. I wanted to stay connected to this new found sense of peace.
The new students are: bla bla, bla bla, bla bla, EVelyne Brink, bla bla bla...aaaaAAAAAAAA!!!!!!!!!!! I screamed, I screamed louder. I am in!!! I am in!!! 27 times and I am in!!! This is me, this is MY NAME on the list!!! Oh my! The other guy was in, too so we both hugged each other and were very excited. So much to my peace! Wooooohooooooo!
The next hour when we had champagne and he kept talking about how easy it was for him to get in, are more of a faded memory...My life had changed just like that.
After 3 years I had won.