From GSS to UofT Drama (UCDP) – Part 2

This is a long post.  Maybe make yourself a sandwich first.

Here’s the story of how I accidentally auditioned for the UCDP DRM200 performance class, and failed my audition.

I had just completed my first year of university at UofT as an Electrical / Computer Engineer.  And I had hated it.  Like, really, vehemently, hated it.  The computer programming classes were fine, but the other ones….bleh.  ECE was not for me.  So I switched out of Enginnering, and transferred to the Arts & Science faculty.  I hadn’t declared any majors yet, so I was more or less free to pick and choose among the courses in the calendar that I liked.  I had no direction, no goal, graduation date, no program of study, nothing.  I was starting from scratch at UofT, with only a few transfer credits to my name.

So I dug through the UofT calendar, and here’s what I chose:

  • AST251 – Life on Other Worlds
  • JEF100 – The Western Tradition
  • MAT137 – Calculus!
  • MUS325 – The Age of Haydn and Mozart
  • SCM219 – Studies in Mass Media
  • CSC148 – Introduction to Computer Science
  • PHL273 – Environmental Ethics
  • DRM100 – Introduction to Drama – Form and Style

Yep, I spread it out, just choosing the ones that sounded interesting.

Now, the UCDP website just recently got a face-lift (I think they switched to Joomla!, if it matters).  Anyhow, organizational-wise, it wasn’t in the greatest shape when I was in second year.

So, scouring around, I found on the site that if I wanted to take any of the Drama courses, I needed to audition and be accepted, and that there were only a few audition dates, and they needed a headshot, and cover letter, and a ballot form.

So, naturally, I printed out the ballot form, wrote out a cover letter, sent in a photo.  A week or two later I got an email with my audition date.  Cool.

Here’s where it starts to get hairy.  Grimsby is about an hours drive from Toronto, and on the morning of my audition, traffic was really bad.  By the time I got to the audition location, I was about half-an-hour late.


Plus, it didn’t help that the man who was running the audition (who I would later discover to be Ken Gass himself) seemed quite annoyed at my lateness, and the fact that I’d missed half of the audition.

So, what did we do in the audition?  Well, from what I remember, he gave us an extremely short monologue, and we had to deliver it each, one by one.  Here’s the monologue:

I thought we were going to


Forget it

Just forget it

We had to find a way to deliver that.  So naturally, everyone was trying to do something different and interesting, and I did mine, and I have no idea how I did.

What I did notice, was this strange…familiarity between people.  All of the people auditioning seemed to know one another.  This was kind of spooky.  I felt very out of place, and way out of my depth…and I totally knew I was bombing the audition, on top of my late arrival.  I could feel Ken Gass, scowling into my brain.

And then it was over.  The audition part, anyways.  Everyone got off the stage and started talking to one another – again, like they all knew one another – and I just grabbed my stuff and left.

But it wasn’t over…the audition has a second half.  It’s an audition AND an interview.  So, I killed time at Tim Horton’s with my Dad (probably telling him how much I bombed the audition, while he listened, patiently) and waited until my interview time came.

And then my interview time came.

I walked into this room…and there were three people sitting across from a table, and a chair on my side, facing them.  I sat down.  I recognized Ken as one of the interviewers…the other two I didn’t recognize, but I’d later find out that one of them was Pia Kleber, who at the time was the Drama Program Director.

So, right to business (since they were auditioning/interviewing hundreds), she asks me what kind of theater I’ve seen lately.  I stumble a response, not prepared…I say something about the Lion King production, and The Blue Man Group… they didn’t seem impressed at all.  She asked me what kind of plays I liked, and I said I enjoyed Shakespeare (the only playwright that came to mind instantly).  She quizzed me on Shakespeare, asking me my favourite play, and why I liked it, and basically proved to herself (and myself) that I didn’t know what I was talking about.

And then she asked the big one:

So, tell me, what will you do if you don’t get into Drama 200?

And I sit there.  Confused.

I don’t want to be in Drama 200.  I signed up for Drama 100

There’s an uncomfortable pause.  Ken Gass facepalms.  Pia Kleber stares at me in dumbfounded silence, and then says:

You don’t need to audition for Drama 100.  Take some workshops, see more theater, and audition next year.

And I walked out.  I completely blew my audition for DRM200, a class I wasn’t even going to take.

The next summer I auditioned again.  I had seen more theater, read more plays, prepped…I don’t think Ken recognized me, but if he did, he hid it well.  Anyhow, that summer I got in.  And that’s how it happened.

The end.

So, take home message:

Coming out of high-school, you do NOT need to audition for DRM100.  You only need to audition if you want to get into DRM200.

If you are auditioning from DRM200, here are some tips:

  • See lots of theater in Toronto.  Not Broadway stuff, the indie stuff.  Go to Factory, Tarragon, Passe-Muraille, Buddies, etc.  Some really great shows.
    • Added bonus:  I know that Factory gets volunteers to usher shows, and that volunteer ushers get to watch the show for free!  Contact Factory at their website for more info.
  • Get familiar with some Canadian plays.  Read some John Mighton, George F. Walker, Judith Thompson.  Read a Shakespeare play or two, that can’t hurt either.
  • Show up on time
  • Just relax.  Everyone else there is probably as nervous as you are.  Be cool.
  • Ken will probably get you into a big circle at the start of the audition, and then one by one, you enter the circle, say your name, and then leave the circle.
    • Don’t make it a scene.  Just follow the instructions.  In my audition, a guy fake-tripped into the circle, and started making it a little gag scene.  Don’t.
    • Wait until you get into the center, plant, and then say your name clearly.  Make eye-contact with the people in your field of vision.  Turn your head back and forth to bring more people into your field of vision.
    • Make sure it’s the approximate center of the circle.
    • Don’t scream, yell, or otherwise force your name.  Just say it clearly so everyone can hear it.
    • Pay attention while other people are doing the exercise.

That last one is a biggie – show respect to your fellow audition-ees.  Ken (et al) are looking for lots of things; but one of the big ones is this:  Is this person someone I will want in my class?  Is this person someone I can work with?  If you’re chatting while someone else is doing their work, it’s no good.  Even when you’re not on stage, if you’re watching someone else work, you’re learning.

Anyhow, this is a super-long post, I think I’m going to wrap it up.

4 thoughts on “From GSS to UofT Drama (UCDP) – Part 2

  1. Mike

    Actually, I think most of these tips are applicable:

    1 – “See lots of theater in Toronto”, “Read plays” – find good code, and study it. Find out what makes it good – what kind of code makes you go “ahhhh, that’s beautiful” vs “ohhh….that’s gross.”

    2 – “Show up on time”, “Relax” – these are just useful in general, in life.

    3 – “Don’t make it a scene”, “Pay attention to people doing the exercise” – even though it’s an extremely competitive market out there, I believe the most valuable kind of employee is one who is really willing to collaborate. The lone genius might be a fun role to play, but I think a smart collaborator who *listens* and *asks good questions* is more useful.

    I’ve been cowboy coding for so long, that last one is really important to me.

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