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A Bruin Chorus Line


By Rachel Brogan

Published Oct 1, 2008 8:00 AM

Hopefuls applying to UCLA's Department of Theater learn one of showbiz's toughest lessons early on ... rejection. Even after acing the SATs and passing AP French with flying colors, many applicants get the old Hollywood heave-ho, "Don't call us, we'll call you." So why on earth would anyone bust their bums to get straight A's and be willing to show up to their college interview in tights and split-sole jazz shoes? They do it because UCLA's undergraduate theater program is the best in the nation.

Photo by Craig Schwartz

Any aspirant can audition and interview. But for the 1,500 who apply to UCLA as theater majors every year, only about half follow through with an audition and interview — probably because the progress is rigorous and daunting. And only about 100 of those will actually be admitted to the program.

For those who do go through the audition ringer, Professor Joe Olivieri, head of the undergraduate acting program, offers this advice: "Look for monologues that are age-appropriate, that can be personalized and that have a strong objective for the character. And rehearse, rehearse, rehearse." Robert Rushin, an incoming freshman from Texas, and Claire Snodgrass from Culver City began preparing for their auditions in their junior year of high school. Allison Finn, who auditioned in Los Angeles, explains that "the audition shows that you don't just have passion or talent, but dedication. You don't just want to be a star; you want to make a life out of this."

Break a Leg

Learn more about UCLA's School of Theater, Film and Television at: And catch up on the buzz on the boards of TFT's undergrad theater program by writing to:

Applicants handle the nail-biting wait in the hallway with multiple psych-out tactics. In San Francisco, a young man dropped to the floor and began doing push-ups and crunches at his fellow applicants' feet. In Los Angeles, a young starlet took off her shoes and stretched out her legs, regaling those waiting with tales from her most recent theatrical triumph. One bold young man in Chicago used the waiting time to go from one lady to the next, asking them out on dates. He did not get into the program, but he did have coffee with a soprano who was way out of his league. With all that nervous energy swirling around on audition day, incoming acting student Haley McHugh advises, "Try to be relaxed. If you walk in all jumpy and desperate, you won't do a good job. No one wants a desperate person."



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