The Definitive Ranking of the NYC Audition Studios
I’m about to say something that no actor has ever admitted out loud: Auditioning is hard, you guys. Sure, I know it’s difficult to believe, but waking up at 5 AM and standing in a line on the street with disgruntled actors while being gawked at by German tourists to hopefully get the opportunity to sing 16 bars of “Out There” at a table of homosexuals (and the women who love them) can sometimes be trying. It almost makes you want to give up. But do you want to know why we don’t? Because of the audition studios.
THAT'S RIGHT. It’s a very well-hidden secret of the trade that as actors, we don’t audition because we are trying to get a job, or because we “love art” or anything like that. We merely audition for the chance to get our sweet candy asses into those delectable, artisanally-curated studios that auditions are held in. Oh, are you a doctor with a 401k? Who cares – I’ve got access to a 10x7 room with an out of tune piano that you just know has had semen on it somewhere at some point.
But why don’t we celebrate these studios more? Like, if you had a golden cheetah whose nipples produced chocolate ganache, you’d flaunt that bitch! So as artists, why don’t we flaunt our cacao-nippled-golden-cheetahs: THE AUDITION STUDIOS OF NYC?! I think it’s time that the whole world knew of their glory; we need to stop being so selfish and let the muggles in on our Chambers of Screlting.
Side note: This truly has been my personal Sophie’s choice (a real Mamma Mia, if you will). I love every single one of these studios with my whole heart and it would kill me to have to look at any them in a judgmental manner. But that being said, let’s get into it, sluts.
NUMBER 8: NOLA STUDIOS
Okay, I know, I know, Nola is now permanently closed, but who would any of us be without Nola? Would I be a better actor? Probably. Would I be a better person? Definitely. And so despite the fact that it is not longer with us, it would be a crime not to mention Nola, a studio that is still such a part of me, mostly because it def infected me with some kind of upper respiratory issue from all of the dust and mold I inhaled there while singing 16 bars at a Fireside ECC.
Plus, did you ever meet the staff?! I mainly moved to NYC so that middle aged men could be ridiculously mean to me, and every time I asked for a stapler or a working outlet, that is exactly what I got at Nola. The charming man who used to run Nola – I forget his name, probably because he never introduced himself, but based off of his personality, I will call him “Nosferatu” – Nosferatu was as gentile as they come. I have so many memories as a young actor in NYC, waiting for hours to be seen, sitting in that hallway of oddly placed church pews with the distinct smell of soprano swamp ass, and looking up to see Nosferatu’s angry face, with a twinkle in his eye that said “If this career doesn’t kill you, I definitely will.”
The studios themselves carried a lot of charm as well. Have you ever sang directly into a pillow? Well, if you’ve ever sang at Nola studios, you have! Oh! And the bipolar temperatures! Talk about sweating. This studio had more sweat than a Lynn Nottage play. And the smell! Oh, every time you would walk into Nola, no matter what time of year, WHOOSH, a flood of taint-scented B.O. engulfed your nostrils.
RIP Nola. You will be missed? Sorry – I didn’t mean to add a question mark – RIP Nola. You will be missed???
NUMBER 7: RIPLEY GRIER (THE OTHER ONES!)
You know that thing when you suddenly run into someone you kinda knew from high school, and you’re all, “Omg, and how are your two little kids?” and they’re like, ”Oh, I actually have four now?” That is the essence of Ripley Grier (The Other Ones!)! Ripley Grier’s fourteen locations OTHER than 520 8th Ave – including the one on 38th St, the one on 55th St and 8th, 72nd St, The Chipotle on 45th, Under the Verrazano Bridge, The Conceptual One that only exists in our Minds – all of these locations are such absolute blessings.
Who among us has been guilty of not reading a rehearsal call as carefully as you should have, only to show up fifteen minutes early at RG 520, thinking you’re hot shit, to suddenly realize that rehearsal is actually at the 72nd location? So then you run out onto 8th ave, desperately searching for a cab, but since the ORG (Original Ripley Grier) is next to fucking Penn Station, you know you will NEVER GET A CAB, so you hop on the ACE, bing bang boom, four transfers and a three avenue walkover later, your panicked and sweat-soaked lil’ bitchface makes it to your rehearsal in a room that is essentially the disgruntled stepchild of a Caribbean sailor’s nightmare. It’s such a blessing when people actually use these locations because it teaches us so many lessons:
1. Never assume anything.
2. You are working for a bunch of literal sadists.
3. If you have a daughter, turn her legacy into an audition studio and then milk the fuck out of it until you get three other ones that serve literally no purpose.
The thing that RG (The Others Ones!) actually does really well is cultivating a sense of panic. If you don’t feel completely unsettled in walking into these other studios, then you are simply doing it wrong. From the creepy hallways leading to the poorly replicated Pepto-Bismol pink walls, to the angry smattering of tropical paraphernalia, when you walk into an RG(TOO!) studio, you get a feeling of “I think I’ve seen this before; no wait, that was SAW VII.”
NUMBER 6: PEARL 519
Picture it. You’re on a date with someone and it’s going really well. They invite you back to their apartment, and although normally you wouldn’t go back to their place on a first date, you think this one may be the one, so you wanna lock this down with your sexual Special Skills. They walk you up to their Brownstone, open the gorgeous, wooden, original double doors, turn on the lights, and all you see are cats. Seemingly hundreds of sick cats. Writhing and hacking. And the only other thing you can see among that sea of kitties are shelves filled with porcelain dolls that all look like Parker Posey. That is exactly what walking into Pearl 519 is like.
NUMBER 5: SHETLER STUDIOS
My mother never loved me. Sometimes she and father would fight in the kitchen, as I played with my dolls in the hallway. That depressing hallway still haunts me to this day.
Shelter Studios: It’s literally like singing in tiny, depressing hallways, and it’s like, what’s even the point? But sure, I’ll rehearse for your 29 hour reading here.
NUMBER 4: PEARL 500
I bet most of you thought this location would have landed higher on the list, and to you I say, “You seriously need to chill out; if you haven’t put it together by now, these rankings don’t matter for diddly squat.”
Someone once told me that when they walk into Pearl 500, their nostrils are immediately filled with the smell of nervous poop. And ya know what — same. This studio is so perplexing to me. First off, they are the exact opposite of Nola when it comes to staff. Sometimes I walk in and I’m like, “Am I on a TBS sitcom? Because all of you behind that desk look and act like stock characters from a show that got canceled after one season.” Pearl 500 has given more jobs to struggling actors than Actor’s Equity. But truly, the staff is always super friendly, and yeah, that was an actual constructive and legit compliment, and I seriously need you to calm down...
The rooms in Pearl 500 live in some kind of limbo that perplexes me to this day. Tons of natural sunlight. Pretty clean facilities. Big mirrors for you to look at your exhausted, depressed face in. Private changing rooms. (And side note, unlike Nola, if you need a stapler while at Pearl 500, take your goddamn pick because they just basically hand those fuckers out like candy.) But have you ever walked into a room at Pearl directly after a dance call was held there? Well, if you haven’t, you are missing out.
I never thought that in my vast life, I would know the sensation of walking my entire body and all of its 5 senses through a thick, meaty stew – until I walked into a room at Pearl after a dance audition. It defies the laws of physics. And this is not even a hyperbole, y’all. The pungent air that lingers in those rooms after a dance call is exactly like wading through a stew. A salty, meaty stew. A salty, meaty stew from a restaurant with a C grading and a hostess who is missing an eye. I will never forget that taste.
Actually, let’s circle back to those mirrors for the sec, because Pearl does something so absolutely groundbreaking, it would be a crime not to bring up. Guys, Pearl puts little mirrors outside every one of their studios for one final check up before you have to go bare your soul for a 20 year-old casting intern. It’s such a nice touch that says, “Hey, we care. And chances are you look busted so please try to fix it. This is your final chance.”
NUMBER 3: RIPLEY GRIER 520
Oh, Ripley Grier. What can I say about you that I haven’t already said about Ripley Grier (The Other Ones!)?
I love this pink nightmare of a studio; with it’s randomly placed pine-green walls, and it’s fucking step-and-repeat which seems to say, “you’ll never be famous, so if you want to know what it feels like to walk a step-and-repeat, here you go, cuck.”
Ah, yes. I’ve had some of my biggest auditions at Ripley Grier, and I’m just like, “Why?” You literally can audition for HAMILTON in one room, and then go right across the hall and audition for a greasy man in a 5x5 room who keeps asking you your shoe size and if you like to be “tickled.”
NUMER 2: OLD TELSEY
I haven’t been to the new Telsey yet because I’ve been #bookedandblessed (kill me please), but when it came to Telsey’s old studio, no T, no shade, no Little Mermaid, it was awesome. Those HUGE leather rectangles for us to sit on? What even were those?! I have no clue, but if I ever own a home (which I wont, because I’m an actor), I’m gonna need twenty of them STAT. They were so comfy, and chic; I can only imagine how many great actors had sat on those seats before me. Actors like Jeremy Jordan…. Yeah, that’s all I care about.
NUMBER 1: (Drumroll please…) ACTORS' EQUITY
Some of you may not agree with this choice, but I think it is very obviously the best audition studio in NYC. Why? They give you a private holding room all to yourself right before your audition!! Like, how fucking baller is that? You spend all day being bombarded by other people and their anxieties. And then their anxieties become your anxieties, and you’re just one huge ball of tension. And then suddenly, you walk into that private holding area and the universe is like, “No. Shhhhh. I want you to calm yourself.” And for some reason it works. You’re suddenly given a moment for your brain to say, “Stop. Breathe. Focus. What are my intentions? What are my – oh wow, they seem to really like this guy before me. They’re having him sing a second song. Fuck, I didn’t prepare a second song. Who do they think I am, Karen Olivo? Two fucking songs. Great. And now I’m going to be late picking up the kid I babysit from school. Oh well, he literally tried to choke me last week, he can wait 15 minutes with that creepy crossing guard he likes. Ok, ok, you got this. You can find a contrasting song. Maybe a pop song that- oh no. Oh crap. I have to fart. Like, really bad. Like, if I try to sing in a supported manner, there is a 90% chance I will let this fart rip in the middle of my song because it is definitely cresting. But if I fart in this closed holding room, the person before me and the person after me will KNOW that it’s me who farted. They will literally have to walk through a hallway of my fart – oh crap. He’s done. That must have only been 16 bars. Ok, maybe if I walk the length of the hallway while farting, maybe it will spread out the smell, and he’s opening the door – go, go farts, go – And Hiiiii all, My name is John Wascavage, and this is ‘They Call The Wind Mariah.’”
About the author:
John Wascavage is an actor, comedian, and follower of the rule of three. Check out his Theatre-Bunny-centered humor on Twitter/Instagram: @johnwascavage or at www.johnwascavage.com