For several years, now, the Standing Conference on Actors’ Training (Ständige Konferenz Schauspielausbildung – SKS) has been organising central auditions for the German-speaking region’s acting schools. At these events, students from the current year’s graduating classes present themselves to specialist audiences with an eye to landing engagements at the region’s various theatres. While 2020 saw these auditions in part cancelled or held digitally, conditions in 2021 afforded the Max Reinhardt Seminar’s current graduating class the opportunity to travel and audition live. In the following, students from the graduating class of 2022 provide us with some impressions of their whirlwind trip to Neuss, Berlin, and Munich for the graduate auditions known as the Absolvent_innen-Vorspiele (AVO).
I’m packing my suitcase and taking along:
- a toothbrush
- a laptop for last-minute applications
- a phone charging cable
- costumes (important!)
- a washing machine1
- beer coasters2
- comp cards and programme booklets
- underwear and other clothing
- no shampoo (everyone forgot their shampoo)
- towels (very important!)
- Team Train: Caro, Pia, Sophie, Kathi, Nils
- Team Car: Lukas (Drama Directing), Basti, Enzo, Til, Etienne
- Team Première: Lili
The night before leaving, all Kathi could think about was the packing list. She found packing truly hateful—almost as hateful as the thought of travelling as a group and someone else forgetting something. So she once again reminded her classmates to bring their own towels. Thinking about how someone might forget their towel and have to spend a whole week drying off with an old shirt left her sleepless. Until one of her classmates texted her a friendly “Thanks Mummy <3”, liberating Kathi from her worries, whereupon she at last drifted into a peaceful slumber after all.
The next morning ran so much like clockwork, it was uncanny. It was as two teams—Team Train and Team Car—that the travel group set off. Team Car inadvertently ended up consisting exclusively of guys—a coincidence perhaps better left unmentioned to avoid flogging stereotypes. We’d ascertained, however, that these five were more experienced at driving a stickshift.
No one had woken up too late, and everyone left on time and in a good mood. Almost a bit boring. So Team Train decided to play a prank on Team Car, texting in the class’s WhatsApp group that Caro hadn’t made the train. In the back-and-forth that ensued, we exchanged information on the next train connection and asked Team Car (who’d already been on the road for two hours) to drive back and pick up Caro in Vienna, a request that made them none too happy. The prank was finally resolved, however, with a photo of Caro sitting on the train. Team Car was relieved. Team Train was amused. And the journey continued.
It was in a suburb of Neuss that we finally reached the place where we’d spend our first night. Save for an elderly couple, we had this little youth hostel all to ourselves. Our first priority was dinner, and we wound up at a Greek restaurant invitingly named “Marias Grill-Imbiss”—the stars had led us there, and stars don’t lie. It was one of three places where a hot meal could still be had at our late hour of arrival, and we were willing to take a chance. After we’d feasted on gyros platters, pita bread, chips, and Kölsch on stomachs that were near-empty following our long trip (shout out to Maria and her crew, who were super friendly to us forlorn and famished travellers!), we initially all felt a bit nauseous—too much of a good thing. And with our stomachs thus filled, we distributed ourselves among the three bunkbeds of the hippopotamus bedroom, already in our pyjamas, and reminisced about our acting school experiences over the past few years. There was plenty of laughing, silence, and contemplation—and most importantly, we played “Welcome to St Tropez” (DJ Antoine vs. Mad Mark radio edit) as a motivational anthem. We were ready!
On 16 November at 3 o’clock p.m., we plunged into our first graduate audition on the rehearsal stage of the Rheinisches Landestheater. We’d had the stage and the dressing rooms to ourselves for an hour in order to get set up and prepare ourselves. Florian Reiners (our Lead Voice and Speech professor), who’d accompanied us to Neuss, gave us a couple of final tips on the acoustics of the appointed space. And after a quick technical run-through, our audition finally began! We finished approximately one hundred sweaty minutes later—but we barely had any time to catch our breath, because in order to afford around 24 acting schools the opportunity to audition in all three cities within a single week, scheduling was extremely tight. It was thus that, at every stop, we encountered the other acting schools’ graduating classes only while moving our suitcases in and out of the theatre lobby.
Since our second audition was already scheduled for 6 p.m. the next day in Berlin, six hours’ drive away, we immediately raced off to the German capital—once again split into two groups. The Ruhr Valley rush hour made for slower-than-expected driving. And since the train, now occupied by Pia, Caro, Sophie, Kathi, and Nils, unexpectedly spent several hours sitting on the track just short of Hannover, both teams only reached Berlin late that night. Luckily, there was nothing to stop us from sleeping in the next morning.
In Berlin, we auditioned at the BAT Studiotheater of the Ernst Busch Academy of Dramatic Arts. This audition turned out to be lots of fun for all of us, because the space was wonderful and the time of day ideally suited our night owl souls.
Even so, we were surprised by how our travels were already beginning to weigh upon us. Having so eagerly looked forward to these auditions, we’d perhaps slightly underestimated just how much driving all over Germany plus the excitement and stress would take out of us. But we avoided dwelling on that and followed our Berlin audition by going out for food and drinks. The next day was once again reserved for travelling, with Munich our next destination. The night before, Pia and Kathi had ascertained that any random döner kebab at four in the morning in Berlin is better than the best döner to be found in Vienna. But the next day, these two really did almost miss the train—and en route to the train station on Berlin’s underground, they experienced the full awfulness of sitting there in the knowledge that you still have four stations to go and time is running out. When the doors slid open, the spectacular mad dash they pulled off got them on the ICE just in the nick of time and thoroughly drenched in sweat.
By this time, the ICE almost felt like home to us—those ever-same four seats facing each other across a table in the same train coach with the same buffet menu. Team Car—which had been sending Team Train appetising snapshots of their brunch in Berlin—then likewise took off.
Everyone was now moving from Berlin towards Munich, and eventually, our cheerful road-trippers glided into a rest stop for a well-deserved snack following hours of chugging along in bumper-to-bumper traffic. After hopping out, Team Car—being the nice guys that they are—treated the occupants of the vehicle behind them to a broad, friendly, collective grin. Unfortunately, those occupants were a police patrol and took their grinning as an irresistible invitation to subject all five of our hip-looking classmates to ID checks and drug tests. After providing urine samples around the nearest corner, some brief uneasiness, and a quick snack (rock-hard pretzels), they re-joined the southbound traffic jam.
With four days of travel and two auditions behind us, all of us arrived quite bleary-eyed at the youth hostel in Munich, which we’d be sharing with around 50 eighth-graders. And thus it came that on the eve of the audition—which, despite being in Bavaria, was scheduled for a most unChristian hour (10 a.m.!)—we found ourselves sitting together in a rustic Italian restaurant. Our evening out passed quickly, and we were all in bed shortly before midnight. But when midnight struck, we all gathered around Lukas to celebrate the beginning of his birthday. Lukas was, after all, the one who’d worked with us on combining our many different scenes and monologues to form a well-rounded evening, thereafter holding his assured director’s hand over us during our trip. We snuck out into the greenery on the projecting roof that connected our two rooms, lit tea candles, and sang “Happy Birthday” as quietly as we could (wanting neither to wake the teenagers nor to attract too much attention, seeing as being out on that roof probably wasn’t exactly allowed).
The next morning, the alarm clock woke us—or most of us, at least—at 6 a.m. And once arrived at our appointed venue, we did some intensive warm-ups in an attempt to shake off the cobwebs.
Lili had only been able to join us now, in Munich, due to a theatre première in Vienna the evening before: “Finally, after three and half years: the AVO. I still remember so well how, back during our first year, we’d been romping around the garden in the hot summer air, proudly revelling in the tail end of our first year, and one of our fellow students shouted down from the balcony: ‘You may be playing frisbee now, but tomorrow’s the AVO!’ Back then, we just laughed—but in principle, he was right. Time flew by so fast. And suddenly we were at the AVO, but not quite as expected—at least for me. At the end of last summer, it was clear that I’d be able to do just one stop: Munich.” She thus experienced Neuss and Berlin only by way of a few photos and WhatsApp messages in our class group. And it was twelve hours after her premiere in Vienna that Lili finally stumbled onto the stage of the Residenztheater after just two hours’ sleep, with a growling stomach and a dry mouth: “Despite my fatigue and the intensifying stage fright, I was overjoyed. Here was the gang, on their trip’s last day after having spent a week touring through Germany. And now, I was there with them. Following the audition, with all of us thoroughly exhausted, we raised a toast for Lukas’s birthday. And even if it was only five hours that I got to spend with them, I felt like I’d concluded an important chapter together with the class.”
With our final addition now behind us, it still felt like early morning despite the rollercoaster ride we’d just been on. So we sat down in the cafeteria of the Kammerspiele, followed by a walk through central Munich and a renewed sit-down for food and drinks at a café. After which the time had come to hug each other goodbye, for our group was once more splitting up.
We’d survived our AVO odyssey. Exhausted but happy to have experienced these travels together, we set off for the trip back to Vienna and into Austria’s lockdown.
Authors: Caroline Baas, Pia Zimmermann, Sophie Juliana Pollack, Katharina Rose, Nils Arztmann, Lukas Michelitsch, Sebastian Egger, Enzo Brumm, Tilman Tuppy, Etienne Halsdorf, Lili Winderlich