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Signs of Artistic Excellence | What Juilliard Taught Me

Updated: Nov 5, 2020

These cornerstones of my Juilliard training have stayed with me and helped me grow, not only as actor but as an artist and citizen.

My name is Anthony Wofford.

I got accepted to Juilliard Drama as a 17 year old. Which is crazy.

Major artistic concepts were drilled into me a LOT in those 4 years. I wouldn't have it any other way but....yeah it was intense!

Here are a few sign posts of artistic excellence you WANT to bring to your drama school auditions.

I remind myself of these all the time to ensure I'm being excellent in my work, and I share this not only for the young actors about to audition for drama school but to any artist who may need inspiration!


Freedom Within Form

Bad actors “just emote” or worse, “indicate emotions”! Good actors make choices about the character’s state of being, the event of the scene, and their WANT, and they play fully within those imaginative circumstances.

Drop in

Bad actors “perform”. Good actors “drop in and go through an experience.”

Dropping in is connecting to your system, your instrument. It’s brings YOU (and not some masked performer version of yourself) up on stage.

Use your breath to drop in. Use phrases like “See out of your eyes” & “See, and be seen” to help you drop in.

We as the audience want to see the actor go THROUGH things. The actor is most visible when they’re dropped in.

Once you’re dropped in, you can enter the imaginative world of the play.


Bad actors “plan”. Good actors are “in the moment”.

If you’re performance sounds EXACTLY the same every time you do it, or you do the same meaningless gesture at a specific point in your performance, you’re not being the best actor you can be.

The ability to let something surprise you is a sign of artistic excellence.

Something is at Stake

Plays are written about the most important times in the characters’ lives. To “affect a casualism” is to kill the play.

If a character is being casual on the outside, it’s because there’s something burning deep on the inside that they’re trying to hide.

Good actors don’t always have to “show” that something’s burning on the inside, they just access it and bring those high stakes to the scene.

There should be emotion felt even in the most “casual” of moments. The motor is always going.

A Sense of Humor

Not “humor” as in “funny” necessarily, but “humor” as in having a sense of reality.

Good actors' humor responds to “real” things like the possibility of sarcasm, an openness to absurdity, and a perception of the opposite.

For example...without a sense of humor, the actor playing Romeo could not find some of the hyperbole that makes the character so endearing and laugh-out-loud funny. He would play it all “sincere and poetically” rather than being open to the possibility of Romeo knowing he’s going a little over the top and leaning into it.

There’s not always clues in the text. It's often about the actor allowing for a wider viewpoint in himself or herself and thus finding moments that nobody else ever has.

Better actors shine because they allow their sense of humor in and find new levels of human complexity, and audiences like watching that.

Above all, work hard and have fun!

By Anthony Wofford

Anthony is a graduate of the Juilliard School Drama Division and Founder of How To Get Into Drama School. @anthonywofford

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