Can you tell us a little about yourself and the kind of training you've had that led to you being accepted into Juilliard?
Hi! My name is Anoushka and I never know how to answer this question! I’m 18 years old and right now I’m in the middle of a gap year, trying to explore the performing arts space as much as I can. A lot of my training has primarily been in dance. I've been very lucky to have mentors like Pia Sutaria who have taught me ballet and jazz since I was about 5 years old. In terms of acting, I honestly don’t really know if I have any formal acting training apart from the speech and drama classes I went to growing up. A lot of my exposure to the arts has been through the lens of dance and even during my Juilliard Drama auditions, it was my dance training that gave me the stamina and confidence to push through.
Why did you choose to apply to Juilliard? Can you share a little about your application process with us?
I had always dreamed of studying acting at a higher level. It felt like a very distant dream but I thought it would be so incredible to dedicate all my time and focus to this fascinating craft. I definitely made a list of schools and colleges when I was a kid but Juilliard actually wasn’t on that list, I think even then it just seemed like a crazy idea. Instead, I grew up idolising all these actors that I knew had graduated from Juilliard - Jessica Chastain, Viola Davis, Adam Driver and so many more. When the pandemic happened though, I definitely lost some of that drive and nothing really seemed clear to me anymore. That’s where the decision to take a gap year came from. When I finally started applying to colleges, I really only applied to four schools and I wasn’t looking at the US until my mum said “Why not try Juilliard? What’ve you got to lose?” So I went for it and boy, was I not prepared for the behemoth of a process that lay before me. I think I had a total of 6-7 rounds of auditions, the last few being in New York. I had never travelled to the States before and here I was, surrounded by hundreds of people from all over the world, all wanting this just as bad as the next person; I felt like a complete fish out of water. We had to prepare both classical and contemporary monologues and I had never really formally auditioned for anything before so I felt like I was going in blind. I just tried to choose pieces that excited me and felt like… me! What shocked me though was how welcoming and warm the environment was there. I felt like people were looking out for me, like the teachers on my panel really wanted to just enjoy the pieces as much as I enjoyed performing them.
What are you looking forward to the most at Juilliard?
I think I’m looking forward to a lot of things at Juilliard. The people, to start with. Having a sense of community, especially in the arts, is really important to me. So I hope to find people who can push and challenge and inspire me! I’m also keen to explore an environment that has an artist’s best interests at heart, that provides a safe space to try different things and extends compassion to all its students. My teachers also seem really cool, they’re masters in their fields and they command their space with such dignity and care. When I heard them talking, it felt like I was seeing characters out of a book suddenly come to life. Most importantly though, I’d like to just keep an open mind and see where the adventure takes me. In many ways, I have no clue what to expect, and while that’s a daunting thought, it also excites me!
What are your plans once you've graduated?
Oh gosh, who knows what the future has in store for us? But I do feel that going to Juilliard will hopefully give me some sort of platform to realise my goals and plans. Like I said earlier, I believe that community is a really important aspect of creating art. Community gives access to the arts and especially for the youth, it creates channels to tell stories that really matter to us! I always felt some kind of pressure to give up the arts throughout my school years, even though my parents were and are incredibly supportive. Even though Mumbai is the city for theatre and film, I always kind of felt lost. I didn’t know where the opportunities to perform were, I didn’t know who could guide me towards good training, where I could develop a keen eye for the arts and most importantly, how young people here can actually tell their stories and be heard. So one thing I really hope to create through my training is a space and platform here to provide more widespread access to the arts, to inculcate drama as a more integral part of our lives growing up. More than anything though, I really just hope to be able to tell stories that occupy a huge space in my heart. I think that in and of itself would be a blessing. And if, in that process, those stories end up occupying that same space in someone else’s life, I will have achieved my goal!!
Could you tell us a little more about your fundraiser and how people can contribute?
I’m extremely thankful to have gotten an annual merit and need-based scholarship from Juilliard that will help cover a large portion of my tuition. However, even then, the total amount (including living expenses) over the course of four years is extremely large. My parents have always had my back and this is just as much of a big deal for them as it is for me. But I also know that for my parents to cover this entire cost is going to be impossible without taking out a hefty loan. They’re already definitely trying to gather up as much as they can and I have been working for the past year as well to save up but this is kind of an unfathomable amount for us. Being one of the first Indians to ever get into Juilliard for Drama means I don’t have any path carved out in front of me to follow. This is a novel, a once in a lifetime opportunity and something I couldn’t have ever imagined. So I thought I would reach out to the community here for support. I have started a fundraiser, in hopes of covering as much of my tuition fees as I can before I leave in August. Any kind of support towards accomplishing this goal would mean the absolute world to me. I will leave a link to my fundraiser below that also provides more information, if you’d be interested in checking it out!
Link to Fundraiser: Help me attend Juilliard!