From New Zealand to New York: Chasing My Dream Over 8,000 Miles

Romain Mereau in a student production of As You Like It

Romain Mereau is a 2019 graduate of Atlantic Acting School’s Full-Time Conservatory program.

It was like a surge of electricity that filled my body and crackled in my lungs. Against the background bustle of the office in Auckland, New Zealand, where I worked, a friendly voice on the phone had just told me some of the most exciting news I’d ever heard. “Okay… thank you” was all I managed to get out at the end before hanging up and grinning in disbelief. I had been accepted to study acting at the Atlantic Acting School in New York on a full scholarship. I did a little dance.

A month before, I had stumbled onto an ad on the audition site StarNow for Atlantic Acting School and their full scholarship application. My interest was piqued. Over the previous 18 months I’d been dipping my toes in the acting waters, taking evening classes, auditioning, and performing in short plays and student films. I had the realization that this was making me happy – very happy – and I knew I wanted to take things to the next level. But to travel 8,814 miles to the best city in the world for acting seemed completely unobtainable – the costs were astronomical. I read more about the history of the Atlantic Acting School, its use of a practical acting technique and its connection to founders William H. Macy and David Mamet, both of whose work I admired, I knew this would be an incredible place to go. I had to try.

So I crafted an application, sought out references, prepared and recorded an audition piece – I chose one of Shelley Levine’s monologues from Glengarry Glenn Ross, inspired by Jack Lemmon’s magnetic performance in the 1992 film. With everything well prepared, and an ample few hours before the application deadline, I sat down to send everything off. After somehow losing my audition video and having to rerecord it (always give yourself more time than you think you need), I finally pushed ‘send’ and closed my computer. This can be the hardest part of auditions – the gruelling wait afterwards, the not-knowing and the worry about how well or badly you did. But once the audition is over, I’ve learned the best thing is to put it out of your mind and move on to the next thing. You did your best, and now it’s truly out of your control.

A few weeks later I cautiously opened an email from Atlantic that told me I had a call-back audition. Wow! This would be my first time auditioning over Skype, and I was both excited and nervous about the notorious quality of long-distance calls. To open up the connection and hear the audition panel all introduce themselves in their American accents – it definitely felt surreal to be beamed into an audition room in New York. But the audition itself was fun. I performed my monologue that I had prepared, and they gave me a few directions to try, which opened up some enjoyable new ways to play with the material. They also asked me questions about myself, my interests and inspirations, and were generally warm and welcoming. By the time we signed off, I had felt the end of my nerves evaporate.

A week later, sitting at work, I received a phone call from a US number and as I picked up and spoke to Director of Admissions Chris Booth, I felt my life change dramatically. I was going to New York! Fast-forward the next few months as I saved, booked flights, jumped through the necessary hoops for my visa application, figured out accommodation and basically prepared my whole life to move to the other side of the world for the next two and a half years.

New York is one of those places that’s so richly embedded in the global consciousness, it’s almost mythic. Before I’d even set foot here I’d had countless impressions of the iconic buildings, bustling streets and loud-talking locals from endless films and TV series. Upon my arrival, to be suddenly thrust into the midst of that, it felt extraordinarily like I was walking through a noisy, invigorating, vibrant dream.

At least once a week since then, I’ve broken my intense focus, looked up from the script I’m working on, and honestly marvelled at the extraordinary city around me and the wonderful circumstances that have me here as an actor. It’s a phenomenal feeling.

Over the last two and a half years, each semester at Atlantic has brought with it a new set of challenges and growth. Training with some of the city’s most sought-after teachers in voice, speech, movement, script analysis and performance technique, I’ve felt my own growth as an actor surge forwards in leaps and bounds. It’s grounded me in a solid technique, imbued me with good habits and provided me with the tools I need to continue developing my craft and career. It’s given me an ensemble of extraordinarily talented peers who I am excited to continue working with, and who I know will continue to inspire me and push me to reach further. I’ve learned that the fear and vulnerability that accompanies this work can sometimes feel overwhelming, and that it must be met with trust and integrity.

As a freshly-minted graduate of the program, I’m leaving here with confidence, gratitude and a spark of lightning in my veins.