By Lewis Wilkenfeld, Artistic Director, Cabrillo Music Theatre
I love auditions!
I know it’s easy to say this – since I don’t have to actually audition. And I always remind the staffs of Cabrillo shows (it’s the last thing out of my mouth before auditions begin) that it’s much harder to be on the other side of the table than to be on ours. Nevertheless, auditions are quite possibly my favorite part of the process of putting on a show.
Why? Because, as I often blurt out loud at auditions…. “There’s a lot of hope in the room.”
As we prepare for KISS ME KATE auditions, I’m already starting to think about the many hopeful people coming our way. Cabrillo usually sees 300-500 people for each show, and, with cast size running from 20-30ish, there are, unfortunately, a lot of dashed hopes. And, yet….
Who’s going to wow us and take a role?
First of all, it bears noting: one of the main reasons why we bring in a variety of directors, choreographers, and musical directors is to constantly shake things up in the casting process. I direct one show per season myself, and, for the other shows, the staff makes their own decisions while I stay out of the way. So there isn’t a company-wide casting philosophy or a list of favorites – different eyes are making decisions on every show. In this way, we’re always able to bring new faces onto the Cabrillo stage at the Civic Arts Plaza. We like it this way, and, frankly, our audiences do, too.
Second… and this is the dirty little secret about auditions: We’re always rooting FOR the actor to take the role! For the more “hopeful” among us, it’s the thrill of finding that perfect fit of actor and role that will elevate the entire production to a new level. For the occasional cynic among the staff, it solves a problem that allows us to move forward beyond casting, into the next phase of the process.
Which actually explains the real truth behind casting: We don’t cast the show – actors cast themselves, and we, as a staff, must have enough common sense to notice and acknowledge it. I can think of dozens of examples of this… but that’s the stuff of a future column.
So, who, among the hopeful, are going to cast themselves in KISS ME KATE?
It might be the young woman who writes on her audition form, “This is my #th audition for Cabrillo!” and puts a smiley face in the exclamation point! Wouldn’t you want to do a show with her? I would, and I look forward to her finally punching through. (Then she can’t write that anymore!)
Or the young man who’d been in a couple of ensemble roles, but asked me for feedback after an audition, and then clearly took it and ran with it – and whose work has really grown. Now he gets principal roles here and elsewhere.
How about the “mature” gentleman with a job and family, who’s been waiting for a KISS ME KATE to come along, so that he could take some vacation time and play on our stage? Or the young woman whose friend always gets cast, but she never has? Or the soprano who’s been waiting patiently for us to get past the belty shows like CHARLIE BROWN, GREASE and LEGALLY BLONDE and back to one of the classical musicals she loves? And how about that guy who sings great but never relates to what he’s singing, but now, all of a sudden, he’s a little older and his work gains emotional resonance?
Then there are the dance calls, when lots of hopeful young people pour in the door – from school shows, dance studios, summer camps – some attending their first-ever audition for a professional show. Some will earn the callback, others won’t. How will they feel about that? How will they bounce back? The survivors do – with their “hopes” firmly intact, ready for the next audition. And when they finally punch through…..
As you can tell, I have a huge amount of admiration for performers, and the effort they go through to get into a show. And that’s why I love auditions.
There’s a lot of hope in the room….
Including my own.