Friday, August 7, 2009

(God) I Hope I Get It

Plays and musicals set backstage (Noises Off, Curtains) seem to captivate audiences in a special way. These shows usually take place during rehearsals and performances; they rarely show the beginning of the process.

There was one straight-play I remember, a very funny comedy called The Musical Comedy Murders of 1940, that takes place at a backers audition, and gives a little hint of the very beginning of the production process. However, our first look at auditions came thirty-three years ago with the Pulitzer-prize winning A Chorus Line.

42ND Street Moon is currently hosting our auditions at Moonspace, our office/rehearsal space.

I wondered how auditioning for Moon was different from other companies. So I asked some of our Moon actors.

Auditions Part 1: The Actors

The first thing that many of the actors I spoke with mentioned was the ability to sing a full song. It is pretty much an industry standard to only have those auditioning sing 16- or 32-bars of music.

I can understand this from the perspective of having hundreds of people to audition; it would take forever. And I’m sure most casting teams would be ready to shoot themselves if they had to listen to fifty actresses sing “Meadowlark” or worse, “Tomorrow.” However, how can a director get a true sense of the person’s emotive ability in 16 bars of music?

Lisa Hensley (pictured left) really appreciates this difference in the Moon process, “You get the chance to really tell the full story and show different contrasts in your voice.”

Lisa is also grateful for the direction she receives, “directors give you really specific feedback so you’re able to bring the scene to life, even there [at auditions].”

Lisa first auditioned for Moon back in 2001; she remembers it vividly. She had just completed a run of Cabaret and was running to her Moon audition in the same shoes she wore throughout Cabaret’s run. On the way to the audition her shoe’s three-inch heel broke! She recalls, somewhat horror-stricken, “I had to do the audition in my bare feet!”

She didn't get a part that season, but lucky for us Lisa figured better luck (and better shoes) next time... and came back. This time she was cast in Coco and then last season she joined Moon for Girl Crazy.

There are a few Moon actors who have been with the company long enough that all the directors know their abilities. Cindy Goldfield (pictured right) has been with Moon since Sweet Adeline in 1993, the company's inaugural season. Cindy and actor Bill Fahrner, the two performers with the longest continuing association with the Company, made their Moon debuts together. Cindy has since taken the reins as director and choreographer on numerous Moon shows, but she still welcomes the chance to audition: "It’s always an opportunity to see family and friends."

Her experiences with Moon have actually made other auditions easier, “all of the sudden you have all this classical musical theatre to use, and some odd-ball songs that no one ever hears. That’s kind of fun!”

Speaking of music, that seems to be another difference for potential Moon actors. For most theatre companies, you’re expected to prepare a contemporary song. 42ND Street Moon has a general time-period, which makes it safest to break out the Gershwin and Porter songs. This is something many of the actors appreciate, “it’s a treat!”

Both Lisa and Cindy will be in Destry Rides Again from October 28th to November 15th. Single tickets go on sale August 15th, but if you’d like to save 20% on Destry, and all the other Moon shows this season, become a Season Ticket Subscriber.

Next week I’m going to look at auditions from the Directors’ perspective. Do you have any questions you’d like to ask our Directors about how they pick the right actor for the right show? Leave a comment and I’ll ask your question for you!


Last week’s trivia answer: Pearl S. Buck, for Christine.

This week’s trivia question: A Chorus Line is now the fourth longest running Broadway musical in history. It still holds the distinction of being the longest running ___________ Broadway musical. (Hint: the answer is about the production itself, none of its stars or creators).


Clifford said...

Does 42nd Street Moon practice "color-blind" casting?

Does 42nd Street Moon prefer equity or non-equity?

In the audition process, what are things that have either happened or could happen to make the director disregard the amount of talent one has, and just say no?

Clifford said...

PS: A Chorus Line is the longest running AMERICAN-PRODUCED Broadway Musical.

Greg MacKellan said...

Clifford, the answer to your first question is yes, we practice "color-blind" casting, and have very proudly featured some non-traditional casts in some very traditional musicals.

Regarding your second question, we are an Equity company, but we cast both Equity and non-Equity performers in every show we do. (Most Bay Area regional theatres have a quota of AEA actors to use in each show, and use both union and non-union performers.)

Directors don't necessarily disregard the amount of talent an actor has, but sometimes there are more talented actors than there are roles available. In fact, that's what any director hopes for, to be able to have choices between many talented performers.

Another factor, strictly when it comes to musicals, is that a talented actor might not be the right voice type for a certain role. A lot of things are factored in to casting decisions.