Monday, August 24, 2015

One day, three castings, hundreds of auditions

Michaela Shapiro
Michaela Shapiro, a junior in Theatre and Dance, had no trouble sleeping Sunday night. She could eat on Monday, too. In fact, she wasn't nervous at all on Mass Audition Day -- the day when The Miracle Worker, The Haunting of Hill House, and Titanic were to be cast. Never mind that Mass Audition Day happens to coincide with an already busy first day of school, and never mind that a short monologue for the plays and 16 bars of a belted-out tune for Titanic were the only brief opportunities Shapiro and her fellow students had to sell their acting chops to the directors, to prove they could command the stage, to win that coveted call back.

Michaela's friend, whose name happens to be Mikhayla Clausen, also wasn't sweating her auditions. "I'm not nervous at all," she said. "I just want everyone to do well."

A day like this one when the stakes are so high might bring out the ultra competitive nature in young actors who are vying for only a few open spots on the stage. In this department? A line of high-fives and "Break a leg"s were exchanged as one long line of auditioners left the Andreas Theatre and another entered to impress The Miracle Worker Director Matt Caron and Hill House Director Tim Rosin.

"I wanted to tell you, you did a fabulous job," Michaela said to Mikhayla, after both delivered their monologues. "You made me cry, almost."

Matt Caron and Tim Rosin
Like Michaela and Mikhayla, most students delivered pretty serious 60-second monologues from various plays of their choosing, moving into character with a polished ease. The directors had just as much work to do as the students, both looking for different qualities in their actors.

"You want big, bold choices, and I want honesty, so we'll see how this goes," Matt said.

With dozens of students to choose from, Matt and Tim would find the perfect fits for their plays. Even Titanic Director Dr. Paul Hustoles, whose epic cast includes 27 men and 15 women, would have no shortage of students to choose from, as the pool of applicants was quite large in this dynamic and prolific department.

And it seems -- even though disappointment is always a part of theater auditions -- many students are mature enough and supportive enough of each other to be happy with whatever the result might be: a result they would know by Monday night.

"I would love anything," Michaela said. "It's a blessing to be cast in any capacity."

"Even the ensemble would be great. The ensemble does so much," Mikhayla said. "Honestly, the ensemble gets way more stage time than some of the other parts."

Amanda Mai
Those who did receive call backs from Matt and Tim were pretty psyched up about it. The energy showed in a little exercise Matt had them do to show their acting abilities as the lead role of Helen Keller. He blindfolded the students and had them explore a box full of toys and trinkets as if they were blind. Among them? Michaela Shapiro. A call back for the lead. Not bad at all.

Less than an hour later, Michaela and the throng of other students who had spent the night putting it all out there with the hopes of being cast would descend upon the lower level of the Performing Arts Center, swarming the messenger who would post their fate on the casting board.

Here's what they learned when they got there: Titanic, The Miracle Worker, The Haunting of Hill House. 

Director Matt Caron conducts a little acting experiment with Michaela Shapiro. 

Courtesy of Alex Rose Strand, watch the crush of students descend upon the cast list just as it was posted following a hectic night of auditioning.

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