Sunday, December 18, 2011

Audition #8: Barter Theatre

In my last post, I said I was going to try and post twice a week. Not really sure when I planned on starting that, but clearly it wasn't before now. Oops. But hey, there's always a new week ahead to try again.

A week ago, I went up to Abingdon, VA to take part in the Barter Theatre's general auditions as well as their auditions for the Barter Players, a troupe of 6 actors who have graduated college or have equivalent training. Here's how the day went...

Date: December 11, 2011
Acting audition: 11:00
Dance audition: 12:15
Player interview: 6:30
Auditioned For: AD Richard Rose and others
Pieces:Vianne from the novel Chocolat by Joann Harris
Bess from Hunting and Gathering by Brooke Berman
Attire: Dark purple jacket layered with yellow cardigan and gray tank
Denim trousers
Brown oxfords

The auditions for Barter were held at their alternative space, Barter Stage II, which is a lovely building with a cafe that is open before and after performances and looks across the street at the main stage. When I arrived, I was greeted by Casting Assistant Kevin Dmytryka, who had me fill out some forms and return them with my three copies of my headshot and resume. Then I milled about the cafe area with the other waiting actors. If any of my dear readers audition at Barter next year, I want to give you a heads-up: There is no place to warm up. The cafe is right outside the theatre itself, so do your vocal warm-ups before you arrive!

The folks at Barter are very organized and will take good care of you. They announce a whole set of auditioners and will have two people on deck while one is auditioning. They are quick to smile and make the whole process as painless as possible.

A tangent: A week or so before I went to this audition, I talked on the phone to my good friend Richard McKenzie, who is one of those actors that you've seen or heard plenty of times before but can just never quite place him.
Richard McKenzie as Fred Bunker in All In The Family
Dick is a fabulous storyteller, so when I told him I was auditioning for the Barter, a theatre he has worked at, he was off to the races. He said when he auditioned, his number was 13. He was waiting offstage, watching number 12 do an intense monologue from The Master Builder and she ran off into the wings and into Dick's arms, crying and shaking. He said, "I thought, if she's this scared, then I'm outta here!" He left the building, walked across the alley and was going to leave before the stage manager caught him: "Are you number 13? Get in here, they're waiting for you!" So he went and auditioned and was hired. "If I had made it to my car, I never would have been an actor." (If you go to the Barter and look directly above the door into the box office, you'll see Dick's rather cynical-looking head shot.)

When my name was up, I was the very first of the set and was a little caught off-guard, but marched into the space (which is a very intimate thrust stage) while the stage manager announced my name and number... Number 13. I couldn't help but smile, thinking of Dick... and also that I didn't have to face number 12 running into my arms.

I tried to keep the pace up with Vianne, which resulted in me feeling like I wasn't thinking at all. Of course, this may be beneficial for me. I'm notorious for chewing things up and mulling them over too much before getting them out of my mouth, but when I take the direction of just picking up the pace, I don't "feel" anything (us actors always wanting to be sentimental). I am completely unable to judge whether my performance benefits from quicker speech and reduced (or quickened?) thought. All that is to say, I really don't know how well Vianne went. I do know that I kind of settled into things, including my breath, for Bess. Her monologue felt much more present with clearer tactical shifts and the last line got a laugh (internal squeak of joy). I feel fairly confident overall with the acting auditions.

Barter Stage II. Phenomenal cosmic powers! Itty bitty living space.
 When you register for the auditions, you are given the option of attending the dance call, which is encouraged. As someone who has two left feet, I say do the dance call. I actually had a ton of fun. You will have a chance to change and warm up. The combination they teach everyone is not advanced and they take time to help you with rough spots and give you alternatives if you are unable to do certain choreography. They teach the combination to the group as a whole, then they will select some people to stay to learn more advanced choreography while the rest go into another room to work on what they've learned and help each other. Once everyone has had time to review, they pull auditioners in 4 or 5 at a time to perform the audition. Smile a lot. If you mess up, do it big. And do only what you can do. I had a blast.

My mom and I spent the rest of the afternoon enjoying Abingdon, making fun of how fancy the Martha Washington Inn is, and poking around out in the boonies. Then I napped a little before my last appointment: the Barter Player interview with Katy Brown, Artistic Director of the Players and Associate Director. She meets with everyone all together first to tell candidates the following:
  • This is not for everyone.
  • This might not be for you.
  • You will work your toosh off.
  • It is a 15 month contract.
  • There is very little time off.
  • This might not be for you (again) and if you decide not to have an interview, we will not hold it against you and you will still be considered for other roles.
Challenge: Accepted 
But really, it is a helluva long commitment and she is right. That sort of thing isn't for everyone. But I see myself in a state of transition, headed toward moving to Chicago, a direction that could be changed. I am in a position where I could take on 15 months of working my toosh off. So I had an interview. She is very pleasant and straight-forward. She mostly asked me about my resume, but she did ask what I am specifically working on with my acting right now and the dreaded "Do you sing at all?" I almost got through the day without having to sing, but alas, she got a nice little rendition of Happy Birthday. She told me they would be in touch with candidates in February and March for another interview and that was pretty much it, I thanked her and said I had to get home and feed my farm animals, which started some chitchat about milking (her sister also has goats!). I like to find out a little bit about the person asking all the questions.

Then I headed home to some hungry ponies.

I had a fantastic day in Abingdon, as long as it was. I feel confident about my work and I enjoyed meeting a few new people in the time in between auditions and interviews. I find that an organization is reflected in the people that keep it running and the people that it attracts and everyone that I ran into at the Barter--whether they were teaching a dance combination or announcing auditioners or auditioning themselves--were warm and welcoming. It seems like a lovely, nurturing place to be. Even if they never call me, I will definitely be back to see some more shows!

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