As audience members, we see very little of what actually goes into the production of a play. We see the final products: perfectly focused lights, smooth delivery of memorized lines, vibrant costumes and dynamic set pieces.
Before these elements can come together, months of hard work must be put in by the entire cast and crew. The primary step in creating a show is also one of the most stressful moments: the auditions.
Last Thursday evening, University of Dallas students lined up outside the Drama Building to try out for this semester’s Mainstage, a devised edition of Calderon’s “Life is a Dream” directed by Department Chair Kyle Lemieux.
Every audition is different, but whether it’s a professional, community, or university theater, auditions are always nerve-wracking affairs.
“I always get nervous, and I shake a little bit before auditions,” freshman Madeleine Bishop said. “But I’m not going to be completely devastated if I don’t get a role.”
Before auditions began, Lemieux called all the students into the building in order to give them some instruction and encouraging words.
“I’m probably more nervous than you guys are,” Lemieux told the room full of anxious auditioners.
Typically, an audition consists of two parts: the cold read and the callback. A cold read is when actors are given very little time to familiarize themselves with the material with which they will be auditioning. A callback is a second round of auditions in which the director selects a group of auditioners to come back in and continue to read sides and monologues in an effort to narrow down the selection of actors.
Senior drama major Zeina Masri described a typical auditioning process.
“We state our name and what we are going to read — we slate,” Masri said. “And then Kyle says ‘whenever you’re ready,’ and then we read our side. Kyle usually gives us a few notes and then we take his notes as best we can, do whatever he tells us to do, and then leave and wait for callbacks.”
This time around, however, the callbacks were not what anyone expected. Since Lemieux has elected to produce a devised version of this play, it will be based upon the text, but not limited by it. Plot, character, gender, setting — all of these elements are subject to change. Lemieux therefore needed to find an ensemble that would be adaptable and open to trying anything in his “Dream Project.”
“I’m looking for storytellers,” Lemieux said. For the second round of auditions, this meant improv.
“[Callbacks] were not what I expected,” freshman Paul Bond said. “We had 10 minutes to come up with a story, and we were separated into groups. When we all had our stories [Kyle] took one person from each group and had them find a different group. So we had to do the play with one person who had no idea what they were doing.”
The requirements for the scenes were as follows: it must be a story that happened during the summer, it must engage the audience and one prop must be used.
“It got pretty crazy,” Bond said. “Some people just went all out.”
One group acted out a scene in a Walmart, staged as a Greek tragedy, while another group told a story about playing hide-and-seek in an Ikea.
“It was so fun,” junior drama major Ellen Rogers said. “It didn’t feel like an audition, it just felt like a game. It took all the stress away.”
After what turned into a four-hour process, auditioners returned home exhausted by the length of the audition, but energized by the excitement, and anxiously waited for the cast list to be posted the next day.
Friday afternoon the list went up, and Monday night the dynamic ensemble began rehearsing.
Congratulations to freshmen Madeleine Bishop, Dolores Mihaliak and David Morales, sophomores Jackson Berkhouse and Nicholas More and seniors Rachel Polzer and Zeina Masri.