Monday, August 31, 2009

Auditioning for a Miller South play or musical

No matter what your interest area, you are welcome to try out for our fall play and spring musical. This school is full of multi-talented students at every grade level. We do our best to involve as many students as possible, but unfortunately we can't cast everyone who tries out. This essay is an attempt to address a number of issues involving casting the school productions at Miller South School for the Visual & Performing Arts.

Your audition begins the moment you enter the auditorium. Above all, I am looking for student actors who respect the performance space and the other actors. So if you enter chewing gum, chattering away to others, running around the aisles of the theatre, drinking anything other than water or eating a snack, you are not doing yourself any favors. Your behavior at an audition tells me what your behavior will be like during the rehearsal period.

Remember that a rehearsal period is about 8 - 10 weeks long of rehearsals that last for two hours or more each. I am looking for students who are serious about being in a play. I am looking for students who are on time and prepared for every rehearsal. I am also looking for students who know the importance of listening to instructions rather than talking with their neighbor.

Sometimes students ask me if they can try out for a particular role. Most directors prefer to make the casting decisions based upon what their own idea of what that character should be. Because so many students try out for our productions, it is best that you do not ask if you can try out for a particular role. The director's job is to cast according to her/his own artistic vision for the play.

Sometimes a particular play has very specific casting demands. For example, the musical "Annie" has a cast that features many female roles and very few male roles. Some plays require more older actors and other plays require more younger actors. I always publish an audition notice that lists special cast requirements including gender and size. At Miller South with a school population of 4 - 8th grade students, I have found that we can do most plays utilizing our more mature 6/7/8th grade students playing "adult" roles, while the shorter 4/5/6 students can play the role of "children." Some plays that feature animals or other imaginative beings may not be so strictly cast by grade level and size.

At Miller South we practice what is known as non-traditional or color-blind casting. That means that it doesn't matter what your ethnic/cultural background is in terms of casting. The only time ethnicity becomes important is if the play deals with the subject in a very specific way. For example, the musical Steal Away Home was about the underground railroad leading up to America's Civil War. In that particular production, we honored history by casting African American actors in parts that were written to be played by African Americans. Likewise, gender only becomes an issue in playing a role when the part demands that we cast a part the way it is written. Charlie in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory will be played by a boy. Alice in Alice in Wonderland will be played by a girl. But parts that have nothing to do with gender may be cast as "either." For example, a character labeled "doctor or "scholar" and so on, may be male or female.

Another aspect of the director's job is to make sure that the opportunity to be in a school play is extended to all. I may not cast you this time, but if you keep showing up at auditions, eventually you will get cast. I tend not to cast the same people over and over again in leading roles. We have so many talented students that it is very easy to find new leads for each production. On the other hand, there are certain students who are such a joy to work with that I find it difficult to not cast them. These are the student actors who are capable and willing to play a variety of roles of any size.

When casting a play, I tend to go with the best suited for the main parts and then divide the remaining roles among the lesser experienced actors. Some students start with non-speaking roles and over the years work their way up to more substantial parts.

One final thing to consider before you try out -- remember that once you accept your part, you have made a commitment to the productions. Directors don't like it when you accept a part and then try out for something else hoping to get a bigger role and then drop the first part that you already accepted. Be honest and upfront with your directors. Often times, you can work out overlapping rehearsal schedules. But if it won't work for either of your directors, be willing to make a choice and abide by it.

If you have any questions, post them here in the comment section and I will be happy to answer them.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Audition opportunity for Hispanic kids 8 - 13

This was posted on the NEOhioPal list. The Talent Group is a professional talent agency based in Cleveland:


The Talent Group is seeking Hispanic kids ages 8-13 for submission for a
major commercial. No experience necessary. Please send three digital
pictures to <> if
interested in submitting.


**Eric Roland Baker Carlson**

The Talent Group

2530 Superior Ave. Suite 6C

Cleveland, OH 44114


Saturday, August 15, 2009

Commedia at University Arts in the Park

Wow! What a great afternoon of commedia. The summer troupe performed four scenarios today at Grace Park as part of the celebration of the arts. All the hard work this past summer have paid off big time! These young actors met for two hours every week all summer long in order to develop as actors and as an ensemble. I am very proud of what they have accomplished.

We spent a lot of time working on physicalizations of characters, mask techniques and working as a group to "tell the story." Tell it they did, and well! Our audiences today were into it. When I wasn't photographing, I was laughing at all the delightful interplay between the actors. They have learned to adjust to changing circumstances as well as becoming very comfortable addressing the audience and interacting with them.

In the photos, you will notice a new actor in the summer troupe. Making his commedia debut, Hamlet the Sheltie pup, did an awesome job as official "dog in the crowd." Three actors took turns "handling" the pup, who is 6 and a half months old. He has attended most of our training sessions this summer and all thanks to the troupe members who have helped him learn to socialize with young people. I have been working with Terry Cranendonk, an actor and a dog trainer, with the goal of teaching Hamlet some skills that will enhance our scenarios. We've been using positive training techniques, which have helped young Hamlet focus on his role as "extra" this summer. Look for him to become more involved in the actions next summer!

Friday, August 7, 2009

Are you getting ready for school?

There's something about August that makes one begin to think about school days once again. I've been digging into my piles that needed to be turned into files for the new school season ahead.

Here you see that Ophelia and Hamlet have decided to help me out with the filing. Hamlet has just filed Ophelia under C for C A T. She prefers O for Ophelia!

Looking forward to hearing about your summer fun when we meet for the annual Drama Picnic, Tuesday August 18th at Hardesty Park on West Market near Hawkins.


Thursday, August 6, 2009

Akron Arts Expo pix!

We arrived at Hardesty Park for the Akron Arts Expo on a windy, rain-threatening Saturday. Fortunately, Parks and Recreation had us scheduled to perform on their portable stage, with very convenient cover from rain drops. By the time we were ready to start, the rain stopped and workers began hauling out chairs for our audience.

The troupe shows great improvement in this, only their second performance of the summer. We've had great attendance and dedicated focus at our weekly training sessions. The photos reveal that the actors are paying more attention to each other and to their own characterizations. Each character has his or her own "shape" -- like a cartoon drawing in that the characters are exaggerated and should never appear to be standing around in a relaxed body.

Keep up the excellent work, troupe!