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Warren Gerds/Critic at Large: Local community theater actor offers guidance on auditioning

Critic At Large

Evergreen Productions/Doug Landwehr

GREEN BAY, Wis. (WFRV) – Here’s the come-on: “What’s on your bucket list? Always wanted to audition for a play but just weren’t sure about it?”

Evergreen Productions community theater of greater Green Bay has a follow-up to help answer questions.

On the troupe’s Facebook site is a series of posts in which local actor Doug Landwehr takes readers inside the process.

The series doesn’t re-invent the wheel, but it comes in the midst of a pandemic when theaters – Evergreen Productions among them – are shifting to adding value to their online sites. Another example is Calumet County Community Players offering a series on the process of putting on a summer musical.

Evergreen Productions says it is looking for men and women to audition for coming virtual productions. That would be by audition video. Its information on virtual auditions: https://www.evergreentheater.org/uploads/2/2/7/0/22702990/virtual_audition_form.pdf.

The umbrella title for Doug Landwehr’s writing is “Waiting in the Green Room.”

Here is a substantially edited sampler, by date, of his thoughts:

+ Feb. 1: “Auditions: What’s the Worst that Could Happen?”

Before I the audition, I do a little homework. To me, the script is key… YouTube or Google help… I’m looking for a role that matches my age, type, and range, of course. And, since I could be spending the next three months on this project if I’m cast – NEVER EVER a sure thing – I want the script/story to be interesting and worth telling…

The typical audition routine is easy. At Evergreen, you fill out an audition card, have your picture taken so the director remembers you, read lines a few times with some different people. Sometimes you prepare and read a monologue… In 2021, we will be auditioning through Zoom and video submissions for now. Same idea, just not quite as much fun….

A hint for people auditioning in person for the first time: be clear, be heard, breathe!… If you have an inspiration about a character from your pre-homework, go ahead and try it out. What’s the worst that could happen?…

I love auditioning. It’s a chance to play make-believe with friends and show off a little with no real-life consequences.

Doug Landwehr. (Evergreen Productions)

+ Feb. 8: “Auditions to Cast Photo: How Much Time?”

As a volunteer actor, my time is my biggest “cost.” But what does that really mean in hours and minutes?

Calendar time for a play is nine weeks: one week of audition (one or two nights), six weeks of rehearsal and two weeks of performance…

Local directors vary, but usually rehearsals are 7 to 9 p.m. Monday through Thursday…  Let’s say 50 rehearsal hours…  If you have less stage time, your rehearsal time might be only 30-40 hours…

The first performance week is the most intense. At Evergreen, we move the set, costumes and props from our construction shop (on Morrow Street in Green Bay) to the Webb Theater (at St. Norbert College in De Pere) on Sunday starting at 8 a.m. Everyone is needed. This can be a 12-hour day…

On that Sunday night, the first tech rehearsal is scheduled. During tech nights and performances, actors need to be at the theater one hour ahead of curtain time and about 30 minutes afterwards. If the show is 2½ hours long, that’s four hours… That Sunday to Sunday is the longest week of the run, 32 hours over eight nights…

How much total time do we have? About 100-140 hours not including travel… But you DO want to try it just once, don’t you?

+ Feb. 15: “Benevolent Dictators of the Stage.”

“Benevolent” in that the director needs the people skills to keep everyone happy and focused on the end goal of applause from an appreciative audience. “Dictator” in that the director is the deciding vote on all things related to a production. There might be discussion with others about cast, blocking, character development, costumes, set, make-up, lighting, tech and more, but the FINAL decision has to be the director’s. Without a strong director supported by the company, a show is chaos.

+ Feb. 22: “Director Call: Do You Want the Part?”

A director likes to have lots and lots of people try out so there are many choices for the cast. Sometimes a director makes a quick decision on casting… and sometimes additional readings are scheduled which holds the whole thing up…

When players are contacted depends on the director. Usually lead roles are cast first because that casting affects supporting roles…

Hearing nothing at first doesn’t mean you don’t have a part, you just may not be top of the queue…

But if you are that ONE person chosen for the part, it’s a tremendous feeling. It’s not a feeling of accomplishment exactly since you haven’t done anything yet. It’s more like being given the secret password to the clubhouse of the cool kids in town.

***

In each of these segments, Doug Landwehr goes into much more detail. The information is from the horse’s mouth and from a local person.

In his latest installment of “Waiting in the Green Room” of March 1, Doug Landwehr touches emotions as he looks back on the last production Evergreen Productions put on in March 2020.

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