All the World's a Stage and Other Theater Cliches: Part I of a Series on Amateur Theater Acting
by Neil Battinelli
Everyone needs a hobby. Some people kayak, rock climb, or collect comic books or stamps. Others enjoy collecting alternative things like venereal diseases. My hobby is performing on stage. I am a community theater actor.
As I’m writing this, my area’s local production of The Crucible in which I play the lead, John Proctor, is currently in tech week. Tech Week is theatre nerd-speak for “the week before a show opens” and sometimes affectionately referred to as “hell week.” The Crucible marks the 20th production I’ve been involved in — so I do know a thing or two about performing on stage.
I’ll admit community theater is a strange hobby to have, but few things can compare to the rush you feel when you’re on stage in front of a live audience. Anything can happen — like a set piece could fall apart or a joke could be met with silence. Someone could forget their lines or worse, YOU forget your lines! *GASP!!*
Or… everything could go absolutely perfect and you’re met with an audience full of your friends and family members on their feet, applauding your efforts with a standing ovation and in that moment, all your hard work is rewarded.
Community theater gives you a chance to flex your creative muscles, meet new people in your area and experience a sense of community in ways other creative outlets cannot.
If this sounds like a hobby that appeals to you and you are even remotely interested in participating in your local community theatre, I hope you’ll find this article helpful in understanding what it’s like to be a part of something that is as rewarding as community theater.
But where do you begin? Well, dear reader, the first step is to see what’s out there and the best place to look is online. Search your area for community theater troupes. You may be surprised to find there are more than one to choose from. Look to see if they have a website. Most theater troupes worth their salt have their own website.
Once you’ve found their site, look for a link to upcoming auditions. If you don’t see a link that says “Auditions” it might be listed under “Season” or “Our Season” or something like that. Check the list of shows and see if you recognize any. If none of the shows are familiar, look them up and review the plot. Does the story sound interesting? Is it a musical? Is it a straight play or non-musical?
As a side note: If this is your first show, and you have a modicum of singing talent, I suggest starting with a musical. Musicals usually have large casts to fill and the chances of getting an ensemble part are in your favor; more so than if you were auditioning for a straight play where sometimes there are only three roles available.
Try to pick two shows that pique your interest and then visit your local library or go to Amazon and pick up copies of the scripts and get reading!
I cannot stress enough how important it is for you to review the synopsis of a show before you decide to make the commitment to join — learn from my personal experience — if you are in a show that you don’t enjoy, you’re going to have a bad time. I was once cast as Bernardo in West Side Story and it wasn’t until the third or fourth rehearsal when I realized, I hated West Side Story and dropped out.
Looking back, that was a terrible thing I did. I should never have auditioned in the first place. I wasted their time in rehearsals and then I forced them to scramble to find a replacement for Bernardo. I learned from that.
One year, I looked at a certain theatre company’s season and I saw they were hosting auditions for a play I never heard of called The Pillowman. I read the synopsis online and found that it was a play about a writer whose gruesome short stories about children being murdered were coming true. I was intrigued. I bought the script and fell in love with the show. To this day it’s still one of my favorite shows and I would never have heard of it if I didn’t do a little digging.
When I read The Pillowman, one of the smaller characters Michal, spoke to me. He was a severely damaged man and I loved him. I HAD to play him. So I reviewed Michal’s lines and created a character from the words on the page.
After you’ve read the script, think about what character you identify with most and then read over their sections again. Familiarize yourself with their lines and/or songs and be prepared for the audition. Directors love actors that will work. If you go into an audition prepared, it will speak volumes to what you can do during rehearsal.
Now that you’ve picked the show you want to audition for and the character you want to play, mark your calendar for the audition date and time and get ready for my next article on preparing for your first audition!
Let us know in the comments if you found this helpful or interesting at all and hopefully one day, I’ll see you on the stage!