Blue Barn Theatre Announces Auditions for “Frost/Nixon”

The BLUEBARN Theatre will hold auditions for Frost/Nixon by Peter Morgan.  Auditions will be held on Saturday, October 10th from 11 a.m. – 2 p.m. and Monday, October 12th from 6 p.m. – 8 p.m. in their new home at 1106 S. 10th St.  (10th & Pacific) Auditions will consist of cold readings from the script. Callbacks (if necessary) will be determined at the auditions. Frost/Nixon will be directed by Randall T. Stevens.  Performances for Frost/Nixon run February 4 – 28, 2016 with rehearsals scheduled to begin in mid-December, 2015.

Needed for Frost/Nixon:  8 male (ages 20s-60s), 2 female (ages 20s-30s)  All ethnicities are encouraged to audition.  All roles are available. Please contact Randall T. Stevens at rstevens@bluebarn.org for specific character breakdowns.

About Frost/Nixon

Richard M. Nixon has just resigned the United States presidency in total disgrace over Vietnam and the Watergate scandal. British talk-show host David Frost has become a lowbrow laughing-stock. Determined to resurrect his career, Frost risks everything on a series of in-depth interviews in order to extract an apology from Nixon. The cagey Nixon, however, is equally bent on redeeming himself in his nation’s eyes. In the television age, image is king, and both men are desperate to outtalk and upstage each other as the cameras roll. The result is the interview that sealed a president’s legacy.

ABOUT THE BLUEBARN THEATRE

The BLUEBARN Theatre has been bringing professionally-produced plays to area audiences since 1989. Since its inception, BLUEBARN has produced over 100 plays and has established itself as Omaha’s professional contemporary theatre company.  Striving to bring artistically significant scripts and professional production values to Omaha and the surrounding region, BLUEBARN is known for high-quality entertainment and the fearless pursuit of stories that challenge both theatre artists and patrons.

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Blue Barn Conjures Up a Magical Night with “The Grown-Up”

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A ten year old boy discovers a magic crystal doorknob that allows him to jump forward in his own lifespan.  As he experiences the trials, tribulations, and triumphs of adulthood, he finds that he wants nothing more than to return to being a child.  This is The Grown-Up by Jordan Harrison which is the inaugural production for the Blue Barn Theatre at its new home at 10th and Pacific Streets.

The ethereal quality of this show really compels the viewer to watch it with a bit of childlike wonder to fully appreciate its magic.  I could watch this play each and every night of its run and I would come away with a different interpretation each and every time.  Is it really happening?  Is it a story?  If so, whose story?  Kai’s?  The grandfather’s?  The cabin boy’s?  Is it a metaphor?  The reality is that the answer is unimportant as the truth of the story will be what each audience member makes of it and that is the wonder and the beauty of this piece.

Susan Clement-Toberer has done a masterful job of directing this tale.  The staging is some of the finest I’ve seen in an Omaha production.  The pace is spot-on.  Most importantly, Ms Clement-Toberer has cast the play exceptionally well.  This play is the very definition of an ensemble piece, requiring each role to be precisely cast and for each member of the cast to have a specific chemistry with the others.  And, believe me, this cast fires on all cylinders with a group performance that was unerringly accurate.

Matt Karasek makes his Blue Barn debut as Actor A and primarily plays the role of Kai.  His physicality and vocal work is astonishing as Kai ages with each turn of the doorknob.  In one moment he’s a slightly obnoxious ten year old, in another he’s lamenting about his imminent arrival at middle age, finally he’s a crotchety old man bedeviled by the infirmities of old age.  Yet all the while, Karasek’s beautifully sincere delivery brings the audience along on his emotional ride as he desperately wants nothing more than to be a boy again.

I have finally discovered the one thing Megan Friend cannot do.  She cannot give a bad performance.  Ms Friend once again proves she is one of Omaha’s top rising talents with her turn as Actor D.  With a droop in her shoulders and a dash of husk to her voice, she is Kai’s grandmother, calmly stitching away while being slightly exasperated by Grandfather as he tells another of his tall tales.  Suddenly her posture is ramrod straight, her voice bright and perky, and her movements robotically precise as she becomes the secretary to a TV executive.  Her Adderall addiction clearly does not make a dent in her ADHD and, Lord, does she have an ego, though she tries to hide it.  A quick change in hairstyle and she is Paola, the kindly and attentive nurse to the aged Kai.  Ms Friend’s acting was a supreme bit of character work and a highlight of the night.

Jerry Longe’s considerable comedic skills are used to their fullest potential as Actor E.  His voice just drips with a charming insincerity when he’s a TV exec listening to Kai’s pitch for a new TV series.  Longe’s turn as an effeminate, overwrought wedding planner had the audience chuckling merrily.  He is even allowed a bit of seriousness as a mysterious caretaker of magic who may or may not be the force behind the crystal doorknob.

Katie Otten delights in her Blue Barn debut as Actor B.  She is primarily featured as Annabelle, Kai’s younger sister.  As the child version of Annabelle, Ms Otten is a hoot with her bratty nature as she repeatedly schools Kai in gin rummy and tattles on him when he tells her to shut up.  Her love for Kai increases with her maturity as she searches for Kai after he’s taken away by the doorknob.  Ms Otten makes for a delightful old lady as she struggles with her walker to give a eulogy for Kai.

Nick Albrecht excels as the enigmatic Actor F.  Albrecht not only has a rich and powerful baritone that is a storyteller’s dream, but he knows how to use it to the utmost.  Albrecht’s primary role is that of a fisherman who was once a cabin boy on a pirate ship and sets the legacy of the doorknob in motion.  Albrecht has a gift for underplaying which makes everything he touches very, very real.  One can feel the loneliness and sadness of the cabin boy when he loses a friend and father figure during a terrible storm.  Albrecht also creates some tender moments with Karasek when they share some pillow talk about Kai’s aging.

I truly do not believe there is a role that Nils Haaland cannot play to perfection.  As Actor C, he plays roles that are as diverse as possible.  He starts the play as a somewhat doddering old grandfather weaving fantastic tales for Kai.  In the blink of an eye, he becomes the first mate of the pirate ship and patiently trains the young cabin boy and takes him under his wing as a surrogate son.  Then he’s Kai’s fiancée, gleefully engaging in banter with him on their wedding day.

This is one of those shows where all of the elements come together to create something truly special.  Not only do the directing and acting hit the marks, but Martin Scott Marchitto’s simple set of boxes and tables with a few everyday objects hanging from the ceiling open the mind to imagination.  Carol Wisner’s lighting not only enhances the story, but is some of the best I’ve seen in a production.  Martin Magnuson’s sound design brings the audience deeper and deeper into the tale, especially with his storm sound effects.

The Grown-Up invites the audience to use their imagination and I would highly recommend to not overthink on what you are watching otherwise you will miss out on its true beauty.

The Grown-Up runs at the Blue Barn Theatre through October 18.  Showtimes are 7:30pm Thurs-Sat and 6pm on Sundays.  Please note there is no performance on September 27.  Tickets are $30 for adults and $25 for students, seniors (65+), TAG members, and groups of 10 or more.  For reservations, call 402-345-1576 from 10am-4pm Mon-Fri or visit their website at www.bluebarn.org.  The Blue Barn Theatre is located at 1106 S 10th St in Omaha, NE.

A Season of Change, Part II: Lessons Learned

If I were to retire from theatre today, I could look back on my career with a certain degree of satisfaction.  Not only do I have nearly 30 shows to my credit, but I’ve been fortunate enough to work with some of the best directors in the city, have worked in every major theatre in the city, have been a part of shows that have been listed as Omaha’s finest, enjoyed some great roles, and have even garnered some critical praise from the public and my theatre brethren.

And no, for those who may be wondering, I’m not planning on hanging things up just yet.  I’m still very much a work in progress and I still marvel at just how much my thinking has changed over the past few years.  For the longest time, I felt like I had something to prove each and every time I auditioned.  And then I finally proved it to myself, which is what I was really trying to do the whole time.  Now I just have something to show and let the chips fall where they may after that.  A big part of showing that something is to not be afraid to dive off the cliff.  That’s the lesson I recently learned.

In part I, I mentioned that I was prepping for an audition for one of my big 3 shows.  Then something came along the way that interrupted that preparation.  I read the script for Bad Jews which will be performed at the Blue Barn this spring and I found it to be one of the strongest scripts that I had read in quite a while.  I really wanted to read for this show, even though I was a good decade older than the oldest character in the show.  That hurdle was actually the least of my problems as I was also going to be out of town for both days of the audition.  What to do?  What to do?

I ended up talking the matter over with Randall Stevens, the Blue Barn’s new associate artistic director, and he allowed me the opportunity to come in and read early.  I saw this as a very positive sign so I prepared diligently.  I was also lucky enough to be able to work with Kaitlyn McClincy and Noah Diaz at my read which gave me some strong performers to play with.

My reads were OK.  I know they could have been better.  One telling direction that Randall gave to Kaitlyn and myself was to be flinging knives at each other as we argued.  Ten minutes after I left the audition, I knew what I should have done.  That’s why I know the reads could have been better.  If you audition right, you leave the audition with the feeling that you could have done no better.  Whether you get cast or not is irrelevant, it’s simply the knowledge that you left everything on stage.  And I did not do that.

Recently, Susan Clement posted a wonderful quotation from John Cleese that said, “Nothing will stop you from being creative so effectively as the fear of making a mistake.”  That’s exactly what happened to me.  Not only did this happen at this audition, but it also happened in my previous audition, detailed in Part I.  I went out to try to prove something instead of trying to show something.  Because of that, I held back because I didn’t want to muck up my chances.  I compare it to running towards the end of a cliff and, instead of diving off to see if I’d soar or crash, I put the brakes on at the very edge of the cliff and said, “Lovely view”.

As I thought of that metaphor, I began to reflect on my past work and auditions.  I realized that my absolute best work came when I went out and just did it.  When I went out and tried to prove a point, that’s when I’d usually trip and fall.  Mind you, going out and just doing it didn’t mean I always got cast or even the role I wanted.  But it did mean I always left the theatre feeling satisfied and that’s the feeling I plan to have from here on out.

I’ve also got to be honest and admit that I might not have been cast in Bad Jews even if my audition had been of a Tony Award winning caliber.  I had my photo taken not too long after the audition and, son of a gun, my hair is really silver.  If I’d been directing and saw me audition, I would have thought I looked too old for the part from the start.  So I’ve also got to keep those little realities in my mind when selecting roles from here on out.

So now I’m back on track to audition for one of my big 3.  I’ve learned the lesson to always dive off the cliff and I’ve also learned to be aware of my look.  The latter will play a big role in that audition as I may have to admit that the role I really want may now be past my age range.  I’ll still keep the hope that there’s a chance I can land it, but I’m also preparing for an equally good character that may now be within my age range.

Until the next time. . .

It Must Be Providence. . .Inn

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For a change, the road has brought me to a place I know very well:  Denison, IA.  I’ve passed through this town on numerous occasions as I’ve traveled to and from Fort Dodge and Eagle Grove to visit my best friend.  This small town actually has a touch of celebrity about it as it is the birthplace of the actress, Donna Reed.

This time my purpose in Denison was to visit the Providence Inn, owned and operated by Duane and Kristy Zenk.  As I drove on the street where the inn was located, I looked in vain for a sign pointing out the inn.  I thought I recognized the inn on my first pass, but blithely passed it when I couldn’t see the sign.  On my third go around, a helpful woman on the porch began waving me down.  I pulled into the driveway and sheepishly asked, “Is this Providence Inn?”  Upon confirmation, I grabbed my laptop and backpack and was welcomed into the inn by Kristy.

The first thing I noticed is that this house is deceptively long.  Kristy led me through the labyrinthine second floor to my room, the Chestnut Suite, which was located at the end of the hall.

The Chestnut Suite

The Chestnut Suite

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The suite had a simplistic elegance about it and the soft green paint on the walls really seemed to induce relaxation.  After settling in, I set about exploring the inn.

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The commons

The commons

The music room

The music room

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After my exploration of the premises, the rumbling in my stomach told me it was time for a little dinner.  I made my way to Cronk’s, a local restaurant at the edge of town where I’ve enjoyed many a meal over the years.

The restaurant was surprisingly empty for a Friday night.  I opted for the Chef’s Special Ribeye dinner.  While I enjoyed the salad course, I read my novel and overheard a rather humorous conversation between an elderly gent and his son about the quality and types of various ribs.

When the waitress set down my meal, I was surprised by the quality of the cut of meat I had received.  I’ve been to gourmet steakhouses that didn’t serve a steak this well cooked.  Grilled and seasoned to perfection, I savored every blissful mouthful and marveled that I was only paying $14.95 for this meal.  If you pass through this town, stop here for a meal.  You will not be disappointed.

After supper, I wandered through the business district and saw the famed Donna Reed Performing Arts Center.  I wished a play had been going on so I could have had to chance to explore the inside (and write a review).  I later discovered that the center only mounts 4 productions a year, but does have various theatre workshops during the year.

Once I had wandered about enough, I returned to the inn and the confines of my room where I enjoyed a hot bath and spent the evening studying David Mamet’s American Buffalo for a possible audition at the Blue Barn in a few weeks’ time.  Once I was good and sleepy, I drifted off to the land of nod.

I had forgotten my fan which I use for white noise to help me sleep, but nature provided nicely when I awoke to a powerful thunderstorm during the night.  As I listened to the heavy raindrops splatter against the windowpane, I felt an immense sense of peace and security as sleep gained a proper hold on me.

When I awoke the next morning, I was ready for a rousing breakfast.  I walked downstairs to the dining room and found a pitcher of orange juice and a small dish of fruit waiting for me.  While I munched on bananas, grapes, and strawberries, Kristy brought out a blueberry crepe stuffed with cream with a side dish of sausage links.

I contentedly munched away as I talked with Kristy about my project, website, and theatre endeavors.  After a half hour of food and talk, I made my way back up to my room.

Denison really is a small gem of a town and this inn is truly a gem of the town.  If you find yourselves here, you won’t go wrong by getting a room at Providence Inn and exploring some of the sights of this little town.

 

Chasing the Dream

So now I had a goal and my first attempt at reaching that goal was to audition for the One Act Festival during my freshman year at Creighton University.

I auditioned for a show called The Actor’s Nightmare which was a comedy about an ordinary man who suddenly finds himself going through a series of clichéd performance pieces and he is completely out of place.  Secretly, I hoped that I was a natural and that I would blow away the director with my audition and nab the leading part.  I got up on stage, took a deep breath, and made an amazing discovery. . .

I was NOT a natural.

Don’t get me wrong.  My audition wasn’t terrible.  It just wasn’t that great either.  For a first audition, it was OK.  Later that week, I was walking around campus with a friend who had also auditioned for the festival when our theatre instructor, Michael McCandless, approached from the opposite direction and gave my friend the great news that he had just cast him as the lead in the other play at the festival, Riders to the Sea.  Naturally, in all the excitement, I thought that Michael was going to tell me that I, too, had been cast in the festival.  My excitement evaporated in the blink of an eye when I saw Michael look at me with a glint of pity in his eyes.

“Chris, I’m sorry, but you didn’t make it in this time,” he said.

So went my first audition and my first taste of rejection, which would become an all too common taste over the next few years.

Due to my heavy class schedule, I was not able to audition again until my sophomore year.  Carrying another heavy class schedule, I only managed one audition and it followed the same path as the first.  An OK audition, but I was clearly outclassed.  During the summer break, I vowed to go into future auditions with a much higher level of preparation to overcome my inexperience and to get out to more auditions.

Enter my junior year of college.  I was able to audition immediately for The Importance of Being Ernest.  I knew the play well and attempted to perfect each and every male role in the show which was a colossal error in judgment because no character got any special attention and all were underdeveloped as a result.

Adding to my error was the fact that I got a bit overlooked at the audition.  Everyone got to read multiple times before I ever got to read.  A few people actually got up there 5 times before I got to read once.  Even then, I was never actually called up to read.  The director finally asked if there was anyone who had not had an opportunity to read and I sheepishly raised my hand.  With my confidence dead in the water, I proceeded to get up and gave an absolutely wretched audition.  I vowed to return the next night and give a better showing.

And that didn’t happen.  When I returned the second night, I was not asked to read again.  I did ask if I could read a couple roles at the end of the night and was granted the opportunity, but it was a failure and I knew it.  To make my defeat total, when I left for the night, the director, Bill Hutson, said, “Thanks, Mike.”  Ouch.

For the first time, I would audition a second time during the school year.  An original play called The Empty Plough was going to be guest directed by its writer, Kevin Lawler, one of the founders of the famed Blue Barn Theatre in Omaha.  This time around, focusing on characters was easy as it was a small cast and there were only 2 male roles.  I was especially attracted to the character of Vern.

This play takes place in a post-apocalyptic world where 3 characters (Vern, Fern, and Fran) barely survive.  Vern is an angry, bitter man, though he has deep love for Fern and Fran which is hidden behind his bluster.  The three meet Lillian, an angel figure sent by the godlike Joseph, who tells them to build a plough which will bring them to a better place.  Near the end of the play, Fern gets sick and dies and is taken to Heaven by Lillian.  Vern finally drops his façade and pleads with Fern to come back and his monologue crescendos to him having a heart attack which ultimately kills him.  Such a powerful piece of writing.

I got to the audition and Kevin discussed the show and told us he would be bringing us in one at a time to read a monologue.  I was handed Vern’s monologue from the end and I got really excited because I had a lot of ideas as to what to do with this reading.  My confidence received a further boost when Kevin said, “I don’t care whether you think you’re an actor or not because I have enough faith in my abilities to bring the actor out of you.”  It just made me feel like I had a real chance.

Out into the hallway I went and read and waited.  I ended up being the final reader of the night.  I went into that theatre, shook Kevin’s hand, and he got to know me a little.  Then he asked me how many shows I had done.  Timidly, I replied that I had not done any.  Kevin quickly assured me that was all right and he just wanted me to take the monologue and have some fun with it.

This reading was the first flash of what I could really do as a performer.  Even today, the read still stands out as a great one as I portrayed Vern as a broken, haunted individual who would give anything not to lose a member of his “family”.  When I finished, Kevin was really excited and said, “Excellent!  I loved the vulnerability you showed with the character.  Now let’s see you do it angry.”

What happened next can only be described as if I had gone to a rifle range, carefully lined the target up in my sight, then turned the gun around and went, “BANG!!!”  The flash I had with the first reading vanished.  I knew Vern was angry, but didn’t think he needed to be angry here, so I wasn’t prepared to make the transition.  My second reading was very awkward and I sounded mocking and mean instead of angry.  When I finished, Kevin told me that the cast would be called by Sunday night.

I left and still felt pretty good because of the strength of the first read.  My head was so high in the clouds, I was starting all of my prayers with, “Lord, as long as I’m in the neighborhood. . .”  I was jumping on the phone every time it rang, especially Sunday.

Sunday ended and I did not receive a call.

And I was devastated.

And I wept. . .

To be continued