Adult Auditions for Nebraska Shakespeare Festival

Nebraska Shakespeare will hold auditions for the professional company of artists to perform in its 30th Anniversary Season of Shakespeare On The Green:

THE TAMING OF THE SHREW and MACBETH
Residency Dates: May 23-July 10
Performance Dates: June 23 – July 10
Audition Dates (Adult): February 13, 4:00 – 9:00 PM, by appointment.

Location:  Lied Education Center for the Arts (2500 California Plz #1, Omaha, NE)

This year’s On The Green company will consist of at least 12 men, 6 women, as well as 1-2 male youth (10-16 years of age) and 1 female youth (8-14 years of age). There are Equity and non-Equity contracts available. Those interested in auditioning for Shakespeare On The Green should prepare two contrasting monologues. One comedy and one dramatic piece are preferred. Youth auditioning should prepare one Shakespearean monologue and sides will be made available. Total audition time is 3 minutes. All actors are encouraged to audition.

To schedule an audition, contact Wesley A. Houston, Director of Production at whouston@nebraskashakespeare.com

Nebraska Shakespeare’s production of THE TAMING OF THE SHREW, directed by Amy Lane, will utilize traditional practices, combining Elizabethan casting practices with Commedia performance techniques. An all male cast will explore role-playing and traditional gender perception in The Taming of the Shrew.

Available Roles Include:
Baptista 50’s-70’s. Male. Any ethnicity. Father of Kate and Bianca, and a Lord in Padua. Pompous, pedantic, and fraudulent. Inept, long-winded, and ineffectual in most situations. [Likely doubles as Duncan in Macbeth]

*Katherine 30’s. Female played by a male. Any ethnicity. The “shrew” of the title. Seemingly bold, pretentious, and swaggering. Notorious for her temper and sharp tongue. Beneath it all, Katherine is a lover at heart. [Likely doubles as Malcolm in Macbeth]

Bianca Early 30’s. Female played by a male. Any ethnicity. Sister of Kate. Innocent and wholesome. Extremely egotistic and eloquent. Having a singular focus on the one she loves, she often speaks with grand declarations of love. [Likely doubles as Banquo in Macbeth]

*Petruchio 30’s. Male. Any ethnicity. Suitor of Kate. A self-appointed soldier, who is seemingly bold, pretentious, and swaggering. Loud, boisterous, and quick-witted. [Likely doubles as Macduff or Mentieth in Macbeth]

*Grumio Late 30’s/Early 40’s. Male. Any ethnicity. (Asian or African-American if doubled with Macbeth). Petruchio’s servant and the fool of the play. With Petruchio he is playful, witty, childlike, and passionate. To other servants, he is Sophisticated, but arrogant, quick-witted, and opportunistic. [Likely doubles as Macbeth in Macbeth]

Nathaniel 20’s. Male. Any ethnicity. Petruchio’s servant. Physically adept, witty, childlike, and passionate. Doubles as Vincentio and Musician in The Taming of the Shrew. [Like doubles as Lennox in Macbeth]

Curtis 20’s. Male. Any ethnicity. Petruchio’s servant. Physically adept, witty, childlike, and passionate. Doubles as Officer, Widow, and Musician in The Taming of the Shrew. [Likely doubles as Seyton or Donalbain in Macbeth]

*Gremio 50’s-60’s. Male. Any ethnicity. Gentleman of Padua. Elderly suitor of Bianca. Able-bodied/athletic. Rich, retired, and miserly. Though he is in control of the money and is quite cunning, he is often deceived and disobeyed. [Likely doubles as Hecate in Macbeth]

*Hortensio Early 30’s. Male. Any ethnicity. Gentleman of Padua. Suitor of Bianca. Pompous, pedantic, and fraudulent. Inept, long-winded, and ineffectual in most situations. [Likely doubles as Stadlin, Seyton, or Ross in Macbeth]

Lucentio Early 20’s.. Male. Any ethnicity. Young student from Pisa. Good-natured, adventurous. Extremely egotistic and eloquent. Having a singular focus on the one he loves, he often speaks with grand declarations of love. [Likely doubles as Menteith or Macduff in Macbeth]

*Tranio Late 20’s. Male. Any ethnicity. Lucentio’s servant. Physically adept, witty, childlike, and passionate. [Likely doubles as Ross, Stadlin, or Seyton in Macbeth]

Biondello 10-16. Male. Any ethnicity. Lucentio’s young servant. Simpleminded, honest, young, and personable. Loves intrigue, which usually lands him in difficult situations. [Possibly doubles as Fleance in Macbeth]

Tailor 20’s. Male. Any ethnicity. Doubles as Merchant and Musician in The Taming of the Shrew. Simpleminded, honest, young, and personable. [Likely doubles as Donalbain in Macbeth]

MACBETH, directed by Vincent Carlson-Brown, takes place in an imagined world. Where the Thanes of Scotland reside, juxtaposed, next to the ghosts of Japan. Where the tenets of tribal warfare mix with the principles of the samurai. Where the monarchy of Shakespeare’s created history mingles its tale with Eastern mysticism. Six Sisters, led by the Priestess, Hecate, will witness Macbeth’s ambitious rise and tragic fall. Each Weyward Sister will play multiple characters throughout.

Available Roles Include:
Duncan 50’s – 70’s. Male. Any ethnicity. The King of Scotland. [Likely doubles as Baptista in The Taming of the Shrew]

*Malcolm 30’s. Male. Any ethnicity. Duncan’s eldest son and Prince of Cumberland. [Likely doubles as Katherine in The Taming of the Shrew]

Donalbain 20’s. Male. Any ethnicity. Duncan’s younger son. [Likely doubles as Curtis or Tailor in Macbeth]

*Macbeth Late 30’s/Early 40’s. Male. Asian or African American. A general in Duncan’s army. Brave,powerful, and ambitious. [Likely doubles as Grumio in Shrew]

*Seyton Late 20’s/ Early 30’s. Male. Any ethnicity. A porter. [Likely doubles as Hortensio, Tranio, or Curtis in The Taming of the Shrew]

Banquo Early 30’s. Male. Any ethnicity. A Thane of Scotland. A brave and noble general. [Likley doubles as Bianca in The Taming of the Shrew]

Fleance 10-16. Male. Any ethnicity. The son of Banquo. [Possibly doubles as Biondello in Shrew]

*Macduff 30’s. Male. Any ethnicity. Thane of Fife. Hostile to Macbeth’s kingship. [Likely doubles as Petruchio or Lucentio in Shrew]

Lady Macduff 30’s-40’s. Female. Any ethnicity. Macduff’s wife. Angry and prideful.

*Ross Late 20’s/ Early 30’s. Male. Any ethnicity. A Thane of Scotland. [Likely doubles as Hortensio or Tranio in Shrew]

*Menteith 30’s. Male. Any ethnicity. Thane of Scotland. [Likely doubles as Petruchio or Lucentio in Shrew]

Lennox 20’s. Male. Any ethnicity. A Thane of Scotland. [Likely doubles as Nathaniel in The Taming of the Shrew]

*Hecate 50’s-60’s. Male. Any ethnicity. Goddess of witchcraft. Able-bodied/athletic. Participates in stage combat. Doubles as Macdonwald, Priestess, Old Man, and Doctor in Macbeth. [Likely doubles as Gremio in Shrew]

*Stadlin Late 20’s/ Early 30’s. Male. Any ethnicity. One of the Weyward Sisters. Doubles as Soldier, Norway and Thane in Macbeth. [Likely doubles as Hortensio or Tranio in The Taming of the Shrew]

Puckle 20’s-40’s. Female. Any ethnicity. One of the Weyward Sisters. Doubles as Groom, Murderer, and Soldier in Macbeth.

Hellwain 20’s-40’s. Female. Any ethnicity. One of the Weyward Sisters. Doubles as Groom, Thane, Woman, and Soldier in Macbeth.

Greymalkin 20’s-40’s. Female. Any ethnicity. Stadlin’s Genius (guardian spirit). Doubles as Captain, Murderer, and Soldier in Macbeth.

Paddock 20’s-40’s. Female. Any ethnicity. Puckle’s Genius (guardian spirit). Doubles as Soldier, Cawdor, and Thane in Macbeth.

Harpier 8-14. Female. Any ethnicity. Hellwain’s Genius (guardian spirit). Doubles as Macduff ‘s daughter in Macbeth.

The role of Lady Macbeth has been cast.

*denotes potential AEA role.

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Transitions, Part 2

As we left off in Part 1, W;t marked a transition for me, but I didn’t know where the road was leading just yet.

During the rehearsal period for W;t, the audition I had been waiting for all season rapidly approached.  That was Twelve Angry Men for the Omaha Playhouse and guest directed by Susan Clement-Toberer.  This play is one of the true classics of theatre and tells the story of a jury deliberating on the guilt of a teen accused of murdering his father.  At the start of the play, eleven of the men are convinced of his guilt and one man isn’t certain.  As the play progresses, the lone standout (Juror 8) slowly convinces the others that there is a reasonable doubt of the boy’s guilt resulting in the exoneration of the accused.

I was interested in the role of Juror 8, but any of the jurors were interesting characters.  I spent a little time preparing for the show with a friend I had made during Macbeth named Doug Blackburn.  Doug would go on to play an extremely vital role in my development as an actor, but that will be a story for a future time.

Now back to the audition.  With very rare exceptions, I always prepare for a show by reading the script first and figuring out which characters catch my interest.  Once I’ve selected my characters, I spend some time polishing them a bit for the audition so I can be seen in my best light.  Needless to say, the bulk of my energies went towards preparing Juror 8.

I got to the audition and noticed there were quite a few men there.  The classics do have a tendency to bring people out of the woodwork.  I ended up being in the first group read and I was given the character of Juror 2.  Juror 2 is a very nervous, reticent man and in this particular scene, he only had 3 little lines so I couldn’t really do much more than act between the lines and listen as a very nervous, reticent man would listen.

There were a couple of more rounds of reading and then Susan said she was going to start sending people home.  I was the first person to go.  Now I had put a lot of work into Juror 8 and I was bound and determined to go down swinging so I asked Susan if I could read one time for that role.  I could hear the gears moving in her head as she cocked it back and forth a couple of times as she considered my request.  Finally, she looked at me and with a look of sympathy on her face said, “I don’t see you as Juror 8.”

Those words hit me with all the subtlety of a gauntlet punch to my stomach.  I thanked Susan for her honesty, took a moment to collect myself, and half-dazedly left the rehearsal hall.  As I stepped into the hallway, Susan tapped me with her clipboard to get my attention and said, “Hey!  Don’t feel bad because I’m sending you home so early.  I know you.  I know what you can do and I just don’t need to see a lot of you.”

I’d like to interrupt the thread of the tale for just a moment to state an important fact.  Directors never intend to make a person feel bad.  A director wants you to be the answer to his or her casting dilemma, but has a duty to the vision of the whole.  A rejection isn’t a rejection of you as a quality performer.  It’s just that you didn’t fit that particular director’s vision of that particular role in that particular play at that particular moment.  We now return you to your regularly scheduled tale.

I said I understood and gave her a hug and a kiss on the forehead and drove to finish off the rehearsal for W;t.  There was no callback and no casting. . .at least not in the usual sense.

Several weeks later I got to the Blue Barn earlier than normal because parking is such a bear down around there.  I was reading a book to pass the time and Susan came in, greeted me, and went to her office area.  A few minutes later, she came back and said, “I know I didn’t cast you in Twelve Angry Men, but I still need someone to play the guard and I’d like to offer him to you.”

You could have knocked me over with a feather.  This was the first time I had ever been offered a role after being formally rejected.  I was also perplexed because 90 men had auditioned for this show and I was amazed that Susan was not able to find a worthy guard in all of those people.  I thought about it for an hour, then told her I would take the role.  In addition to playing the guard, I would also be understudying for Jurors 2 and 5.  I later found out that Doug, who had been cast as Juror 3, had suggested my name to Susan, telling her that I knew how big the show was going to be and that I just wanted to be involved in it.

I was still doing W;t while rehearsals for Twelve Angry Men began and I thought the role would permit me a few days off here and there to recoup my energies.  It turns out that my appearances were spaced out in such a way that I ended up being at rehearsal every night, too.  And that was fine by me.

I got a different type of joy out of Twelve Angry Men because the privilege was just watching the show slowly come to life before my eyes.  I even got to stretch myself a bit as a performer as Susan would let me sub for other actors on nights when they couldn’t be at rehearsal.  Really the only downside, such as it was, was when we actually opened because I was the only character who left the stage.  This meant I had long periods of time by myself which I used to read a John Lennon biography.

Twelve Angry Men was a magnificent triumph.  It was a highly lauded show which earned a standing ovation each and every night.  Just like in Biloxi Blues, this show won every actor award on the non-musical side of things at the Playhouse awards.  Unlike Biloxi Blues, I was unable to recapture my momentum.

I started the next season with a Playhouse audition for a show called Almost, Maine directed by the Playhouse’s new Resident Director, Amy Lane.  This is a quirky show that features 9 vignettes which all take place at 9pm in the town of Almost, Maine.  I had another solid showing and was even asked to stay behind for an extra read.  But once more, I experienced total defeat.  No callback.  No casting.

That seemed to set the tone for the season where I would have good auditions, but just couldn’t seem to get cast.  It all built up to my audition for Mister Roberts at the Playhouse and directed by Susie Baer-Collins. 

Now this audition was a return to the way I had been used to things after the banner season.  I read twice and had stellar reads for Ensign Pulver (whom I wanted) and Mister Roberts (whom I certainly would not have objected to).  And then I got a callback which had me feeling pretty good as I naturally assumed that because I had been called back based on the strength of my reads for those 2 characters then I must be being considered for those 2 characters.

I was in for quite a surprise at the callback when I was never asked to read for either for those characters again.  Instead I spent the entire evening reading for various crew members.  I did get a very positive comment from Doug, who was gunning for the role of the ship’s captain.  He said I had shocked the s$@# out of him as that was the most animation he had ever seen out of me and he loved how I had just thrown caution to the wind.  I explained that in our previous auditions together, he had only seen me audition for more conservative characters which required less animation.

That Friday, Susie called me and offered me the role of Wiley which I accepted.  Truthfully, I did want a more challenging role, but Susie did tell me that I was one of the first people she cast, so she saw something “Wiley” about me.  So I was honored, but wanted more all at the same time.

The day after my casting, I went down to the Blue Barn to audition for their season finale, Rabbit Hole.  That was the intention, but I didn’t even get in the door.  I knew there was going to be some crossover with Mister Roberts, but I hoped it would be at the tail end so I would be able to do both.  My eyes bulged when I noticed that rehearsals would start smack in the middle of the run of Mister Roberts, resulting in the missing of 10 days of rehearsal.

Rabbit Hole was only a 4 person cast, so every person and every role would be vital.  I knew that missing that much rehearsal might be a death knell for my chances.  But, with my never say die attitude, I vowed to go down fighting.  And then I got stopped in my tracks.

Lara Marsh, a dear friend who was stage managing this show as well as Mister Roberts, suddenly materialized by my side and delivered the bad news that Susan was not going to let me audition due to the conflicts with Mister Roberts.  I was let down, but completely understood.  I trashed my audition sheet and drove for home.  Later that night, I did get an e-mail from Susan saying she was sorry that I couldn’t audition, but to push my way through next time and say hi.

Mister Roberts was another hit for the Playhouse and I once again had that sense of contribution that had somewhat eluded me in Twelve Angry Men.  During the run of the show, Doug Blackburn (who won the role of the captain) came up to me at one point and said, “Dude.  Next season.  Go out and be Felix Unger (for the production of The Odd Couple).  I’ll help you.”

I accepted his offer, but after the close of Mister Roberts, I finally found where my road was taking me and it seemed like a brick wall.

Transitions, Part 1

After I came up a little short in The Talented Mr. Ripley, I was asked by Scott Kurz if I would take the role of Young Siward in the BSB production of Macbeth.  The notable thing about the production was that it was my final one with the BSB.  You may recall that after the awakening, I had vowed to give the BSB first crack at me every season in gratitude for giving me chances when nobody else would and for helping me unleash my potential as a thespian.

For a few seasons, I did just that, but things no longer seemed to work out.  Eventually, I had to accept the reality that we were simply growing in different directions and I rode off into the sunset.

Regrettably, I was not able to capitalize on the momentum of the banner season of 05-06 and did not get to perform for nearly a year.  But when I came back, I came back big.

It was the fall of 2007 and I had long wanted to audition for the Shelterskelter festival at the Shelterbelt Theatre.  Shelterskelter is a one act festival held at that theatre every October that is horror themed.  This year the Shelterbelt was trying a bold new experiment by running a full length play for the first time for Shelterskelter.  It was a modern day retelling of the tale, The Duchess of Malfi.

The thrust of the tale is that the Duchess lives with her brothers known as the Duke and the Cardinal (or Deacon in the updated version).  The Duchess falls in love with the stable boy, Anton, and becomes pregnant with his child.  The two decide to run away together which angers the Duke and the Cardinal who don’t want to lose out on her share of the money.  Duke is a very primal and angry character who tries to rape his sister at one point.  Cardinal/Deacon is a more Machiavellian villain, content to manipulate others into doing his dirty work.  The brothers have their henchman, Bosola, keep tabs on Anton and Duchess.  Under the brothers’ orders, Bosola eventually kills both Duchess and her maid.  Anton returns and delivers an ultimately fatal stab wound to Bosola, but gets fatally stabbed himself in the fight.  A dying Bosola exacts final vengeance on both Duke and Deacon before succumbing to his wound.  Really happy play, right?

I was interested in the role of Deacon as a more subtle, manipulative villain carried many intriguing possibilities.  I went to the audition and discovered that the choice to mount a full length play as opposed to a series of one acts carried some consequences.  Very few people showed up to the audition.  The play was also very short at slightly over an hour.  Shelterskelter is also the big moneymaker for the theatre each year and the change in format caused a big dip in attendance.

But let’s get back to the audition.  Again, I had a very good read, extending that streak of good performances.  I was especially pleased with my rendition of Duke in the assault scene as I opted for a more understated approach to enhance the creepiness factor.  I went home feeling pretty good.

The next day I got a phone call from the stage manager of the show and because it was the stage manager, I immediately thought that I hadn’t been cast.  As I listened to the recording, the stage manager said, “We’d really love for you to play the role of Anton.”

The romantic lead?  Were they serious?

I was very flattered and surprised.  I would never have believed that I would have a chance at a romantic leading role.  I’m not unattractive, but I’m not classically handsome.  I would rate myself as cute.  Or as a friend of mine put it, I have a universal face which is good for playing anybody and that type of face tends to lean towards character roles.

Still it was my first leading role of sorts.  The reasons I qualify it is that this show was really an ensemble piece and also this was an amateur play in all senses of the word.  It was an original work produced by the theatre instead of a work that had actually been published and copyrighted.

And it was an intense experience.  I learned the challenges that came with finding numerous beats and carrying weighty scenes.  Also, Duchess and Anton were very passionate and that was something that made me a little nervous.  Fortunately, Duchess was played by one of the most lauded actresses in the city and she made it easy for me and really helped me through those moments.

Although, the show was a disappointment commercially, I really enjoyed being a part of it and it was a good test of my abilities.  I was praised for my acting by other cast members and the directors and I would go on to land leading roles in the Shelterbelt’s Valentine’s one act festival that February and in next year’s Shelterskelter, which returned to the one act format.

While I was performing Shelterskelter, I found myself auditioning for Kevin Lawler once again.  This time he was guest directing W;t over at the Blue Barn Theatre.  W;t tells the story of Vivian Bearing, a literature professor who has stage IV ovarian cancer.  For the most part, it is a one woman show, although other characters do pop up in the tale.  I was interested in the role of the young doctor who treats her cancer and was once a student of hers.

Once more, I utilized a monologue from Cotton Patch Gospel and told the story of Jesus’ temptation in the desert by Satan.  In looking back, I think this was my favorite monologue I had done just because I got to show off 5 characters (Jesus, Matthew, and the 3 forms of Satan).  So it ended up being a good display of my versatility.

For the first time ever, Kevin did not ask me to do any alternate takes on the read and I think a lot of that had to do with the multiple characters I played.  He thought intently for a few moments and said, “Very intense scene.”  He then looked at the monologue, thought a bit more, and said, “Fantastic.  You should hear from me in about a week.  Maybe a bit longer.”

Not too long afterwards, I got the following message on my answering machine:

“This message is for Chris.  Chris, this is Kevin Lawler, and I wanted to offer you a role in Wit.  Several roles, actually.  There are four actors who play lab technicians, students, and residents.  It’s not a leading role, but it’s essential to supporting Phyllis and the enormous job she has.  I’m sorry I’m not able to offer you a leading role this time, but this would be the first time we’ve worked together.  Think about what you want to do and call me back at xxxxx.”

Yes, it sounded as if it would be a bit less challenging than some of my recent roles, but it would be our first chance to work together so I accepted the opportunity.  A few months later, Kevin wrote me and the other 3 multi-character actors and I found it to be most unusual.  He made a point of telling us he knew that our talents were far greater than the roles we were being asked to play and that he knew we had all enjoyed larger roles, but that once the whole machine of the play was in motion, we would be serving a vital part in it.

At that point, I actually went to the library to examine the script and I understood the letter.  Really, we were serving as a Greek chorus and there wasn’t a tremendous amount of depth to the roles we were playing, but I could see the functionality of these characters.  I have often joked that it was the strongest Greek chorus in history as all 4 of us were experienced, polished performers.

And it was a good experience.  The cast bonded pretty strongly and the show was a critical and commercial hit.  The newspaper actually cited it as the greatest show to ever take place on an Omaha stage.

But it was this show that marked a transition to me.  But a transition to what???

To be continued. . .