Arts & Entertainment
2 min

Behind the Theatrelife auditions

More supportive, less catty than stereotype

DRAMA WITHIN DRAMA. Members of the casting crew seen during an open audition for Theatrelife, a Sky Gilbert play about actors. Credit: (Hayley MacPhee)

The first person to audition is a girl in her early twenties. She’s dressed in full workout attire, suggesting she knows the comedic ropes and wouldn’t dream of restricting her free dramatic movement. They have her read for the part of Bridget, the young flibbertigibbet and fearful actor.

When she finishes her cold read, the casting crew tells her all of the good things about her audition.

Outside in the hall, more hopefuls are gathering to mentally prepare before they meet the founders of Toto Too. Oblivious to each other like mental patients, they’re visibly mouthing their lines or cramming for the short scenes that they will later read in character as part of their audition.

Fair warning, this story takes a strange turn at the end. That’s all I’m going to say about it for now.

As the actors emerge after their test run, none sound completely reassured, not even the more experienced actors. And the casting crew, surprisingly, does not jump the gun in terms of selecting their cast. Absolutely everyone who comes through their doors is given positive reinforcement and considered an option.

“An audition is the most nerve-wracking thing in an actor’s life,” proclaimed Teri Loretto at the beginning of auditions for Theatrelife-Toto Too’s newest production-which took place at the Jack Purcell Community Centre on May 5 and 6. Toto Too is Ottawa’s latest gay theatre team. Their first production, William And James, garnered a great deal of positive criticism, making this second production a rather enthusiastic venture for the founders of Toto Too.

Theatrelife, a comedy written by Sky Gilbert, is a play within a play with underlying queer themes including HIV positive characters and ambiguity in same-sex relationships. It chronicles the vicissitudes of a cast working to perform an Edwardian melodrama.

The casting crew, including four of Toto Too’s founders, had sent out the call for 6 actors. They were joined at the audition by guest director Teri Rata Loretto, a theatre veteran who also has experience in a number of independent films, and is a full member of the New Ottawa Repertory Theatre.

(Okay, still waiting for the strange part? It’s coming.)

Before each audition, nervous actors wait outside the rented audition room while Toto Too member, Marc Barrette doles out guidelines and support to auditioning hopefuls.

Each candidate has about 15 minutes with the casting crew. Actors have three minutes at the beginning of their audition to impress the striking slew of judges with a monologue of their choice. After these nervous nancies finish their monologues (most choose to recite from contemporary plays), the casting crew chats with each candidate about his or her experience in the theatre world-or lack thereof-many people who come out to the auditions have never before acted in major productions.

Other candidates, however, such as William and James’ Ryan Browne and Nancy Kenney are seasoned actors in the Ottawa circuit. More experienced actors were encouraged to bring headshots and full resumes to the auditions.

Okay, now for the really twisted part. I arrived on Saturday morning as a Capital Xtra reporter and left as a castmember in Theatrelife.

Bizzare, eh? Aren’t you glad you read to the end?

While on a break from the auditions, I had a moment to speak one of the founders, David Ferguson.

He encouraged me to take part in the auditions to gain a full perception of the mental strain such a thing causes. I agreed, reluctantly.

The next day, I took the plunge. I recite my monologue (an aging drag queen from Franny, Queen of Provincetown) and then reading as the Theatrelife characters Bridget and then Celia, “the bitch”.

And yep, they cast me — as the bitch.

Come see me and the rest of the cast in August.