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Julian discusses his ‘blob of jelliness’ at auditions

In this post I’d like to cover briefly how we all got here. First of all, I suppose, you can trace it all back to the brain of Alan Osburn, the Producing Artistic Director for the Fine Arts Center Theatre Company. Last year he came up with a 2007/2008 season and, of course, it had to have a Christmas-themed December show. This particular adaptation caught his eye, since it’s not performed all that often (in fact we’ve not been able to find any cast recording of it) and it can certainly be called the quintessential story about Christmas. So, A Christmas Carol (Dec. 5–21, 2008) it is then.

Next on the list of things to do is get a director. Having applied for this position myself (I directed “Cabaret” at the FAC a couple of years back), it involves asking possible directors for their vision of the production. How would they like to present it to an audience, what do they want to concentrate on in the story, what aspects of the music do they want to bring out, and so on. All touchy-feely stuff. The result was that Alan picked Susan Dawn to direct.

Next up, is hiring the other “directors”, those for music and choreography, for set and sound and lighting. Putting on a musical involves gathering together a whole bunch of talented people even before you get to think about the actors. So pretty quickly Roberta Jacyshyn and Mary Ripper Baker were signed up for music and dance, for which I am very glad, since I’ve worked with them before, most notably in “Anything Goes”.

At this point, it’s time for the auditions for the actors. You as actor get essentially 5 minutes or so: 12 or 16 bars of some song that you can sing and that shows off your particular voice and range, and a 2 minute monologue to show off your acting chops.

Let me tell you, an audition can be nerve-racking. I’m not a great singer, so my music auditions generally turn me into a blob of jelly. I’m much more relaxed about my acting auditions, be they monologues or just reading from sides (a theatre term: a “side” is a small extract of a play, usually photocopied from the script, that concentrates on one role in particular). The reason for that is simple, I consider myself much more of an actor than anything else and feel comfortable taking on a role, even briefly.

Sometimes, though it’s worse. Worse? Say it isn’t so! The choreographer can insist on a dance audition too (“How quickly you can pick up a simple routine, Julian?” Glazed look from yours truly.). Given that I have at least two left feet — I lose count sometimes — my blob of jelliness will turn almost liquid by this point and I have to be mopped off the stage.

For the directors, auditions are a piece of cake. They sit out there in the auditorium in the gloom and bark commands at you. You, of course, hope it’s not something short like “Next!” I remember one audition I listened to as director of “Cabaret”, the poor girl decided to do a monologue from “The Importance of Being Earnest” by Oscar Wilde, perhaps one of the most quintessential English plays in the repertoire. And she did it in front of an Englishman who’d appeared in it in a production a few years previously. And she did it straight without any appreciation of what the monologue was about. Ay yay yay, she didn’t have a hope, but since she was the last audition of the evening, I took pity on her and talked to her about the play and about Gwendolyn, whose monologue it was. I then asked her to do it again. Since she couldn’t do an English accent, I asked her to be more freeform with it and do it as a Valley Girl (“Yah, I’m like way glad to say that I have never, like totally never, seen a spade. WhatEVER.”) and I have to say it was much better.

What isn’t a piece of cake for the directors is making the decisions about who to cast. Sometimes it’s easy, “So-and-so’s just right”, sometimes you’ve got two or three people who would do a part beautifully and you have to choose.

For some reason, Susan Dawn thought I’d be a perfect Ghost of Christmas Present and so here I am. I’d also have to say that overall she’s made some excellent casting choices: we have some stellar actors and singers in this production. I’ll have my work cut out to make an impression with the audience amongst all this talent, so maybe I’ll resort to some ghostly subterfuge…

Cheers, Julian
The Ghost of Christmas Present