It is a daunting task to not only form a new theatre company but also get its first show off the ground onto the stage. The brand new Connecticut Arts Players are producing Avenue Q as their inaugural show. Over the next couple of months, OnStage Blog will be documenting their journey from auditions to opening night.
Part 2: The Auditions
Auditions for any community theatre company can be a challenge. However, for a new theatre company auditioning for their first show, that comes with a slew of additional challenges. But the Connecticut Arts Players isn't afraid of the challenge. Not only are they starting their company by producing one of the technical demanding shows in recent memory, but one that requires a diverse cast. The latter can be hard to find in the mostly white Fairfield County theatre community. I followed up with producer Dr. William Trebing to see how auditions went.
Overall, how did auditions go?
They were fun, moderately attended and a bit stressful when push came to shove, primarily due to some internal disagreements between myself and a few members of the previous production team. Disputes came up generally centered around the shows' casting and presentation. There were discussions of re-auditions and changing the show's structure that I just did not believe in.
I felt like we had more than adequate candidates through this particular audition process and basically made an executive decision as Producer to stay the course with the prospects we now had. What followed over the next few days, was the dropping out of both my Choreographer and Music Director! Ouch!
Before I was even fully cast I immediately got the ball rolling, and the word out, that this fabulous production of Avenue Q was in need of some administrative assistance. I have great friends within this community (directors and music directors) thank goodness who quickly came running to my aid; honestly, I don't know what I would have done without them, as their advice, assistance, and contacts were invaluable! Dominic Leterra, my Stage manager, was a saving grace.
He and I hit the pavement immediately with new ideas. Within a day I had a new Choreographer, the talented Caitlin Roberts, whom I have performed within both Mary Poppins and Chicago. I was overjoyed she was able to fit Avenue Q into her busy life! Shortly after came Benjamin Doyle, a talented and accomplished musician and Music Director, who was highly recommended by a number of different colleague directors. Ben has a magnanimous and confident presence about him, and I am overjoyed to have his tremendous skills guide our musical score. So after an exhaustive amount of phone calls, communication, diligence, and prayer, it all worked out pretty well.
Were you surprised by the amount of people who showed up?
I was, I thought we would have much more. 50 % of the people who signed up did not show up.
How rigorous were the auditions themselves?
This is not a rigorous show, so not very. I asked candidates to sing a song from the show of the character they were auditioning for. They also worked through some basic Choreography.
This show requires casting people of color; it looks like you were able to do that, which is sometimes easier said than done. Can you tell me a little about that process?
It was a priority of ours to cast appropriately, and happily, we found Lena Felix to play Christmas Eve who is of Filipino descent. Lena brings a style and presence to Christmas Eve that I a very excited about, and she has a marvelous voice.
Since the audition dust has settled, can you tell us a little more about the cast?
I am the Princeton puppeteer. Vocal and acting ability certainly intact as anyone who has seen my previous shows or resume understands. I have been waiting years to have the opportunity to produce and act in the show!
Samantha Holomakoff could not be a better pick for the Kate Monster puppeteer. This is a dream role for Sam, and she exhibits every bit of that presence while acting out Kate's lines. She has wonderful comic delivery and characterizations, is a great all-round actress/singer, and I am thrilled to have her talent in this production. Sam without question brings a Broadway quality to this performance of Kate Monster!
With Paul Goodman, I had initially considered for Nicky, but he came across as more of a Brian character to me, and he has fit those shoes (and Hawaiian shirt) very well. I had seen Paul's comic talents in Disaster directed by Joel Fenster, and I knew at that time he would be a valuable addition to the performance. He is no stranger to the Connecticut community theater scene, and brings the warm nature of the Brian character to our stage couple with his excellent vocal range.
Jason Wang is our Nikki puppeteer and the second youngest of our troupe at 20 years old. He is just starting out in community theater, and I believe Jason has many great performance years ahead of him. He knows and handles the Nikki part brilliantly.
Andrew Skjeveland was our last to be cast as the Rod Puppeteer. At only 19 he has already performed in many different community theater performances and musicals, and best of all he already has an Avenue Q performance run under his belt. He is very familiar with the show and brings out Rod's personality very well.
Lena Felix as mentioned before is of Filipino descent and plays Christmas Eve. Lena's talent and vocals are sought after throughout the community theater scene. She is bright, witty, and filled with energy and enthusiasm for this production, and she has surpassed my expectations for what I wanted Christmas Eve to be. It is such a pleasure to have her.
Heather Abrado brings her fully talented and experienced dancing, singing and comedic self to our Avenue Q stage as the famous Gary Coleman character. Heather is a priceless treasure to any performance she chooses, and I am honored to be on stage with her once again (it's been a while! Not since Jesus Christ Superstar directed by Deb Fialla in 2015). This is a bucket-list role for Heather, and she brings it on to the point where I am certain she alone is going to bring the house down!
Marcelo Zanetti has a tremendous presence for the Trekkie Monster puppeteer. He is a natural showman, comedian, and talent, and we are overjoyed to have him. His Trekkie identity mixed with a Brazilian-Style accent is a MUST SEE ! He is loaded with energy and enthusiasm for being given the opportunity to be in this show, and this is Marcelo's first community theater performance.
Paige Goodman accompanies her husband Paul in our performance, playing both a Bad Idea Bear and Mrs. ThistleT puppeteer. Paige has a lovely voice and is as well a natural comedian born for, and no stranger to, the stage. She is a seasoned actress. She was also in Disaster with her husband, and I thought she mastered that stage with her character. We are overjoyed to have Paige's talents and experience on our stage!
Rebecca Gabin found me much to my surprise. Being very busy with her life as the mother of 3 active boys, she missed auditions and asked to send a video (video auditions were allowed, and I considered several of them). As soon as I heard her voice sing "Fine Fine Line," I knew I wanted her in the show. She made it in for call-backs at the end of the audition process and completely knocked her audition out of the park. She is our second Bad Idea Bear puppeteer, as well as being the Lucy the Slut puppeteer. I couldn't be happier with Rebecca as a member of our troupe, and this is as well her first community theater performance.
The show will run at The Wilton Playshop, Friday night May 24th and close on Saturday night June 15 for a total of 14 performances. For more info email, firstname.lastname@example.org