It’s hard to believe that it was time once again for our annual trip to the Unified Professional Theatre Auditions (UPTA) in Memphis, Tennessee. These auditions are where we select our Professional Resident Acting Company for the upcoming season. So last Friday Marybeth, Julian and I landed in the hometown of the King (Elvis that is . . below Marybeth and I pay our respects at Graceland.)
and hunkered down to see and hear nearly 700 actors strut their stuff. UPTA is hosted each year by Playhouse on the Square in Memphis, and we joined representatives from over 120 other theatre companies also on their yearly quest. Each performer has only 90 seconds (90!) to sing and present a monologue and prove to the theatre world, or at least we luminaries in the room that they have what it takes to be a star. Age range of the actors is anywhere from college student to Senior (citizen, that is), most being within a short time of graduation one side or the other. As I mentioned, we saw over 700 actors in the course of three days and as you can imagine, much like on that popular, infamous TV contest, not everyone is star material. I am extremely proud to report, however that some of those who shone brightest (in my humble, unbiased opinion) were indeed the members of our current Resident Company – Nicole Nicastro, Autumn Seavey, Charlie Retzlaff, and Sam Weber, as well as four other actors from the Charleston Stage family – Kim Rogers, Warnell Berry, Jr., Lee Anderson and Trané. (A fifth Resident Company member, Patrick Tierney, was auditioning at the Illinois Theatre Association auditions in his hometown of Chicago this same weekend, with equally glowing results.) We also saw three of our former resident actors Sheridan Essman, Andrew Cotlar, and Mallory Goode who were also auditioning and great as always. As each one of our folks finished their minute and a half pencils across the room would fly, and heads would glance our way as if to say “Wow! That’s one of your people?” Of course, the three of us beamed like proud parents. Charleston Stage rocks, don’t ya know?!
After the mass audition came “Call-backs.” A call back is a second chance for a company to see an actor in an individual meet and greet to further inform casting choices. We chose, out of the 700, about 50 of the best to call back. In each ten minute one-on-one interview (or three-on-one in our case) we got to know each actor, maybe have them sing again, and get an idea if they would be a good fit for Charleston Stage, and Charleston Stage for them. No easy feat in ten minutes, you can imagine, but let me assure you that Marybeth Clark, Associate Artistic Director and Resident Acting Company Champion could and probably will write the book on how to do this thoroughly, efficiently and fast. After nine years, she’s batting nearly a thousand so far.
Oh, yeah, group dance Call-backs. Just what it sounds like. We watched those, too. Suffice it to say that Simon, Paula…uh, the three of us were plum tuckered out after our whirlwind weekend. We did manage to squeeze in a short side trip, and Julian will probably tell you that his favorite part of the journey was visiting Graceland, home of King Elvis. No, it wasn’t open, but we do have some dandy pictures of us from the front lawn.
It’s always sad each May to see our current Resident Acting Company (formerly known as “the Interns”) move on, but they will always be a part of our family. So from 700 to 50 to our 6 new Season 31 Professional Resident Acting Company Members. Who are they, who are they? Ah, stay tuned…
Wendell Smith, Charleston Stage Resident Music Director