The night for the first play auditions finally arrived. For me, it had already been a long day. I dreaded going out again. Worse, the taxi I’d ordered failed to appear. I don’t like to drive at night but, having no alternative, I ploughed through a driving rain to reach the theater on time. Auditions were set for 7 p.m.
The building was empty as I approached, and for a moment, I panicked. Had I gotten the wrong date? The wrong time? Either way, I had no one to call. The only number I possessed was for the theater. Scanning the shadows for signs of life, I was relieved when a figured came toward me. As I’d hoped, it was the director, Cassandra Schwanke. Taking a deep breath to hide my anxiety, I followed her into the theater’s dark hallway.
Once we were settled, Cassandra explained she’d asked me to come early so she could outline how the evening would progress. A few actors stumbled into the lobby as we talked. Each time, Cassandra rose to greet them and handed them material for the reading. The actors seemed familiar with the process and headed to quiet corners to acquaint themselves with the lines. As they did, the two us headed to an inner room where the auditions would take place.
Cassandra pointed to a wooden bench for me to sit on. Then she exited but returned soon after with two actors in tow. Joining me on the bench, she waited while the room feel silent and the artists, like chameleons, assumed their new skins. They began to stare daggers at one another as the scene required and soon the air bristled with emotion. Accusations flew back and forth. Complexions turned red. These were not strangers but my characters speaking. They had come to life and did so again and again as each new set of actors brought with them their unique cadences.
When all the pairs had auditioned, Cassandra changed the mix and the process began for a second and a third time. I remained silent throughout but was curious about the process. Only later did she explain the mixed pairings helped her assess which actors worked well together. Chemistry is a factor in choosing a cast, apparently. One woman, for example, gave a perfect reading of the play’s grandmother. She was so authentic, she seemed to have leapt from my head directly on to the stage. But no matter how wonderfully she’d carried the part, if there was no spark between her and her fellow actors, she would overshadow them and the total effect would be one of imbalance. As with team sports, the actors have to bond. Lesson learned. I had to accept the possibility that my perfect grandmother might not get the part.
In the end, I drove home satisfied we had found a pool of actors who could carry off the play – except for the villain. That scoundrel had made no appearance that night. How would we find him, I wondered. For the answer to that question, I would have to wait until the next audition.