2008 General Auditions

Each summer we have our General Auditions for the upcoming season. This is a chance for us to get to know the local acting pool, see old friends working on new material, and meet actors who have recently moved to town for school or a life change. This year’s auditions were held from June 23-25 with Equity (union for actors) auditions on the 23rd and 24th and non-equity auditions on the 25th.

We saw 96 actors this year, most of whom reside in Pittsburgh but approximately 15 actors came in from as far away as Philadelphia, St. Louis, Buffalo, and NYC. Many came to audition for City having been in the area and seen the type of work we do but several also came attracted by certain shows in our season. THE BROTHER SIZE by Tarell McCraney is a hot new play featuring three brilliant roles for African American actors and this brought in some interesting out-of-town actors wanting to be considered for the play.

For the general auditions each actor had a five minute slot where we chatted a bit about their recent projects and then each actor shared a three minute contemporary monologue of their choosing. The pieces ranged from well known audition monologues such as Blanche from Streetcar Named Desire and Chris from All My Sons to the obscure including self-written material and monologues stripped from contemporary films.

From these general auditions I will make suggestions to our guest directors and Artistic Director Tracy Brigden as to who we might call in for a second round of auditions focused specifically on each show of the season. Typically the second round takes place between two to four months before the start of rehearsals. Some roles are cast with actors with whom the director has worked before and feel are a good fit for the play but the majority of the roles are cast through auditions.

While the general auditions consist of one three minute monologue, the second round consist of reading from “sides” from the play. Sides are short scenes from the actual play script that are chosen to feature a certain character prominently and hopefully reveal something essential about the playing of the role — whether that be a particularly vulnerable moment the character lives through in the play, a section of heightened language, or requires the actor to strike a particular comic tone. We hire a reader (a person who reads the scene with the actor) to come work with us in the auditions so we can focus solely on the actor auditioning for the role. You can tell a tremendous amount about how an actor will approach a role in the this exceptionally short audition process. In addition to the actor’s initial take on the role we are also looking for actor flexibility. Are they open to a bit of re-direction? Can they process a new idea or approach and apply it seamlessly and instantly into the performance? How does their process jibe with the directors? All of these things occur simultaneously in a 8-10 minute audition. Depending on the play, director, and types of roles we average around 50% cast from Pittsburgh with the remaining actors from NYC. This year however we are looking to expand our casting to Chicago as this is a market of highly skilled actors that are less frequently offered roles outside of the city. It is also a population of actors with whom I’m very familiar having directed in Chicago for six years.

So there’s a bit of skinny on the audition process. As we get to the second round of auditions I’ll post more on this thread.

All for now,

Stuart

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