Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Fringe 2005 - The Great TV Shuffle

Well, it's that time of year again. Time to record 12 interview segments for my TV, Cue to Cue, for our six Fringe spotlight episodes that'll run in July and August on the St. Paul Neighborhood Network (SPNN) and TPT-17, St. Paul's public TV station.

All kinds of things need to dovetail just so for us to pull it off.

First, we need studio time. Which we've got. But it's not all weekend time like it has been in the past. Sunday, June 19th won't be hard to fill, but Monday, June 20th might be.

Then, we need to touch base with potential guests to see if they're available and interested.

But ideally, they aren't people we've interviewed in the past, either in or out of Fringe time, since we also tape at other times of the there, and there's a lot of overlap between the Fringe community and the larger theater community (which is a good problem to have, don't get me wrong).

And of course, we'd like them to be both entertaining in the excerpt from their upcoming Fringe show, and a good interview - neither of which is as easy as it sounds. Some folks in the past which we thought would be wildly entertaining performers either had an off day, or it just didn't translate from live on stage into a no audience, in-studio taping situation. And some chatty folks look like a deer in the headlights when the cameras and lights hit them.

Because we're taping in advance, none of the equally cool out of town acts are a possibility. So, yay for local artists! But it does cut into our potential pool of guests to ask.

Just like the Fringe, we want the shows to reflect the diversity of the performing community. So it can't all just be excerpts from solo shows, or all musicals, or all dance, all classics or all new plays. We also don't all veterans or all newbies.

It's quite a little juggling act, these competing needs. Somehow we always manage to pull it off. But here in crunch time, it always feels a little hairy. I'll keep you posted.

(For more of my writing - plays, past blog entries and more - visit www.matthewaeverett.com)

Thursday, May 12, 2005

Fringe 2005 - What If They Gave An Audition And Nobody Came?

This year for Mother's Day, I was actually home with Mom and the family, for the occasion of my younger brother's college graduation. Go, Mark!

This time last year, Mother's Day evening was the night of my show's auditions.

Yes, not the savviest planning, but Mother's Day can sneak up on you sometimes.

Since Mom was halfway across the country, I knew I wouldn't be taking her to dinner, but I certainly couldn't speak for anyone whose mother was local.

Plus, word getting out about the auditions wasn't the most scientific process. The director/producer had put out the word among his compatriots in a local acting group but I felt like I better do my bit.

I'm a worrier. It's genetic. So up on my website it went. Extra scenes from the script were posted so actors could find a scene for any character they might be interested in auditioning for.

I put out the word to actor friends who'd done my shows before and told them to feel free to spread the word. Actually I pretty much begged them to do it.

I put out word to other actors I hadn't worked with, but whose work I liked. I figured even if they didn't like my script for themselves, they, too, might know people.

And I put in a request to my friend who helps run Theatre Unbound to see if she could utilize her powerful mailing list to my benefit (and, bless her, she did).

Got a couple of emails from people who were interested but couldn't come because, of course, it was Mother's Day. Whoops. But at least it was a good sign that folks I'd never met were happening across the audition notice.

Maybe I put it out through TC Theater and Film's listings, too. I forget, but that would have been smart. (Another mighty powerful network there)

Amazing the things we do and don't remember just a year later.

I won't, however, forget the weather.

The tornado sirens wailed into life just as I was getting ready to head over to the place for auditions.

The sky was mighty threatening.

Rain hadn't begun yet but the lightning was pretty impressive, and frequent.

As was the thunder.

There was no signup. No specific time slots. We'd be there from seven to nine pm, and whoever showed, showed. No guarantees.

Since the producer hadn't put together any kind of an audition sheet for people to fill out with their info, or to give them basic info on the show and its schedule, I offered to do it. Basically I needed something to do to pass the time since, as the writer, I didn't have much of a function in all this. My stage management degree might as well be useful for something.

There were people standing on a bridge looking into the distance as I drove down to auditions.

I didn't look. If they were standing there staring at approaching funnel clouds, it wouldn't help for me to slow down and gawk as well.

The audition room - in the Center for Performing Arts down on 38th Street - was of course the dance studio - all windows. The elements wouldn't have a hard time finding us.

We waited.

And just as the time arrived to begin, bless him, our first actor arrived.

At that point, the skies opened up and the rain started.

Since we didn't have anyone to read with him, I stepped in, so the director would have a chance to watch the guy in action, rather than have to worry about acting alongside him and evaluating him at the same time.

Like three other actors that night, he came to us through the Theatre Unbound message that went out.

Four of the other actors that came were people I knew - three I'd worked with on other scripts of mine, one I hadn't.

And the final actor who arrived, just as we were packing up for the night, was a friend of the director's and great for the part he'd imagined them filling.

We had seven roles, and nine actors showed up.

Thankfully, they showed up in pairs most of the time so we could read them against other actors and see the interplay.

We didn't really hang on to anyone too long. We read them until the director had an idea of what they were capable of, and then we set them free to battle the elements on their way home.

It was respectful of the actors' time, but it meant there were some stretches where we were basically just waiting around.

We thanked them all very much for coming. After all, we could have just been sitting there, waiting, and have no one show up at all. We got lucky.

Even so, we thought for a minute we'd need to have an additional night of auditions to get more candidates.

Then we looked at the resumes and headshots of who we'd already seen. And the cast quite easily appeared before us.

There was someone - and someone really good - to fulfill each of the roles. In some cases, more than one.

No more auditions needed after all.

We paired them up in different combinations until the shape of the ensemble congealed in front of our eyes.

Phew. We were actually pretty excited.

Everyone even said yes.

In a strange sidebar, an actor friend of mine who really wanted to audition that night was trapped in her building because the power went out. Their underground parking has an electronic door. No car. Too far to walk. Not much in the way of bus service on a Sunday night. She was bummed out about it. She auditioned for but didn't make it into the other shows I was helping produce that Fringe. But it was a lucky thing.

One of the actors we originally cast had a change in her day job. They were transferring her down south. And of course, day jobs don't work around the Fringe schedule. She had to drop out between our first cast meeting and readthru and the first actual rehearsal.

And my friend who was trapped in her garage was available to step into the role, and she was great.

As was everyone. Whatever else one might say about the show, the cast did their best to sell the production and entertain the crowd. And their best made us all look better than we would have otherwise.

Yet another reason I love me some actors.

A writer's best friend.

Basically, when it comes to audtions, overdo it in terms of getting the word out. Better to have too many options and a lot of hard decisions in casting, rather than fewer options than you need, or none at all.

Network like a crazy person.

And neither rain nor snow nor sleet nor dark of night (or Mother's Day), will keep you down.

(For more of my writing - plays, past blog entries and more - visit www.matthewaeverett.com)