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Casting director Jane Jenkins will offer critiques at Stage West

I went to see the 1988 movie Mystic Pizza because I had accidentally wandered through Mystic, Conn., where it's set, in 1983 on a blue-road trip through Maine and hoped to spot the little tavern where we had eaten.

I didn't see the bar in the movie, but what we in the theater did see for the first time was a tall, skinny girl with huuuuge hair, a Georgia accent and a mouth that seemed too big for her face bemoaning her fear that she was stuck for life pushing those Mystic pizzas.

The girl was Julia Roberts, who would mesmerize critics the next year in her award-winning performance as Shelby Eatenton in Steel Magnolias and conquer the world in 1990 as the Pretty Woman.

But before any of that could happen, Roberts first had to impress Jane Jenkins, the casting director for Mystic Pizza. Jenkins not only discovered Roberts, but she has also spotted untapped talent in scores of others as she has cast more than 100 films in her 30-year Hollywood career, including Ferris Bueller's Day Off, When Harry Met Sally, Ghost, Home Alone, The Godfather: Part III, A Few Good Men, Jurassic Park, Apollo 13, The Bucket List and the list goes on and on.

Now she's coming to Spring Hill, where she could (we can dream, can't we?) spot the next Julia Roberts.

From 3 to 6 p.m. Nov. 5, Jenkins will hold a seminar and casting workshop at Stage West Community Playhouse. For $25, you can listen as she gives her thoughts on what makes a good actor and critiques those who pay $35 ($25 if you're a Stage West member) to do a 1-minute monologue or 2-minute scene.

She's doing this as a favor for longtime friend Morgan Reid, who divides her time between Spring Hill and New York City after a long, impressive career in showbiz herself. "We attended the High School of Performing Arts in Manhattan together and have retained our friendship over the years," Reid said.

(Reid herself is a story; for years, she performed with some of the top names in movies — Halle Berry, Julianne Moore, Burt Reynolds — on network television (E.R., Falcon Crest), Broadway (Hair) and off-Broadway, and music (Eric Clapton) under the stage name of Martha Velez. She has done a few Stage West shows since semiretiring to this area.)

Jenkins recently made a video explaining her casting theories, with words of wisdom for those hoping to make it in films.

"For all actors, being your own, authentic self, being real, keeping it simple, knowing the material are really important aspects of coming in to present yourself to a casting director," she said.

"It's not just being special; it's not being something outlandish or something big and broad," she went on. "Sometimes just being simple, honest and real is what's most important."

That even goes for farces, in her estimation.

"If it's a big, broad comedy, then you want someone who is funny, but not in a clown kind of way," Jenkins said.

She emphasizes training, confidence and professionalism.

"When I hire somebody, I am not only looking for a good actor, I am looking for somebody I am going to have confidence in because they have confidence in themselves ... When I bring them onto a set that costs $100,000 or $150,000 a day to shoot the movie, I know they are not going to screw it up. I know they are not going to get terrified when the camera comes in close, that they will be totally professional and not cost the production money, that they are prepared, they are conscientious, that they care about what they are doing."

She even has soothing words for those who don't get a part.

"If you don't get a job, it's not the end of the line," she says. "Every job, every audition is an opportunity to show a casting director or a director who you are, because it's never about that one job, it's about another job two movies later.

"I've done over 100 movies. Actors I met three years ago, I go, 'Hey, what about him for this job?' "

Final answer: "There's always another opportunity."

For an application form, go to stagewest.net and click on "news and events." Or call the theater at (352) 683-5113.

It's likely that many people will want the chance to be the next Julia Roberts (or Matt Damon — he said his first movie line in Mystic Pizza, too), so the actor's presentation slots will probably fill up fast.

Casting director Jane Jenkins will offer critiques at Stage West 10/07/11 [Last modified: Friday, October 7, 2011 7:43pm]
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