Want to join the theater? Here's your ticket to the big stage

So you wanna be a star …

The first step if you want to be an actor is to get a part in a production, and a good place to start — and where many stars started — is local theater (read Playbill the next time you go to a big theater and note how many people got started in community theater).

But how? Where to go? What to do? When to do it?

Residents of Pasco and Hernando and surrounding counties are fortunate to have several good places to learn showbiz from the ground up. For amateurs (literally, those who just love theater) there are Richey Suncoast Theatre in New Port Richey, Stage West Community Playhouse in Spring Hill and the Performing Arts and Cultural Centers in Tarpon Springs and, at the professional level, there's the Show Palace Dinner Theatre in Hudson. Many actors first play one, then the other, and all three welcome all comers.

All three venues have their own facilities and a full schedule of shows with plenty of parts for singers, dancers and/or actors of all ages. The Show Palace has recently stopped producing shows in-house and is contracting with the newly formed Show Palace Entertainment company to produce shows for them. But the new company, owned by Vicki Mara, is still holding local casting calls, as well as accepting videos from out-of-towners.

Not every casting call is the same. Sometimes the director takes full responsibility for choosing the players. More often, it's a collaboration, especially with musicals, with the director, choral/music director and choreographer making the decisions. Sometimes it's a team of up to a dozen people.

The community theaters hold auditions for each show; the Show Palace sometimes does, too, but often has opening casting sessions in which three or more shows are being cast. This means that in one audition, an actor can win parts in one, two or three shows. (Or none.)

To find out when auditions are being held, watch announcements in this newspaper or go to websites and click on "auditions." They are: showpalace.net, stagewest.net, richeysuncoasttheatre.com, and tarponarts.org.

Watch for free clinics to learn audition techniques or sign up for a theater workshop or camp, which usually includes audition tips. If you're a first-timer, consider attending an audition just to watch and see what happens. (That's what Justin Sargent did 13 years ago at Richey Suncoast Theatre, and now he's playing the lead role in Rock of Ages on Broadway. See where this can lead?)

Meanwhile, if you see an audition notice that appeals to you, here are some general guidelines for amateurs and pros:

1 Arrive on time — better yet, arrive early. You don't want to be the last one to audition, when everyone is tired and ready to go home. Get your name at the top of the list.

2 Look your best — clean, neat hair; proper shoes that you can move around in without tripping (no flip-flops, please) and no crop tops or short-shorts; no overdone makeup. Remember, first impressions are lasting impressions.

3 Have a resume with your name, age, gender and acting experience (role and venue), plus a photo to hand to the director when asked, or when you go onto the stage. The best are printed on heavy paper stock, with the photo on one side and your information on the other, so it doesn't get separated. If you don't have that, prepare a typed resume and attach a photo. The selection team will probably see dozens of people, and you want them to remember who you are. The resume should include your telephone number and email address in case you get a callback or (yippee!) a part.

4 If the audition notice is for a musical and it says to prepare 16 bars of a song, prepare it. Some theaters ask that you bring sheet music and they'll provide the piano player. Others ask you to bring a tape or CD of music only (no duets with Madonna or Beyoncé, please). Some will allow you to sing without accompaniment. If the audition notice doesn't specify, call the theater or director to ask what is necessary.

5 You may be asked to prepare a monologue, but, more likely, you'll be asked to do a cold reading, that is, read directly from a script. Usually, it's the show you're auditioning for, but sometimes, it's not. Just be ready to read.

6 If you stammer or lose your place, don't apologize and start over. Barrel through, just as you would if you were in the middle of a scene on opening night. Smile, if appropriate; remain serious if not.

7 If you take someone with you, or someone takes you, make sure they're quiet and respectful of all the other people in the room. Nothing kills your chances more than a noisy parent or pal, who might tag along and be a disturbance once rehearsals and shows start.

8 Go to lots of auditions, whether you want a role or not. You learn a lot just watching others try, and, who knows — you may be the next Justin Sargent.

Want to join the theater? Here's your ticket to the big stage 08/16/12 [Last modified: Thursday, August 23, 2012 5:04pm]

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