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Actors seek roles in cast from the past

Two weeks ago, Lauren Sapiega, 15, never imagined she would be auditioning for the Bay Area Renaissance Festival. But when Lauren, an Oldsmar resident, saw an ad for the auditions, she knew she wanted to be a part of the festival this year.

"I always wanted to come (to the festival) and get my hair braided," she said. "This time, I wanted the experience because I really like to act."

More than 200 people from the Tampa Bay area joined Lauren for open auditions Saturday morning at the fairgrounds on Central Park Drive. Some came dressed in Renaissance costumes while others came in jeans and T-shirts.

Matt Richardson, 28, travels with the festival and auditions men and women for the human chess match. The director looks for people willing to learn and who can take direction and be creative with their roles.

"Historical fiction is what we do," he said. "We are looking forward to a really good season."

Scott Auld, entertainment director for the Renaissance festival, said most people audition because they love acting and the Renaissance period.

"This is a serious time commitment for these people," he said.

Auditions consist of a short interview followed by an improvisation exercise in which prospective cast members act out a one-minute unscripted scenario.

"We are not looking for a professional cast," Auld told the auditioners. "We're looking for attitude and enthusiasm."

Auld, a St. Petersburg resident, travels around the country conducting open auditions and acting in the festival, which is in its 20th year.

After auditions are done, Auld and his staff go through a stack of applications and photos and decide whom to cast. Auld said 150 people are needed this season. He will call the people who are cast on Monday or Tuesday, and rehearsals begin Wednesday night.

The cast will rehearse at least once a week until the festival begins March 6. It runs for six weekends at the fairgrounds.

Clearwater resident Dawn Harris, 28, has acted as the baker's wife in the festival for 11 years and is studying at St. Petersburg Junior College to become a teacher.

"It's just a part of me," she said.

Harris has had to audition every year for her part, as does anyone who has performed in the festival before.

"I've made a lot of lifelong friends here," she said.

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