The passion of actors and directors is undeniable. Long days and hard work go into the production of live theater. Every detail of the production is carefully planned, sets are built, actors are cast, wardrobes are sewn and rehearsals go on for weeks.
Despite all the work, everyone loves what they are doing and being able to share it with others. When an actor steps on stage, he or she is no longer the person who walked into the theater. Taking on the role of another person is thrilling, and actors get to live out this alternate reality in front of an eager audience.
“When they say ‘community theater,’ it is like a family. You can’t wait to be around everybody and have a good time,” said Stephen Pigman who this month stepped down as executive director at the Flagler Playhouse in Bunnell to move closer to his daughter. After trying a career in carpentry, Pigman went back to school for theater at Flagler College. Describing his life, he said, “I eat, sleep and breathe art, theater and music.”
Those who share Pigman’s passion may pursue many opportunities in Northeast Florida, but the challenge is often finding where to begin. Area community theaters include Players by the Sea in Jacksonville Beach, Theatre Jacksonville, Orange Park Community Theatre, St. Augustine’s Limelight Theatre and Flagler Playhouse.
If you dream of being on stage or have always considered getting involved in a play, here are 10 things you need to know, according to current local actors and directors.
1. THERE’S MORE THAN JUST ACTING.
Theater production goes beyond the stage, with a lot of behind-the-scenes work. Other opportunities to get into the production are manning the box office, gathering props, coordinating stage production, working lights and sound, or doing bookkeeping and marketing.
Tom Fallon, production manager at the Limelight Theatre, started with acting and directing. Fallon now works on the technical side of theater. He said he enjoys the challenge of making something out of nothing, creating a beautiful stage with limited resources. The money is better on the technical side, and it’s easier to make a living.
2. YOU CAN’T DO IT FOR THE MONEY.
Alhambra Theatre & Dining is the only equity theater in Northeast Florida. All others are community theaters and don’t pay the actors. Equity theaters are run by a theater union that sets and enforces actors’ minimum pay and working conditions. To be in a show, actors must be a member of the union. Actors can receive equity by auditioning for shows that offer contracts for equity, and some theaters offer equity points. The equity theaters pick actors from the pool of equity actors.
Despite community theaters’ lack of pay, actors show up every night for rehearsals, ready to escape the real world and transform into their characters. Most actors work 9-to-5 day jobs before they head to shows or rehearsals. Pigman spoke of actors eating in their cars after work as they drive to the theater for rehearsals.
3. PREPARE FOR AUDITIONS.
To be cast in a play, actors must, of course, audition. After finding an upcoming production they’re interested in, prospective actors should read the script several times, to get familiar with the story and the characters.
Check with theater staff or go to theater’s website to find out what materials may be required for auditions. If there are specific characteristics needed for the roles, they will be specified in the audition notice. Any time a role has been pre-cast, it’s disclosed before auditions are held.
4. TAKE A CLASS.
Classes offer an opportunity to learn about acting and theater terminology. Much can be learned from attending auditions. Every time actors audition, they learn from that experience and from other actors’ auditions. Community theaters also hold acting workshops, at little or no cost, that offer experience.
5. PREPARE A MONOLOGUE – AND MAYBE A SONG.
The one- to two-minute monologue should be similar to the play, but not from the same play. It’s important to have a monologue memorized.
“Focus on being engaging. You want to make your monologue your own,” said Katie Swider, who’s been involved in many local performances.
“If you really want to be on stage, get all the practice that you can performing your monologue in front of other people, in front of the mirror, whenever possible,” Swider said.
If the auditions are for a musical, the director will request sheet music, and those auditioning should prepare to sing. It’s also important to bring a change of clothes in order to dance for musical auditions.
6. AUDITIONS CAN BE EITHER CLOSED OR OPEN.
A closed audition means actors go into a separate room to audition. In open auditions, everyone can watch actors try out. “Cold reads” (or sides) means that groups of people auditioning read through the script together, with little or no preparation.
7. DRESS APPROPRIATELY.
Pigman stressed that it’s important to dress professionally for auditions. Most important, dress modestly.
“Don’t dress in costume, and don’t draw attention away from your hands or face,” Pigman advised. Acting should be done with facial expressions. An actor must act the part through movement of the face and hands, not through physical appearance alone. However, this doesn’t mean that appearance is not important.
8. IT IS IMPORTANT TO ACT PROFESSIONALLY.
“A director is watching you from the minute you walk in the door. From the moment you sign your registration, they are watching how polite you are and your etiquette,” Pigman said.
Arrive early to auditions. This gives you time to warm up as well as a chance to meet other actors and maybe the director before you try out.
Actors should bring a headshot and a résumé to every audition. First-time actors won’t necessarily be denied a role because they don’t have a headshot, but having one shows that an actor is serious about getting the part.
9. DON’T LET YOUR NERVES GET THE BEST OF YOU.
“Always remember to take a deep breath,” Swider advised. “The director wants you to do great; they want you to do well.
“To stand out from others, find a way to make people laugh or smile. Be a breath of fresh air. Have that ‘pop’ that makes you stand out from others.”
As a director, Pigman said, he wants to see that actors can develop relationships with others. Actors shouldn’t be afraid to talk to those around them and show the director they’re self-starters. Help with whatever is needed and don’t cause problems or disrupt the process.
10. DON’T GIVE UP.
“Come back if you don’t get a part the first time. Don’t get discouraged, just keep auditioning. You may just have not fit the part,” said Beth Lambert, executive director at Limelight Theatre. Not getting cast for the part doesn’t mean directors didn’t see talent or potential.
Pigman explained that directors understand an actor has to start somewhere. Offer to help out with the production to show the director that you’re serious about getting involved with the theater. Directors are always looking for new talent and encourage everyone interested to give it a try.
Lambert encouraged all who are interested in becoming part of a theater family to conquer their fears and audition. It will get a little easier and more familiar each time. When actors finally get on stage, it’ll be worth it.
“The first time people clap for you, you won’t forget that moment,” Lambert said.
Amelia Community Th
207/209 Cedar St., Fernandina Beach, 261-6749, ameliacommunitytheatre.
Auditions: “Lend Me a Tenor,” 7 p.m. Jan. 8
Atlantic Beach Experimental Th
716 Ocean Blvd., Atlantic Beach, 249-7177, abettheatre.c
No audition dates set.
301 E. Moody Blvd., Bunnell, 386-586-0773, flaglerplayhouse.c
Auditions: “Picasso at the Lapin Agile,” 6 p.m., Jan. 7 & 8; “The Producers,” 6 p.m. Feb. 3.
11 Old Mission Ave., St. Augustine, 825-1164, limelight-theatre.
No audition dates set.
Orange Park Community Th
2900 Moody Ave., Orange Park, 276-2599, opct.
Auditions: “Moon Over Buffalo,” 2 p.m. Jan. 5 and 7 p.m. Jan. 6; “Anything Goes,” 1 p.m. March 24 and 1 p.m. March 30. Need singers, dancers and actors.
Players by the S
106 N. Sixth St., Jacksonville Beach, 249-0289, playersbythesea.
Auditions: “In the Next Room, or the Vibrator Play,” 7 p.m. Jan. 6.
Stage Aurora Theatrical Company
5188 Norwood Ave., Northside, 765-7372, stageaurora.
No audition dates set.
2032 San Marco Blvd., San Marco, 396-4425, theatrejax.c
Auditions: “The Triangle Factory Fire Project,” 1 p.m. Jan. 12.