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Well, the cast is 95% assembled, so now is a good time to introduce them!
Rob King as George
Talk about the 11th hour! I was a couple hours away from wrapping up auditions for my principles when I got notice that Rob wanted to try out for George. We squeezed him in and got him a ride out that evening and he did a fantabulous cold read!
He takes his line memorizing really seriously, which is vital since the play could have easily been called "Conversations George had with People". Sometime Rob will express pleasure or frustration over a particular turn of phrase or word combination. I love his attention to those details.
Sam Hagenlocher as Lennie
Sam's another guy I lucked out in getting. A friend of a friend of a friend, (I <3 Facebook) Sam and I met in the Village before the actual audition to see what we were each about. I love how thought out, expressive and intellectual he is. (We also share a hatred of Michael Bay, which is special.) He doesn't have a deep well of acting experience to draw from, which I think will help him with Lennie's simplicity.
He's not "big" but he's tall, and the rest I can compensate with the magic of stagecraft.
Helmut Friedrich as Candy
I hadn't realized that I had seen Helmut in a couple productions before he auditioned. Happy surprise!
I really love the powerless place he's drawing Candy from. I don't know if I would use the word "pathetic" per se, but it's clear that Candy doesn't have much in the world and he isn't that endearing to those around him. Helmut is able to really convey that and make him sympathetic that way.
Bill Moore as Slim
Slim was a hard character to cast, mainly because he needs to be a contemporary of George so there needs to be a certain synergy there. I had lots of young guys coming out to audition, but I needed someone with more maturity. I really lucked out when Bill decided to audition. He's a friend of Rob's (which means they have an existing relationship), he's not young (see how I didn't call you "old", Bill?), and he's got experience, so he can handle himself on stage. I'm excited about how that pair will work out!
Lauren Marshall as Curly's Wife
I KNEW this gal was committed to the show when she would make the +2hr drive from Lundar to Steinbach for a rehearsal in the middle of the week, then drive home again AND go to work the next morning.
I had so many gals audition for CW, and the best of the best we're all very strong in different ways. Lauren was able to capture her softness and vulnerability and exuded a general sense of Southern comfort, which won her the role. And as the only gal in a cast of 10, she's remarkably chill and comfortable with all the guys which is very cool to see.
Kenton Dyck as Curley
The last time I really worked with Kenton, I was on stage and he was off. I'm looking forward to this reversal so I can make better uses of his talents. Curley is a short, angry, pugnacious guy, none of which Kenton exudes naturally. I'm looking forward to the challenge discovering a grounded, unlikeable character within a very likeable guy.
Cory Casper as Carlson
Casting a 90% male show in a small-ish theatre community is a challenge. That's why I was excited after I saw Cory's audition. He was open to being involved wherever and he was versatile enough to adapt to whatever role I threw at him. If there was a "hard to fill role" I knew I could sink him in there, and he would do a great job. Turns out, Carlson the Selfish Bully was just that, and Cory is doing a great job with him so far.
Most of the people in the show, I have connections to, one way or another. I've worked with them, or they're a friend of a friend, or something. Tiernan came out totally cold. A teacher of his saw a poster somewhere and saw him at a store or something and told him to audition. And I'm so glad he did.
The ranch in Of Mice and Men has a wide gamut of guys on it. You've got the really old, like Candy. But there's also the really young, like Whit. Tiernan is able to bring that sense of youthfulness and openness to Whit that is needed in an otherwise dark place. And he blends in with everyone else just right. I really appreciate that about him and the character he's developing.
Malcolm Munroe as Crooks
You think it's hard to find male actors in Steinbach? Try finding black, male actors!
Luckily for me, I didn't have to.
When Malcolm expressed interest in the show, I knew that he would be a great fit. The racial subtext of the play is very steeped in Americana, which doesn't translate as powerfully north of the border. I think that by having a Native play the role of black person, the racism will hit home in a more meaningful way. Plus, I want to see Malcolm in a more important role than I've seen him in before. I know that he can handle it.
Cora Fast as Back Stage Manager
Cora is one of the first people to ever audition for me and ever since I've been looking for an opportunity to work with her. And I'm glad it's finally going to happen. She carries a maturity about her that makes her very reliable and trustworthy. When looking for someone to keep things in order backstage, those are two huge traits to have and I'm glad to have someone like her around to be where I can't.
Michael Dueck as Front Stage Manager
I'm very fortunate to have Michael in my corner. He's the ultimate hype man. He's always happy and encouraging. He's genuine and thoughtful and caring. He knows everyone and everyone loves him. You want him in your show? Too bad! He's in mine!
Michael is being an awesome resource during the rehearsal process, stepping in to fill any role needed. He's a wealth of ideas and jocularity. And once show time rolls around, he's going to be my troubadour, guiding the audience from set to set, and otherwise freeing me up to put out fires.
And that's it!
I know what you're thinking. "What about The Boss?? Who's playing that part?!?"
I haven't cast anyone in that role yet. I have one guy who's interested, but isn't sure if it'll work yet.
So, if you're interested in adding your name to this list of awesome, talented people, let me know! I guarantee I can find a spot for you to help out!
Spent most of yesterday in Winnipeg meeting with folks. By the time I drove home, I was tired, but feeling very accomplished!
First met with Tim Webster to arrange some fight choreography.
I owe Tim a lot. He and his wife have been super supportive of me as a children's edu-tainer. He's also hooked me up with other acting jobs in a variety of venues. It's so encouraging to know you've got someone who believes in you and wants to help you in practical ways. :D
Being a short-ish kinda actor, I was really hoping to snag him for the role of Curley, but September is going to be too crazy for his work sphere. That ruled him out of being involved on-stage, but I immediately snapped him up to help with the fight scene and making sure Curley is convincing in his portrayal of going into shock afterwards.
The fight choreo went real smooth. We laid out the basics of the scene and what the fight is about. Then we worked out the initial blocking, then tweaked it and added some details. Then we walked it out with a camera rolling so I can lead my actors through it in June. (I would post the video here, but Tim made me swear I wouldn't. ;)
After that was a meeting with David Brown. He's the only guy in the province trained in using guns on stage. I told him about the production and what we would need. We spit balled some ideas, then got into the details.
I am so excited. This gun affect isn't coming cheap, but it's going to be worth it. Talk about ending the show with a... bang.
(I didn't just do that, did I?)
He mentioned that Manitoba Opera is also going to be using him in their production of oMaM next spring. Since I was already in the area of their offices, I stopped by, introduced myself, and expressed my excitement and interest in their show.
And then 5 awkward minutes later I left. (The interest was not mutual.)
So far, May has been an excellent month for prepping details. And auditions haven't even begun yet!
I'm not a natural "salesman". If I want something, then I'll know it and I'll go out and get it. I don't like people coming up to me and suggesting things that I unknowingly may want/need. As such, the idea of going out and hawking wares is... out of my comfort zone.
But in this biz, ya gotta do it!
Reminds me of Fringe a few years back. I was at PTE leaving a show when a clown handed me a handbill for their show "Of Mice and Morrow and Jasp". I had noticed the title of the show earlier, but didn't get it. This clown explained that it was a 2-clown presentation of "Of Mice and Men" which caught my attention right away. I went to see it. Loved it. Went to see it again. Still loved it.
And all because someone handbilled me. Handbilling can be a good thing. It can get you your biggest fan!
The past couple weeks have been about getting people to audition. I made my posters, then started driving around the greater Steinbach area putting them up wherever posters are put. I don't know how effective they are in getting folks interested, but I know that I need to raise awareness of the show. They at least accomplish that.
I've also been plastering Facebook with the notice. I started off with my own page, then the "go-to theatre" friends. Then the "theatre acquaintances" friends. And then, "Oh, what about that one guy who once did that thing" friends. Followed up by a week of "Oh, that one person, I wonder how I can get a hold of them" friends. Go go go. Push push push. Sell sell sell. I've got nothing to lose and everything to gain!
Halfway through the process someone called me out on using the word "Negro" to describe Crooks. Honestly, I hadn't thought twice about it until then. I was in "old timey" thinking mode, and it seemed perfectly fine. Out of date, but not offensive. Coming back to the 21st century and seeing it anew, I saw what they were seeing it. I wasn't about to re-poster all the work I had done, but I at least changed the digital file so all new postings would be up to date with the "ethnic minority" description (because I don't think I even want someone black for the role.)
Was at Golden West Radio today. Got 3 interviews recorded for the 3 different stations. They were all pretty much the same:
1. Talk about Anne of Green Gables. (Make Bob Villa reference. Radio host smiles and laughs, but they probably don't get it. Shoot. Why do you do that?)
2. Talk about oMaM. (Stayed up late, rehearsing the passionate things I wanted to eloquently express on the radio today. As a result, was too tired to be as eloquent or passionate as I wanted.)
3. Talk about auditions. (Try hard not to mix up dates that involve the number 3. It's difficult to do. See note above.)
It was fine. The foibles don't matter. They're done. Gotta keep pressing on.
And the interest in auditioning is there. If I had to cast the show today, I'd only be one person shy (not counting the 6 gals auditioning for Curley's Wife). And there's still another week to go, and more people I want to pursue. They just keep coming to mind.
Next week, continue audition prep and make arrangements for fight choreo and gun safety.
It's official: Our fall production of "Of Mice and Men" is going to be a reality!
I admit, there's a multitude of things that could still get in our way (no one showing up for auditions being the only foreseeable worst-case-scenario right now) but I've got my two leads (have had them since February) and now I have my location.
I remember working at the Mennonite Heritage Village almost ten summers ago. They were putting on a temporary exhibit about death in a pioneering community, and I took it upon myself to draft a script (about death) that could be performed around the grounds as a tie-in. The script never made it past the first draft, but the idea of using the museum grounds as a setting for a play stuck.
Last fall I was Doing some work at the public library when I stumbled upon one of my favourite 'unrealistic projects'; performing The Crucible in the outdoor village. It's perfect in so many ways, but currently beyond my scope or ability.
From there my mind wandered over to another topic I had been ruminating on. I had recently had a renewed interest in John Steinbeck's classic "Of Mice and Men". I had recently seen a stage adaptation done by two clowns and thought it was BRILLIANT!
I froze up as the two ideas collided in my mind. I dropped what I was doing and sped off (figuratively) to do a location scout of the museum grounds. My mind was afire with the idea of doing "Of Mice and Men" there.
Half a year later, we are one significant step closer to making that project a reality.
I've been in close contact with the MHV over the winter, explaining the concept, formulating plans, working dates. And today, the last piece fell in place. We officially have the go ahead to stage our play for six shows in September/October.
I couldn't be more thrilled!
Not much time to celebrate, though. Still many, many more hurdles to leap before September 30. The next one is casting.
George and Lennie have been hard at work memorizing their lines since February. Now I need to fill in the rest of the cast. I've got two weeks to let as many people as possible know about my quest to find seven men and one young woman for my show.
(To be continued)