Most theatre lovers only get to see plays from when the curtain opens to when it closes, but production starts well before, with the lively and sometimes nerve-wracking audition process.
Dozens of hopeful stage actors auditioned last week for parts in the White Rock Players' Club's production of Tim Kelly's Who Walks in the Dark, an occult mystery with dramatic twists. The performance is scheduled to run from Oct. 10 to 27 at Coast Capital Playhouse.
"It's Halloweenish," said stage manager Shelagh Shermann of the suspenseful play. "It's going to be a ghost story with an edge of humour to it."
The audition process for this play, as with most, involves either reading a prepared monologue or doing a cold read, an on-the-spot performance of an excerpt from the script. Actors are ultimately judged by the director, but the stage manager, producers and others involved in casting may sit in on the performances.
"If we haven't seen people before, it's a first look and hear to see what they're going to be like," said Shermann. "You want to get a look at the person physically and how they sound."
The director may ask actors to retry scenes with adjustments to tone, pace, eye contact and body language, to see if they can take direction. Shortly after, actors narrowed down from the initial group receive callbacks for second reads.
Who Walks in the Dark was an open audition, meaning anyone was allowed to drop in and try out for one of the 11 parts.
Deborah Spitz, an actress who has been doing community theatre since she was 12, auditioned for a part in the production. Spitz has performed in such local performances as Humble Boy, The Cat's Meow and, most recently, The Mousetrap.
"It seems more and more directors are asking people to come with a prepared monologue," she said. "I'm embarrassed to admit, I've never worked up a monologue that I feel really confident using as an audition."
Preparing for an audition varies depending on such factors as an actor's level of experience, the genre of the play and the type of audition. Spitz said cold reads used to be more common and scripts, at the time, were harder to get hold of.
"I used to really make a big effort to find the play and read the play many times before coming to the audition," she said. "I think sometimes that was a mistake because I would come with an idea in mind how the character should be, and it was difficult when the director would say, 'Try it a different way.'"
Ryan J. Johnson, a young man who has been in drama and theatre for 16 years, said he refined his acting chops largely by giving it a shot and working with other actors.
"With my experience, I've learned about character development, inflexion, stuff like that," he said. "Doing shows, acting and whatnot, I learned through that process."
Shermann also noted amateur actors shouldn't fear the audition process, as just getting onstage can help overcome any stage fright, and that actors should relax, because auditions aren't meant to be stressful.
"Even if you come and it's your first time, it's a good learning experience, even if you weren't to be cast," said Shermann. "It's always good to find out what it's like and just try it."
"The main thing is, have fun," echoed Johnson. "Have fun, because that's why we're here."