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      Casting Call, by Carol Cacchione

      carol cacchioneWhat inspires a person to want to get up on stage in front of a roomful of curious onlookers and act out a role in a play? The mere thought scares me silly. The fear of flubbing a line, or worse yet—totally blanking, freezing in place with that deer-in-the-headlights look—convinced me long ago never to answer a casting call. But what motivates those who do? 

      I spent some time talking with two people who answered the recent casting call by director Thomas Putman for the upcoming Hamilton-Gibson play, Almost, Maine. Brian Delp, materials management team leader at UPMC Wellsboro Hospital, has been cast in almost a dozen H-G productions over the past two decades. Lori Bowers began her acting career with H-G in last month’s production of A Pound of Flesh. She’s no theatrical novice, however. She holds degrees in speech, theater and communications, and has been acting and singing for the past 40 or more years in various cities around the country. Here’s what we talked about.

      CC: Why did you answer this particular casting call for Almost, Maine? Did you know anything about the play?

      BD: Honestly, I have no good answer. I haven’t done anything with H-G in about a year, and it was an audition I remembered to make. I knew nothing about the play going into it. It was a complete cold read. They handed out scripts. Thomas picked two people for each audition, told each person what part they were reading, and said “Go.” He gave some directions and insight into what characters we were playing, so we were aware this play is made up of short scenes that explore love and loss to various degrees.

      LB: I knew nothing about the play. I was talking with Thomas and told him I’d show up to audition because I wanted to know more about it. I got on the internet and read a synopsis. I knew there were eleven vignettes, each with two characters. We had to sign a form saying we understand a few require kissing. One scene has physical slapstick humor involving an ironing board. 

      CC: An ironing board? I’m trying to decide which would be more difficult for an actor—lip-locking with another actor, or getting smacked in the kisser with an ironing board.

      LB: I’ve had to kiss on stage before. I think I could handle slapstick if the scene required it.

      BD: I’ve done a lot of physical things on stage. In the last play I was in, I was wrestled to the floor by a crazy Russian while wearing a tuxedo. I think I could take on an ironing board.

      CC: Do you remember what your first casting call was like? 

      LB: My first audition was for my high school musical. I wasn’t nervous because I knew everyone. There was a supporting role I wanted, a character who was the total opposite of me — a real wild type. I was very conservative at that age. I wanted to play her to see what it would be like. But because I had a good singing voice, I got cast as the female lead. I was actually disappointed! 

      BD: I was entirely too wrapped up in myself, too embarrassed in high school to consider being in the class play. I had no self-esteem, no confidence. Then I had regrets I hadn’t done it. I got involved with Hamilton-Gibson years later. I was out walking one day, and I ran into my buddy Rob Kathcart. He mentioned he was going to H-G to audition for a play and he encouraged me to do it, too. So I did. I’d been thinking about it and it just happened. I was a lot more nervous in my first audition. It’s pretty much the same process then as it is now. You get the script and you read the lines. Later, Thomas sends you an email telling you if you got the part.

      LB: My first casting call for community theater was really nerve-wracking. I was living in Arizona at the time, and I didn’t have any experience. I didn’t know anyone and didn’t have a whole lot of self-esteem. When you audition, you read select scenes. You haven’t read the entire script, and you don’t know the characters. Plus you don’t know the director. There’s so much the director is looking for that you have no idea about. If you don’t fit what he or she has in mind for the character, you probably won’t get the part. I didn’t get the first part I auditioned for, nor the second or third. But I kept auditioning and got experience, and got to know the directors and they got to know me. That’s when I started getting cast. 

      I had fun auditioning for A Pound of Flesh, my first show with H-G. The casting call was completely different from anything I’ve ever experienced. Instead of sitting quietly on the sidelines, the other actors got fully engaged in the process. They were like audience members: clapping, laughing, encouraging me. It made me feel relaxed. I felt part of the group. I really like Thomas’s style as a director. He’s not intrusive or bullying or demeaning. He never intimidates the actors. The audition as he conducts it is a very encouraging environment. He tries to bring out the character he’s looking for in every actor. He actually made eye contact with me, something I’m not used to from other directors.

      BD: Thomas made eye contact with me, too. When I was done auditioning, he looked me square in the eye and said, “If you receive the blanket form saying that you weren’t picked for the cast, don’t take it personally. We can’t pick everybody for every part.” He never broke gaze with me. I felt like, c’mon man, you’re breaking my heart!

      CC: So what’s next if you don’t get cast? Any words of wisdom for new actors?

      LB: Don’t be invested in getting a particular role. Keep your options open. If I don’t get a role in Almost, Maine, I’m considering auditioning for the musical tribute to Frank Sinatra, My Way, coming up this May. It would give me a chance to sing as well as to act.

      BD: Keep trying out. If I don’t get this one, there’s always another casting call. That’s what’s so great about H-G.

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