The Fog of Casting; Welcome 2013 Actors

“I went to the audition for a laugh and got the part for the way I walked down the corridor. There’s no justice is there?” — Ray Winston

Without a doubt, as an actor and director, the auditioning process is the most unjust element of being a theater professional. It is a process where you constantly have to ready yourself for a letdown no matter how hard you prepare. Even if you go in and knock it out the park or the person who walks through the door is amazing there may be tons of little variables that deter the actor from being hired or the director from hiring. And let’s not talk about the effect that getting and giving rejection can sometimes have on people. For some people the process can be a vehicle for ego puffing and for others an opportunity to share one’s artistry.

At HVSF I like to think it is the latter. I must say that at HVSF our auditioning process is a blast. I cannot tell you how many actors have written back in amazement, excited about how much fun and how comfortable they were made to feel in the casting room. Having the opportunity to really share ones work is something we all long for and I believe the process at HVSF allows actors to do that to the nth degree. We are all proud of that.

This year’s season saw Terry O’Brien, Founding Artistic Director and director of King Lear, Christopher Edwards, Associate Artistic Director and director of The Three Musketeers and Russell Treyz director of All’s Well That Ends Well go through a three week auditioning process over approximately four months. The 2013 season was especially challenging. Trying to cast twenty actors for twenty plus weeks was a blast. As a Shakespeare festival we obviously need actors who can speak the speech trippingly on the tongue, but to add to the challenge this year we needed actors who could sing and play guitar for All’s Well That Ends Well, and fight like 17th century swashbucklers for The Three Musketeers, all in the open air, rain or shine. It is always fun to watch and be a part of the excitement of directors elbowing each other vying for the actors they want to work with. Luckily each actor in our company is able to work in two shows so there is only one sad director at any time. In the end we found everyone we were looking for from over 1500 equity actors, and over 130 apprentice candidates.

It was an amazing and stressful process at times, but finally coming through the fog of casting, I know all three directors are excited about the possibilities and the company of actors’ amazing talent. This season we will see many familiar faces and a ton of newbies to the company. So welcome our 2013 acting company, Mike Borrelli*, Mark Couchot, Richard Ercole*, Jessica Frey, India Gurley, Eleanor Handley*, Angela Janas, Stephen Paul Johnson*, Wes Mann*, Dan Matisa*, Chiara Motley*, Ara Morten, Charlie Murphy*, Lily Narbonne, Kyle Nunn, Jason O’Connell*, Ryan Quinn*, Daniel Shelly*, Dan Tracy and Taylor Walsh! We cannot wait to get to work and bring the three shows to life.

Now what to do about rehearsal? Yikes!


(*denotes member of Actors’ Equity Association, the Union of Professional Actors and Stage Manager in the United States)


The 2013 Season

This summer represents the 27th time I’ve assembled a company of actors to present summer theatre productions with the Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival in Garrison, New York.  To say that this is the one of the highlights of my year is an understatement.

For the past 5 years HVSF has presented a 3-show repertory season.  Repertory is a terrific way to do theatre because our audience gets to see a variety of projects, on consecutive nights, if they wish, and they get to see our actors, some of whom they know from previous seasons, perform very different roles on consecutive evenings.

I think the variety and contrast in a repertory season is just as much fun for the artists as it is for the audience.   One night, Steve Johnson will be scheming as the vicious Cardinal Richelieu in The Three Musketeers, the next he’ll be enduring the storms of King Lear.  That night, Jason O’Connell will be Lear’s loyal, but disguised, Lord Kent and the next night he’ll be the equivocal and lascivious Parolles in All’s Well That Ends Well.

Our broader purpose is simple.  Using the Actor’s tools, we’re here to give shape and life to stories that playwrights and writers have put down on paper.  We take the author’s words, add our skills as performing artists, mingle our own personal perspective, and engage with our audience; the result is a theatre presentation unique to our company and our public.  One of the great excitements of our work is that, looking forward from today, the 4th day of studio rehearsal, our idea of what our productions might become is vague and misty, just the kernel of a thought.  But by the time we get to opening and running the shows, they likely will bear little or no resemblance to our originating idea.

This is the substance of our process, filling in the gap between the script on paper, and the exchange each evening with our audience in the Blast Furnace of Live Performance.