LeanerFasterStronger: Auditions

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The Sheffield Crucible and Lyceum theatres at dusk,  16/3/12. Photo: Kaite O’Reilly

I have always admired actors, but after this past week sitting the other side of a desk to them as they audition for LeanerFasterStronger, my admiration has massively increased.

The talent out there is humbling, and we could cast the production many times over, each new combination bringing different strengths and interpretations  to the fore.  I don’t envy Andrew Loretto, who will direct the production in May and so the person who has to make these final, impossible decisions.

LeanerFasterStronger is more a performance text than a ‘play’ – it will require doubling of parts, physical scores, and therefore great flexibility and speed from the performers in making these transitions. Owing to this, Andrew is bringing together an ensemble company, so the casting decisions relies ultimately on that mix. I think in many ways this is harder than more conventional casting, where the actor may be ‘up’ for one role – the part of Ophelia, say.  It has been my delight and honour to meet so many talented performers – not every playwright gets access to this process of auditioning – but from the start Andrew and co-producer Susan Burns of Chol wanted my involvement throughout.

Some weeks ago  I selected some excerpts from the script to be given in advance to the actors invited to audition, so the readings weren’t ‘cold’. What has been most impressive is the array of interpretations of the characters these actors prepared – each relevant, credible, and illuminating aspects of the characters I had never anticipated. This is why theatre is a collaborative art: performance writers may write the script, but the flesh is provided by the creative engagement of the rest of the company – primarily the actors and director, but also the scenographer, the sound and lighting designers…

It was extraordinary to sit and hear so many different approaches to words I had written – some words which, prior to this,  had only been ‘voiced’ inside my head. Speeches I had written and which we had deliberately taken out of context to the whole (not identifying gender, or background, or situation) suddenly belonged to bodies and were given emotions and psychologies and ‘back-stories’. I saw how performers can create a whole world out of a short monologue in order to give it a logic and meaning – I saw how inventive and thorough and extraordinary they are. My appreciation of performers’ skills and imaginations grew and grew.

Now the auditions are over and Andrew is making his final decisions and negotiations. After many days and several cities, I sat this week in a bar opposite Sheffield Theatres with Susan and reflected on an extraordinary process. I took the photograph gracing the top of this post and invited Susan to guest-blog here, giving her perspective of the process. That post will appear shortly, as will the announcement of our cast. The preparation is almost over. Soon we will be deep into rehearsals and another very different process…

(c) Kaite O’Reilly 17/3/12   Happy St Patrick’s Day, all.

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