The Seafarer: Director’s Blog #2, Equity

Directors at community theaters often gripe about Actors Equity Association, the union that represents stage actors and stage managers. We encounter a lot of frustrations in this regard. First of all, some of us have friends who are Equity actors and whom we would love to be able to cast in our non-professional productions. In a number of cases those actors would be interested in performing the roles we’d like to cast them in, too. And some of those very same actors did perform in community theater before they earned their membership in Equity. Furthermore, the profession is so very very competitive, with far more actors than there are roles available at any given moment, that Equity actors may find themselves without work for months on end, and sometimes longer; and an artist who doesn’t practice gets stale. But working with an Equity actor means working under an Equity contract, and that in turn means spending money. Community theaters aren’t set up, generally, to put people on payrolls; and most community theaters don’t pay their actors, partly because community theater began as a volunteer enterprise and even more because community theaters typically work on shoestring budgets.

.   I know of three or four ways around this dilemma, and I know people who have taken advantage of those ways. But I’m glad to say that, although I have found myself on more than one occasion faced with the problem, I have taken the through road, not the detour.

.   My mother was a member of a teachers’ union, as is my brother-in-law now. One of my sisters was a member of a musicians’ union when she was working as a professional musician. And I am a proud member of the American Association of University Professors, a professional organization, and am currently represented at Central Connecticut State University by the Association’s collective-bargaining wing. For two seasons I worked as a local jobber, a non-member union-sanctioned job, in an Equity summer-stock company. So, although I haven’t been a miner or an automotive worker or a meat-packer or any of the other things traditionally associated with unions, I am a union member, in a family with a history of union membership. I’ve also seen how easily people can be taken advantage of when they’re working at something they love: they will take on extra work, or work long hours overtime, or do double duty, or waive compensation to help realize a project they believe in. And I have seen the consequences of that generosity and commitment, too, in the form of burnout or disillusionment on the part of the person and, for the entity that benefited from that generosity, new and increased expectations of future employees based on what the previous person was willing to do. I believe in the value of unions for the protection of employer and employee alike, and for the maintenance of professional standards and mutual dignity. In any dealings with unionized workers, I’m all about solidarity.

.   That said, when I auditioned actors for The Seafarer I was conscious of the possibility that Equity would make or break my cast. People who saw (and loved) the staged reading of The Seafarer I directed saw the work of an excellent cast, and I was hoping to have the chance to use actors from that cast if possible. But one of those actors is Equity. He had done the reading on an Equity waiver (Equity has generally been very helpful to me for my staged-reading projects). A long time ago I used an Equity actor in a full production by way of a waiver, but I expected that regulations would have changed since then. I planned that, if I wound up wanting to offer my actor the Seafarer role, I would take a shot at a waiver request and then see where we could go from there.

.   I had a great turnout at auditions, and I thought I might find someone among them who could fill the role at issue as well as my Equity guy could. But ultimately, although I saw a lot of ability and promise, I did not see a genuine alternative. I offered the role to my best candidate, and contacted Actors Equity Association to see what the possibilities were.

.   My dealings with Equity on this matter couldn’t have been more cordial, personable, and supported. The representative, Tripp Chamberlain, liked the project I described and guided me through the process of applying for a Special Appearance Contract, a waiver being impossible for a full production. He also directed me to a Paymaster service that would handle the salary, withholding, and reporting functions of the contract, since WCT isn’t set up to do any of that. He answered all my questions, including the naïve ones, and moved the paperwork and decision process along quickly.

.   Meanwhile, the WCT Board were wonderful too. They agreed unanimously that the quality of the production was the foremost concern and that our little budget could be managed so that we could meet the financial requirements of the contract.

.   When we got the go-ahead from Equity, we were in fact ready to go ahead, and Damien Langan’s name will have the Equity asterisk in the program.

.   I’m writing about this because I want to encourage other theaters that might find themselves in the same casting dilemma. If your board of directors is willing to make the effort, it is indeed possible to cast the actor of your choice and present a play that mingles professional actors with accomplished nonprofessionals, and to do it in a way that honors the actor, the theater, and the craft we all love.

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Auditions: The Seafarer

Announces AUDITIONS for
The Seafarer
By Conor McPherson

Directed by Ruth Anne Baumgartner
Auditions will be held on:
Monday, September 19 & Tuesday, September 20 at 7:00 PM
at the Westport Community Theatre
Westport Town Hall, 110 Myrtle Avenue, Westport, CT

Award-winning Irish playwright Conor McPhersonʼs THE SEAFARER is a wonderful achievement of character, plot, and atmosphere, and is another expression of his continuing fascination with myths, legends, and the supernatural. Set on Christmas Eve in north Dublin, the play presents a boozy night and a visit from…no, not Santa, not by a long shot. Sharky Harkin, chronic knockabout, returns home to visit his brother, who has recently gone blind. Some old friends come by, the drinking starts (or, more accurately, continues), and Sharky finds himself playing poker with the Devil. The London Observer said of this play, “Succinct, startling and eerie, and the funniest McPherson play to date.” McPherson has been called the outstanding playwright of his generation—The Daily Mail says “McPherson writes like a dream.” Director Ruth Anne Baumgartner says of The Seafarer, “Itʼs funny, itʼs suspenseful, itʼs moving, and at last it will fill you with a strange and triumphant joy.” (The ETC staged reading of this play in December of 2009 received a standing ovation.)

Needed: 5 men. Characters, as described by McPherson:

James “Sharky” Harkin, erstwhile fisherman/van driver/chauffeur, 50s. “He is not a big man, but is wiry and strong. A very tough life is etched on his face. His eyes are quick and ready.”

Richard Harkin, his older brother, blind, late 50s/60s. “He is unshaven and looks terrible. He has recently gone blind.”

Ivan Curry, old friend of the Harkins, late 40s. “A big burly man with a red face and curly hair.” For most of the play, he canʼt find his glasses, and his vision is poor, especially for reading.

Nicky Giblin, a friend of Richardʼs, late 40s/50s. He “has a skinny, nervy appearance. He rarely seems in bad humour.”

Mr. Lockhart, an acquaintance of Nickyʼs, 50s. “He looks like a wealthy businessman and bon viveur.”

The director will be guided by these ages and descriptions but not bound by them. Casting decisions will be made for the sake of the ensemble.

For ALL roles: a credible Irish (Dublin) accent is important, as is the ability to create and sustain the impression of functional inebriation.

Auditions will consist of cold readings from the script.

People interested in working backstage in design or execution are warmly invited to attend the auditions.

Auditions: at Westport Community Theatre. Monday 19 September and Tuesday 20 September, 7-9.

Performance dates: Nov. 25 – Dec. 11.

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Moonlight & Magnolias

Announces AUDITIONS for
Moonlight & Magnolias

By Ron Hutchinson
Directed by Jessica Denes

Auditions will be held on:
Sunday, July 17 & Monday, July 18 at 7:00 PM
at the Westport Community Theatre
Westport Town Hall, 110 Myrtle Avenue, Westport, CT

The story: Based on true events. In 1939, three weeks into the shooting of Gone with the Wind, David O. Selznick has shut down production of what was the largest, most expensive movie of its day. George Cukor has been fired as director and the umpteenth draft of a script has proven to be unworkable. While fending off the film’s stars, gossip columnists, and his own father-in-law, Selznick sends for famed screenwriter Ben Hecht and pulls formidable director Victor Fleming from the set of The Wizard of Oz. Selznick still has a problem: Hecht has never read the book and every day he keeps production idle, it costs Selznick fifty thousand dollars. To make matters worse, Hecht doesn’t think much of the one page he did manage to read. Hecht and Fleming don’t exactly hit it off and are more interested in sniping professionally and personally at each other than working on the script. Selznick locks the doors, closes the shades, and on a diet of bananas and peanuts, the three men labor over five days to fashion a screenplay that will become the blueprint for one of the most successful and beloved films of all time. Frankly, my dear, this is one funny play…; a rip-roaring farce…; [with] witty, pointed dialogue and hilarious situations…;” -NY Daily News. Director’s note: For those with Peanut allergies, the actors do consume Peanuts throughout the show. Performance Dates are September 16 – October 2, 2011 at 8:00 pm
Characters: Auditions will consist of cold readings from the script. Familiarity with the play is suggested.
David O. Selznick (40-50s) is the prototypical Hollywood producer – obsessive, driven, and just a little nuts. GWTW is his masterpiece; he must have it how he sees it, and nothing must stand in the way. It’s his only chance to make one great picture.

Ben Hecht (40s) is the clever, quick-witted, articulate newspaperman turned script doctor. Sardonic but principled, he stands against everything that GWTW represents. Passionate advocate of anti-holocaust activism.

Vic Fleming (40-50s) is a real man’s man, friend of Clark Gable, talented, caustic, and capable. Does not suffer fools gladly. Don’t confuse him with someone who gives a damn.

Ms. Poppenghul (Any) is Selznick’s secretary, loyal, unflappable, no-nonsense. She knows how to deal with a pushy boss.

Perusal scripts available please contact the director at
For further information please call the Westport Community Theatre at (203) 226-1983 or contact the director at

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Auditions for “Sabrina Fair”


Announces AUDITIONS for

Sabrina Fair

By Samuel Taylor

Directed by Tom Rushen


Auditions will be held on:

Monday, April 11 at 7:30 PM
Tuesday April 12 at 7:30 PM

Westport Community Theatre
Westport Town Hall, 110 Myrtle Avenue
Westport, CT


"Sabrina" film

Cast from the film version of "Sabrina Fair"

Sabrina Fair is a modern Cinderella story. It is set on Long Island in the 1950s, and deals with the involvement of a very rich family named Larrabee with Sabrina Fairchild, the daughter of their family chauffeur. She is bright, well-educated, and has just returned from five years in Paris, where she has done a brilliant job as an executive in a U.S. government overseas office. She has come home to find out if she is still in love with the younger Larrabee son, David. The elder son, Linus, a cynical, good-humored tycoon who has taken control of the family fortune, detects Sabrina’s feeling for his brother, and for his own amusement lays a trap to bring them together. It works: David falls in love with Sabrina and wants to marry her. At the same time, a rich young Frenchman who has known Sabrina in Paris turns up and asks her to marry him. Faced with this dilemma, Sabrina discovers it is really Linus she wants. After an amusing scene in which Sabrina’s father, the chauffeur, makes a rather amazing revelation, Sabrina breaks down Linus’ resistance, and gets her man. An unusual number of fine character parts for actors: the beautiful mother of wit and perception; the father, whose one passion is attending funerals; the chauffeur who has been dabbling in the stock market and likes his job because it gives him time to read; the smart magazine editor who, as a house guest, is the interested observer.  Director’s note: Paul needs to speak with a French accent.  He and Sabrina also speak French.  Sabrina and Julia sing French songs, although Julia’s song is apparently a little off-color. Performance Dates are June 3rd – June 19th, 2011  at 8pm.


Characters: Auditions will consist of cold readings from the script. Familiarity with the play is suggested.     


Sabrina Fairchild (30): A beautiful, elegant young woman who has reinvented herself through her professional experience in Paris.  Now facing the life and the childhood crushes she left behind.  “…has fallen in love with the world and is having a passionate affair with it”

Maude Larrabee (58): Elegant and regal, she rules the family.

“A reigning beauty all her life…gives no sign of abdicating”

Julia Ward McKinlock (58): Maude’s best friend.  A magazine editor, she is a woman ahead of her time.  Witty, insightful and as blunt as she needs to be.“[a face] that shows intelligence and good humor and awareness.”

Gretchen Larrabee (30): David’s ex-wife who is now dating Linus. “…well-bred…knowing..tough.”

Margaret (Any Age): The family maid.

Young Woman 1& 2  (20): Partygoers.



Linus Larrabee Jr.  (40): In charge of the family business.  Better at business than life or romance.   “…rugged-looking, and easy in his movements.”

David Larrabee (30): More carefree than Linus. “…easy good humor…sure control.”

Linus Larrabee (60+): Their father, a man of leisure who amuses himself by attending funerals. “….essentially a courtly and gracious man.”

Fairchild ( 60+): The Larrabees’ chauffeur.  Quiet, humble, but with his own dignity.  An avid reader.

Paul D’Argenson (30): A Parisian suitor of Sabrina’s.   “With his affability, the man has authority.”

Young Man 1 & 2  (20): Partygoers.


For further information please call the Westport Community Theatre  at (203) 226-1983 or contact the director at – for directions please visit


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Auditions for “Mixed Couples” February 13 and 14 at 7:00 PM


Announces AUDITIONS for


“Mixed Couples”

By James Prideaux



Directed by Jessica Denes

Auditions will be held on:

Sun., February 13 & Monday, February 14th at 7:00 PM

Westport Community Theatre
Westport Town Hall – 110 Myrtle Avenue
Westport, CT

Auditions at WCT February 13 and 14 for "Mixed CouplesThe time is 1927, the place an airplane hangar in New Jersey where two couples wait for the fog to lift so their chartered plane can fly them to Washington. Their meeting is quite by chance, but also ironic, as it develops that the four had switched partners twenty-five years earlier, and haven’t seen each other since. One couple has settled into suburban bliss, he a professor, she a housewife and mother; the other couple are Park Avenue types, he a rich, hard-driving businessman, and his wife (after all these years) still an aspiring actress. Cautious and civil at first, their conversation turns gradually bitchier (and funnier) as time hangs heavy, bootleg liquor flows, and old enmities are revived. As their veneers crumble, it is clear that neither couple has benefited as much as they had expected from their marital switch, and that beneath their pretense lies aridity, although tempered by the witty hijinks they go through to convince themselves (and us) that all’s well in their reordered worlds. Performance Dates are April 8 – April 24, 2011 at 8:00 PM.

Auditions will consist of cold readings from the script. Familiarity with the play is suggested. “There are two (no let’s be totally fair to the men, four) razzle dazzle performances in James Prideaux’s new play MIXED COUPLES…” —NY Post.


Alden: (40s) A bit bookish and seemingly unemotional. Alden’s discontent with life speaks volumes in what he does not say or outwardly expresses. Married to Elberta.

Elberta: (40s) A dutiful, charming wife and mother. She is kind and proper and much too smart to see this as a failing or to etch this final image in stone. Elberta is full of emotions but is always in control of them. Married to Alden.

Don: (40s) A well heeled business type. Self confident and slick. Does have his moments of anger and annoyance, but remains loyal to his marriage and lifestyle. Married to Clarice.

Clarice: (40s)  A shallow, half-baked starlet whose contrived, dramatic antics are her only real claims to fame. Still a sexpot and can lay on the flirtatious allure with ease. Clarice enjoys stirring up trouble. Married to Don.

Pilot: (Any age) He is a bit nervous about having people, especially women, in the pilots’ room. As the night and the antics go on he is more than ready to get the passengers in the air.

Perusal Scripts available upon request; contact the director at

For further information, please call Westport Community Theatre at (203) 226-1983 or contact the director at

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