Posts Tagged The Seafarer

The Seafarer: Director’s Blog #1, Auditions

The next production at WCT, Conor McPherson’s The Seafarer, opens Thanksgiving weekend and runs three weekends—appropriately, since the play is set on Christmas Eve and Christmas morning.
.   One of the most suspenseful and important phases of the production is now behind us: auditions.
.   I’ve auditioned for roles myself, and I find them harrowing. Surely that’s partly because I audition rarely, take roles rarely, and therefore feel somewhat awkward on a stage. I look around and see actors more experienced, more at ease, and more likely to get cast than I, and lose my nerve. I also have some vision alignment problems that mean I have to keep my nose directly in a script to see it, and I know the director would occasionally like to see my face…. Well, because of my own “issues” as an auditioner, as a director I do try to put auditioners at ease, and give them the same chance at a role I would like to be given if I were in their place. And then sometimes I wonder if the auditioners are more relaxed than I am.
.   There’s so much riding on the audition. WHO plays a role has so much influence on HOW it can be played. This is true both for the individual role and for the overall ensemble and the world they can create. I always tell auditioners that I cast to ensemble: that is, how good an actor is individually and “qua actor,” so to speak, is only part of what I’m trying to find out in an audition. How good he or she is for the role, how compatible his or her potential is with my own vision for the play, and how well he or she will complement the rest of the cast and the development of the scenes—these are crucial considerations. Actors tend to feel that if they don’t get a role it’s because the director thought somebody else was a better actor. While that may be so, much more significant is whether somebody else seems better for the role and a better fit with the other actors being chosen for the cast.
.    I directed the Connecticut première of McPherson’s The Weir, and I think he really speaks to me. I have since directed staged readings of several other of his plays, including The Seafarer. I saw the production of this play directed by McPherson himself in New York, but I also see this play very clearly in my own mind, and the members of the staged-reading cast confirmed my love for it and my ideas about its direction.
.   So when I went into auditions for the production of this play, I was hoping to see some of the actors who had been in the reading. For this play I didn’t pre-cast anyone, but I did make sure that people I was interested in would be auditioning, and I also had some possible choices “pencilled in.” David Brubaker, my brilliant and beloved director back in college, said often that a director who had no casting possibilities in mind had no business choosing a play to begin with, and I agree with him. I was interested in all the actors who auditioned, and their potential for this play, and I did my best to give everyone a fair hearing; but for several of the roles, new auditioners did have candidates to “beat.”
.    Most of the actors who auditioned came prepared for the evening, having read all or part of the play, having seen a production of it possibly, having read the audition notice carefully. One of the auditioners had decided only at the last minute to come, though, and since he had not prepared the required Irish accent he chose not to try it. That was a shame, because accents are necessary for this play, and I couldn’t make a casting decision based on the possibility that he could do a good one. Note to anyone auditioning for anyone: come ready to do what the audition announcement has suggested is necessary.
.   In the end, I wound up casting three of the five actors who had been in the staged reading of the play with me. To say the other two were also actors I’d worked with before would be somewhat misleading, because most of the auditioners were actors I’d worked with before. Actually three of the actors cast had been in my production of The Weir back in 2001, as well. For a play this intimate, this demanding, and this substantial, I was unlikely to cast someone whose work I didn’t know. I did that once many years ago and nearly destroyed the show: in fact, I had to dismiss the actor from the cast just two days before we opened because he was nowhere near ready to do the part in front of an audience and, in the lead role as he was, would have brought the entire play crashing down. (Another actor went on with a script and was infinitely better. I wish I had had the courage to make the change sooner, for the sake of the other actors who had gamely been trying to develop their scenes with no help from the lead.)
.   The offer of a role is the beginning of an adventure that has to be buoyed by mutual courage, mutual work, and mutual trust. I’m confident that I have a cast where that will be the case.
.   We’ve had the read-through that begins the rehearsal process, and I enjoyed the camaraderie among the actors, the wonderful interplay of their voices, and McPherson’s natural, funny, painful, beautiful dialogue. I can’t wait to start rehearsals in earnest.

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Auditions: The Seafarer

WESTPORT COMMUNITY THEATRE
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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