The following is a guest post by performer Erica Charles. Erica plays Esther in Fulcrum’s 2013 Fringe production of Here, opening in just under a month! To see the rest this article, hit “continue reading.”
Hey everyone! As many of you know, I’ve been super fortunate to have been cast in a pretty darn neat show called Here by Fulcrum Theatre being staged at both the Toronto and Hamilton Fringe festivals this July. As this is probably the most extensive performance event of which I have ever been a part, I figured I’d start this blogging to sort of basically document my experience as an actor in the company (taking note of any hilarious moments that occur along the way). This first entry is sort of an intro into how I got ‘here’ in the first place (yeah, these will never stop) and what our company is up to one month before we open in Toronto!
I actually missed the original auditions for Here, as I was acting in another production for my final culminating performance project in the Department of Dramatic Arts at Brock University. About a day after I had moved back home from St. Catharines after finishing up my four years as a student at Brock, I found myself thrown into the callbacks for this production having only read the sides emailed to us about once or twice. This was essentially my first and only audition. And, as this show is dance heavy, it was mostly a dance audition.
I like to equate my dancing skills to a dog trying to chase its tail. But not a big dog with a long tail that they can actually reach and, you know, actually get it and maintain some dignity. No, I’m a schnauzer with a small stub for a tail, flopping over, going around in circles attempting in vain to grasp that small stub until finally they fall down and move on with their lives.
The extent of my known choreo is ‘stop, drop, and roll’. Thanks, elementary school.
Needless to say, I would have loved to be a fly on the wall in that audition hall. But hey, I accepted my fate and moved on. The combination taught to us was beautiful, as were the other dancers, and although my fire-drill moves weren’t exactly National Ballet material, it was still a good time. If you can’t laugh at yourself, who can you laugh at… right?
I’ll probably reference this topic many times throughout this post, though I want to draw your attention briefly to the notion of ‘listening’ to both yourself and your partner (dance, scene, etc.,) on stage. I’ll probably get into more ‘acting’ talk later on, but a part of this dance callback was basically learning about how to communicate with someone without words. We were asked to pair up with someone (alternating partners throughout the exercise) and engage in a sort of bodily ‘communication’ with them. One person would present a movement, and the other would receive it, interpret it in whatever way they saw fit, and then react with their own response based on whatever action their partner gave them. In this case, ‘action’ became both a literal and metaphorical term. Specificity was key, as the movements gave a physical definition to what actors absolutely need to do each time they approach a new scene or play: each character wants something, and they do something to get it. This exercise gave me a way to physically see what each person was doing, and how I (as both an actor and, well, an ‘honourary dancer/stumbler’ in this case) could respond. How I could take everything into my own body, and reciprocate it for them. A see-saw of give and take equilibrium that is the backbone of any genre of performance.
Again, more acting insights and shenanigans to come.
Following the dance portion of the callbacks we were asked to do some cold-reads of the sides that were sent to us. I sat in the hallway for a pretty long time, watching the congregation of auditionees get smaller and smaller. At one point I’m pretty sure I nodded off next to a radiator…
Strangely enough, that’s not the first time that’s happened.
By the time I was seen by the panel, we all had to scoot out of the venue pretty fast, so we ended up finishing the callback session in the kitchen of one of our stage managers. Throughout this portion of the audition we were accompanied by our SM’s dachshund who, judging by his strange admiration and want of my leg, really, really wanted a cameo appearance. Needless to say he’s now my understudy (I told you, dog chasing tail…).
I stayed in callback-kitchen pretty late, and had no idea what to expect when I headed home. It honestly could have gone either way. I probably would have been satisfied with whatever the result, though was thrilled to find out that I was cast in a non-dancing role! …then I was thrilled to find out I was actually cast. When I got the email and saw the list of names that were working in, on, and around this show, I knew that this was where I wanted to be. We’ve got an extremely talented ensemble working on all ends of the show. It’s already been such a journey and there is tons more I have to/want to/will write in the coming days. Since I don’t want to scare you away with obscene word-counts just yet, I’ll leave it at this for now (you all have been warned).