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Theater troupes plan group auditions

Ten Southern Oregon theater companies are holding a common general audition to consider local talent for their 2020 seasons.

The event, scheduled for Sunday, Sept. 29, and Tuesday, Oct. 1, will be the first time Rogue Valley theaters have worked together to organize a group audition.

There’s always been a certain level of cooperation among local theater companies. They loan and borrow costumes, set pieces and props. They talk about their season lineups and try to stagger opening nights. But holding a group audition signals a new and unprecedented level of cooperation.

Susan Aversa-Orrego of Collaborative Theatre Project was the one who got the ball rolling this summer over frozen yogurt during a casual meeting of the minds with people from Oregon Cabaret and Camelot theaters.

“Everybody tries to have their auditions about the same time, so the actors run around like crazy people trying to make all the different auditions,” Aversa-Orrego recalled. “So I asked, ‘Would you guys be OK if we had auditions together?’”

Valerie Rachelle, artistic director at Oregon Cabaret Theatre, was next to pick up the ball. Rachelle travels to group auditions in Seattle, New York and Los Angeles, so she is familiar with the process.

“This is not a new idea. I’ve gone to so many of these in the past,” Rachelle said. “A lot of these programs are costly and charge the actors to audition, but I don’t want to do that. I said, ‘I can take on the costs of building the website, stage management to hold the event and getting it going, and next year someone else will take on the costs so we can share it year by year.’”

It didn’t take long for the word to get out to local casting directors.

“When some of the others learned we were doing this, it opened the door,” noted Dann Hauser, executive director at Camelot. “It gives all the shops a chance to see all the talent out there and opens up opportunities for small theaters, large theaters — all theaters — to work together.”

Other participating theaters include Ashland Contemporary Theatre, Ashland New Plays Festival, Craterian/Next Step Theatre, Livia Genise Productions, Oregon Shakespeare Festival, Randall Theatre and Rogue Theater Company.

“We do this over and over again, and we develop a mental list of people who are really solid to work with, but some people might be new to the valley and some actors might not have the time to go to everybody’s general auditions because people have to work,” Aversa-Orrego said. “This way we expect to see people we haven’t seen.”

Justin Waggle, who was most recently cast in Collaborative Theatre Project’s “Death Takes a Holiday,” built the website ReadyCasting.com for the collaboration.

Actors who want to participate in the general audition must register in advance and schedule through ReadyCasting.com. Registration creates an actor’s profile, including a head shot, résumé and physical details, then the actor schedules an audition slot in the app. There are also tools built into the application for casting directors that make it easier to handle callbacks and casting.

General auditions at local theaters usually last about 10 minutes, and theaters say they may see 60 to 90 actors. Organizers agreed to limit each audition to 4 minutes and expect to see about 120 actors over the two days.

“I think the group audition will be helpful, especially to be in front of directors who don’t know me and don’t know the work I’ve done,” said Don Matthews, who played Arthur in Camelot’s “Spamalot” in the 2018 season. “Auditions are no fun for anyone, because you don’t have the intensity of a full score or the arc of the monologue, so much of the audition comes down to what you look like, your age, your size; the directors think about you and about doing a particular show with a specific actor, and maybe you get a call back.”

“This is the big, general audition, and all the people who are directing shows will be there,” explained Aversa-Orrego. “The auditions are short because it’s a general, 16 bars of a song, which is not a lot, and a minute monologue, just to get people seen and give the directors an idea of who’s out there and who’s interested.”

“We’re building a theater co-op where we can share resources. We work together well, and when you do that and you’re more comfortable, you’re more open to things,” Aversa-Orrego said of the partnership with Camelot and Cabaret.

“It’s the first step to everybody getting to the same place, saying how can we work together? There’s long-term planning ... a little acorn that can grow into the mighty oak — that last came from ‘Silent Sky’”

Reach Ashland freelance writer Maureen Flanagan Battistella at mbattistellaor@gmail.com.

Andy Atkinson / Mail TribuneTraffic moves through downtown Talent Sunday morning.