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Stage Left student directors deliberate over spring musical cast

By Megan Bowers, Senior Staff Writer

Room 114 in the Center for the Performing Arts is normally just a classroom, but earlier this week it served a different purpose - the location for auditions for Stage Left's upcoming musical, "The Drowsy Chaperone."

You walk into a room arranged to fit the look of a typical audition space with all the directors at a long table facing you.

The setup can be intimidating for most people walking into an audition, but this is not the case for you. The atmosphere of the Stage Left auditions seems friendly, not competitive.

"I think having experience both onstage and offstage helps me to understand both sides of it," said director Elizabeth Kehling. "I just try to make the kids auditioning feel relaxed and welcome."

The directors' table holds all the essentials of an audition including notebooks, pens and water for each hopeful actor. Scripts for cold readings are strewn randomly around the table, some covered with a half-eaten box of pizza.

You are greeted by a chorus of hellos and given a quick introduction when you walk in the room. The Stage Left president's small service dog laying under the table puts you at ease immediately.

While the accompanist looks over your sheet music, you are asked to do a cold reading.

The paper shakes in your hand as your eyes flash back and forth, reading the lines and creating a personality all at once.

Though this portion seems like the least complicated of the audition, since there is no memorization involved, it actually holds the most weight.

"I want to see character," said assistant director, Jamie Ross. "If you think you are not acting hard enough, then you probably aren't."

You read for several different characters with varying personalities and accents before moving on to sing the piece you have prepared.

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Everyone gives you time to work out the tempo and other kinks with the accompanist.

"The first thing I look for is that they stayed in the key," said music director Andrew Higgins. "I work a lot with the accompanist so I can also see rhythmically and musically how well they are working together."

Once this is over you are free to go and told you may receive an email about callbacks later that night.

Back in the room, the directors deliberate.

"We mainly talk about what their strong points were," said Kehling. "We would say their inflection was really good or their voice was tremendously amazing and then we base who gets a callback off of that."

Everyone who is going to be in the show must receive a callback, regardless of whether or not the directors have already mentally cast you in a role.

"We are looking for overall character chemistry with the other people they will be working with," said Kehling.

This show especially involves a lot a dancing, which also factors into the callback decisions.

"I'm going to be teaching them a basic dance covering basic steps and musical theater moves," said choreographer Emily Kapnick. "I choreographed it in a way that allows people to make it harder for themselves if they are more advanced, but is still easy for flat out beginners."

Most people don't realize the amount of stress the people on the other side of the auditions go through.

"It's absolutely horrifying," said Kehling. "My biggest fear is that it doesn't go off and that its not a great show, but I have faith in my support system."

This makes choosing the cast the most difficult part of being a director.

"The most challenging part is turning people away," said Kehling. "I want everybody to be involved and I want everyone to be happy, but that's not how theater works."

In the end, the stress on both sides of the audition process is worth it.

"Finding a cast that meshes super well and are super talented is so rewarding," said Kehling. "They are just undiscovered little gems in the big world that is Miami University and being able to showcase their tremendous talent and have them work together as a group is amazing."

"The Drowsy Chaperone" will be playing from April 21 to 23.