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Actors' prayer: Pick me! Pick me!

Published 2:49 pm, Thursday, April 25, 2013

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  • Luke Miles reacts with surprise and delight at the sounds being produced during Mary Corcoran's recent demonstration at Greenwich Catholic School. Photo: Contributed Photo
    Luke Miles reacts with surprise and delight at the sounds being produced during Mary Corcoran's recent demonstration at Greenwich Catholic School. Photo: Contributed Photo

 

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If you go
Musicals at Richter performances take place outdoors under the stars.
Shows are outside the Richter Arts Center, at 100 Aunt Hack Road in Danbury.
This summer's lineup includes "Some Enchanted Evening: The Songs of Rodgers & Hammerstein," June 21, 22, 23, 27, 28 & 29; "9 to 5: A Brand Spankin' New Musical by Dolly Parton," July 5, 6,7,12, 13, 18, 19, & 20; and "Sweet Charity," July 26 & 28, Aug. 2, 3, 9 & 10.
All shows begin at 8:30 p.m.
Tickets range from $18 to $23 and can be purchased on the grounds or via www.musicalsatrichter.org.
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Inside a back room at the former Melrose School in Brewster, N.Y, all eyes are on Bethel resident Steven Taliaferro. You can hear a pin drop; he's starting to feel a bit nervous.

Taliaferro, 25, is auditioning for a role in a Musicals at Richter production and, well, he knows things don't always go as smoothly as planned.

In "It Takes Two," from the hit Broadway musical "Hairspray," instead of singing "I'm your king and you're my queen that no one else can come between," Taliaferro begins with "You're my king and I'm your queen" ... He mumbles the rest.

"While the directors didn't say anything to me, I kind of had a feeling they knew I messed up," he said later. "In the back of my head I said to myself, even though I've done shows at Richter before, maybe there's not really a place for me this summer."

Despite the mistake, Taliaferro still got a lead part, playing Bob Enright in "9 to 5: A Brand Spankin' New Musical by Dolly Parton." He just has to figure out how he'll mesh his rehearsal schedule with his job as a deli clerk in Bethel and an intern at the Theater Educational Department for the Boys & Girls Club of Greenwich.

Musicals at Richter Inc., on Aunt Hack Road in Danbury, is a nonprofit outdoor theater founded in 1985. Also known as MAR, it's a community theater where cast members volunteer their time and are not paid. They are asked to join the general membership and pay annual dues of $20. Most of the volunteers perform year-round.

Aside from "9 to 5," the other summer performances include "Sweet Charity" and "Some Enchanted Evening: The Songs of Rodgers & Hamerstein."

Every year about 150 people audition for shows, according to director Donald Birely. Each one can have up to 40 people in it. A lot of work goes on behind the scenes in casting the roles, Birely explained. Everyone interested in performing must come to the audition knowing two songs -- a ballad and an up-tempo.

If people get nervous during their audition, the directors give them a chance to repeat their lines. Yet even when you're nervous, "your natural talent still comes through and you should still be able to present a professional audition," said Danbury resident Jeri Kansas, director and choreographer of "Sweet Charity." "When you have technique, you can always rely upon that to work through those jitters."

Other qualities Kansas said she looks for during an audition are taking direction well, projecting confidence, and -- for a lead part -- being a triple threat, which means being able to sing, dance and act well.

Samantha Morrill, 22, of Danbury, a dance teacher in Brookfield, recently auditioned as a dancer. "One director gave me very useful advice, which is that I should learn one song perfectly. This is the song I can use to nail all future auditions," said Morrill, who was cast as a dancer for"Sweet Charity."

Lauren Sherwood, 32, of Stamford, who is co-directing "Some Enchanted Evening," said, "The most important quality I look for is if you can connect with your song. Acting is not just about singing a song. It's about telling the story you're singing about. Whatever the emotion is, whoever the character is, you need to be able to connect with the piece so you can tell us that story."

Brookfield resident Ted Schwartz, who has been performing in musicals since 2004, said he's learned how to take rejection over the years. For this season he hoped to get the role of Mr. Hart, the boss in "9 to 5." While he thought his audition went well, he didn't get the part. Instead, he was cast in the ensemble for "Some Enchanted Evening."

"While I was disappointed, it's one of those things you sort of get used to. It's not that they don't think you're a good actor, they just feel you're not right for that particular part," said Schwartz, 52, who works as a forensic scientist. Schwartz said once actors get roles, the rehearsals are very time-consuming. "Initially, it's one or two nights a week and one day on the weekend for a few hours. Then, from three weeks to opening night, rehearsals are three and four times a week. The week before production, rehearsals are every night."

What makes Schwartz happiest, however, is simply getting the chance to perform. "When I'm on stage in front of an audience, it's like a rush," he said. "I feel like a softball player hitting a home run. I get a great sense of satisfaction."

sandraifox@aol.com

Performances for the 2013 summer season at Musicals at Richter in Danbury are "Some Enchanted Evening: The Songs of Rodgers & Hammerstein," June 21, 22, 23, 27, 28 & 29; "9 to 5: A Brand Spankin' New Musical by Dolly Parton," July 5, 6,7,12, 13, 18, 19, & 20; and "Sweet Charity," July 26 & 28, Aug. 2, 3, 9 & 10. All shows begin at 8:30 p.m. Tickets range from $18 to $23 and can be purchased on the grounds or via www.musicalsatrichter.org.

Sandra Diamond Fox is a freelance writer in Connecticut; sandraifox@aol.com.

Land your dream role

How do directors from Musicals at Richter, the longest running outdoor theater in Connecticut, choose who will fill the roles of each show? This year's directors shared the following tips on how to land your dream role in any production.

Know your song well

Take direction well

Project confidence

Have a positive attitude

Possess a versatile singing voice that enables you to play multiple parts

Choose songs that showcase your talents