Tag Archives: Durant Communications

Young actor shares audition tips

By guest blogger Aaron Zweiback

Being a young actor myself, I know how stressful it can be to audition. Sometimes you aren’t sure what to perform, sometimes you get nervous and don’t do your best, and sometimes the competition just seems too talented. That is why I am writing this article: to teach aspiring young actors how to navigate the audition process, and to give them some useful tips.

The first step to auditioning effectively is to be aware of the calendar for upcoming shows. A website that I have found very helpful is durantcom.com, which shows the auditions that are occurring locally. If you have any friends who are also into theatre, make sure to stay in touch with them and share information. Also, make sure you are familiar with the current “season” that is going on at certain theatres that interest you, so you will know what shows will be featuring kids’ roles.

Lto R: Sam Primack (Ralphie) and Aaron Zweiback (Flick) in "A Christmas Story" at Phoenix Theatre

Another important rule to live by that will help you tremendously on your path to a successful career is to always have a monologue and song “in your back pocket” (memorized). This way, you can be completely prepared and ready for an audition if you make an impulsive choice to try for a role but don’t have much time to prepare.

Frequently learn new songs and monologues, because some directors will get bored if you audition for their theatre with the same material more than once. It can be hard to read the minds of directors, because some hate it when you sing a song from the show you are auditioning for, but others don’t seem to mind. You should definitely think about the mood of the piece you are auditioning with, and see if it matches the mood of the show or the character you are hoping to play.

Now, if you are going to try to pursue acting, you must have the essential “tools” for the auditioning process: a photograph of you from the shoulders up (a “headshot”) and resumé (also called a “CV”) are almost always required. You can pay a professional photographer to make you look legit, ask a family member or friend to take some pictures and print them at Costco or a camera store, or even use a school photo that would appeal to a casting director.

Make sure your headshot is recent, so that you don’t show up looking completely different from the picture you are submitting. As for a resumé, simply type up all of the shows you have been a part of and the roles you have played, as well as the years and the theatres in which you performed them.

I have noticed that many young actors worry that they have no experience and therefore nothing to offer. If you feel this way, you can launch your career by attending workshops and camps, and by auditioning for as many theatres and directors as you can. Most of the professionals in town know each other, and they actually encourage actors to learn from their colleagues in different programs. I myself have performed on the main stage and/or participated in summer workshops at Phoenix Theatre, The Phoenix Symphony, Valley Youth Theatre, Childsplay, Desert Stages, and Paradise Valley Community College.

I have also watched my friends act in plays and musicals at Spotlight Youth Theatre, Greasepaint, Arizona State University, and Nearly Naked Theatre, and I hope one day to have an opportunity to perform in those venues as well. It is also tremendously productive to work with a singing, acting, or dancing coach. Choreographers like Molly Lajoie and Katie Casey have given me dozens of new dance steps that I can use on stage, and singing coach Toby Yatso has been hugely important in helping my voice mature.

L to R: Aaron Zweiback (Flick) and Sam Primack (Ralphie) in "A Christmas Story" at Phoenix Theatre

Finally, the most important thing to keep in mind when auditioning is always to keep a positive attitude, regardless of whether you win that part you’ve always craved. Casting a show is a matching process: if you don’t get a role, it does not mean that you did a bad job at the audition or that you have no talent! It simply means that the director didn’t feel you fit the part as well as someone else did, which is something you can’t control.

And if you “only” get cast in an ensemble role and feel discouraged that you didn’t get a bigger part, instead you can celebrate that you were accepted into the show at all. That old saying really is true: “there are no small roles, only small actors.”

I hope these tips have been helpful and that you will use them the next time you audition. I’ll see you at the theatre!

Note: Both Zweiback and Primack are currently performing in “Gypsy” at Phoenix Theatre and Zweiback shared with me that they’ve been cast in “The Color of Stars” with Childsplay. Zweiback attends Arizona School for the Arts in Phoenix, and is also performing in The Phoenix Symphony’s “Green Eggs and Ham.”

Coming up: Art meets architecture, A journey home, Gaga for dance

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The Miracle Worker

I once went a little overboard in the helping with a school project department. Jennifer got an assignment during elementary school that had something to do with creating a work of art about a famous person. The person was Helen Keller, and the project became a giant quilt of sorts with squares depicting various experiences in Keller’s life.

We’ve still got the nine-panel piece, framed in a beautiful mahogany-colored shadow box I’m afraid to hang because the darn thing is so heavy. I’ll have to give it another look, now that news of a local production of “The Miracle Worker” has crossed my path.

Turns out Scottsdale Community College is presenting the William Gibson work this semester, and holding auditions for select cast members early this week. Randy Messersmith, head of the SCC theatre arts department, is working to cast five girls ages five to 15 to portray five blind children in the play.

Playwright William Gibson based the 1957 play on Keller’s autobiography, titled “The Story of My Life” back in the good old days before every woman whose name starts with a K felt her life story needed 24/7 coverage.

“The Miracle Worker”opened on Broadway at the Playhouse Theatre in October of 1959 and earned the 1960 Tony Award for best play. It starred Patty Duke, who recently directed a production of “The Miracle Worker” for Interplayers Professional Theatre in Spokane, as Helen Keller. Plenty of productions, and a 1962 film, were done in between.

Most of us worry we’d never survive a day without luxuries like cars, televisions, computers and cell phones. It might be good for all of us to revisit the story of Helen Keller, who did just fine without the sight or hearing lost due to illness when she was just a toddler.

If you’re the parent of a young girl or teen who’d enjoy being part of SCC’s production of “The Miracle Worker,” take note of auditions scheduled for this Monday and Tuesday. They’re being held Jan. 30 from 6-9pm and Jan. 31 from 3:3o-7:30pm. Messersmith tells me auditioners can just show up — no appointment is needed.

No need for a monologue, adds Messersmith. Auditions consist of cold readings from the script. Auditions are being held at the SCC Performing Arts Center Mainstage, located at 9000 E. Chaparral Rd. in Scottsdale. Auditioners are asked to enter through the main lobby.

I hope the aspiring actors who take part will leave auditions feeling inspired to learn more about the life and times of Helen Keller. No quilting required.

— Lynn

Note: For comprehensive information about Valley auditions for youth and adults, visit Durant Communications at www.durantcom.com.

Coming up: The fine art of Valentine’s Day, Cell phones in the afterlife?, A trio of “39 Steps”

Artwork by Jenn Trimble (Photos by Lynn Trimble)

Arizona’s got talent

As NBC’s “America’s Got Talent” conducts auditions this weekend in Austin, a freelance casting producer is searching for the best of the best in Phoenix. Although there’s no open call audition in Phoenix for the show’s upcoming season, Sarah Furlong is busy reviewing video submissions — inviting select performers to a producers showcase for America’s Got Talent taking place Sat., Jan. 21 in Phoenix.

Prince Poppycock meets Americana

I chatted with Furlong yesterday about what they’re looking for — mainly variety acts and performers with an unusual or over-the-top vibe. Seems they’d “love to find a killer hip hop dance group” or another “Prince Poppycock type.” Fans of the show know Prince Popppycock as an uber-over the top performer with a Baroque persona and set list.

Furlong shared other examples of acts they’d love to locate during their time in Phoenix — from ropers to ventriloquists, and drag queens too. Folks who think they’re a good match need to create a video Furlong can screen before the middle of next week. Invites to the producers showcase will follow for those she selects.

I’ve encounted plenty of talented groups of young performers here in the Valley — ballet folklorico and Irish step dancers, circus and acrobat performers, twirling and martial arts athletes, and more. Also adults with diverse talents like animated storytelling with hand-crafted masks.

We’ve got lots of talented young singers, as well as bands, though Furlong says these aren’t the types of acts she’s looking for here in the Valley. But don’t feel disappointed if you’re the proud parent of a young actor, dancer or singer — because there’s another competition coming our way.

The Arizona Young Artists’ Competition offers aspiring young artists ages 15-19 the opportunity to compete in the areas of acting, dance and voice. The competition showcases diverse emerging artists, introduces young artists to the audition process and gives young artists a chance to interact with arts-professionals.

Preliminary auditions by category take place April 17-19 at the Herberger Theater Center in Phoenix, which presents the competition each year in collaboration with Center Dance Ensemble, the venue’s resident modern dance company led by Frances Smith Cohen.

Four finalists from each category are then selected to participate in the final competition on Sat, April 21. Judges select a winner in each category to receive a $1,000 scholarship to help further their education in the arts. Audience members participate as well, selecting a “People’s Choice Winner” in each category to receive a $100 award.

Registration for the Arizona Young Artists’ Competition is open through March 25, and the registration fee is $25 per discipline. Visit www.herbergertheater.org for event details and registration information.

— Lynn

Note: America’s Got Talent is accepting video auditions online through Feb. 15. Click here to learn more. Parents of youth who’d like to be considered for the show’s producers showcase in Phoenix can contact Sarah Furlong at 310-857-8575.

Coming up: A vision of loveliness, Art meets angst

Update: Click here for a comprehensive audition notice from Durant Communications about talent of all ages being sought for “America’s Got Talent.”

Got auditions?

Today I received an e-mail about an audition taking place tomorrow, leaving me little time to inform “Stage Mom” readers.

I’m always pleased to learn of Valley auditions, but I’ve started referring folks to the calendar editor for Raising Arizona Kids magazine, who can add local auditions for youth to her listings when given enough notice. (How to submit a calendar notice.)

My own daughter Lizabeth, soon to start BFA in acting studies at Pace University in New York City, has long subscribed to weekly audition notices published by longtime Valley theater professional Laura Durant.

Her notices, also available on the Durant Communications website at www.durantcom.com, detail which roles are open, what’s expected for particular auditions and such. And they’re broken down into several categories making it possible to search for child and teen opportunities.

It’s best to check the websites of various acting companies as well, even those that normally produce only adult fare. Sometimes they present works for which younger actors are needed. Subscribing to e-newsletters sent by theater companies generally gets their audition info to you more quickly.

Most companies audition for youth productions individually, but sometimes auditions for a whole season’s worth of shows take place together. It’s not unusual for the Valley’s professional theater companies to partner for season auditions, but they’re generally looking for adult actors.

Some companies, including Greasepaint Youtheatre and Desert Stages Theatre in Scottsdale, offer workshops that help children and teens prepare for particular auditions. There’s usually a small charge to participate. Some, like Valley Youth Theatre, offer details about their audition process online.

Sometimes Valley venues share audition opportunities through their e-newsletters or social networking vehicles like Facebook and Twitter. Folks who follow ASU Gammage were among the first to learn about last Saturday’s dance auditions for a Camp Broadway number being performed at this year’s Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in NYC.

Many Valley music, dance and peforming arts studios send audition notices to subscribers and/or post them on websites and social media. Be sure you’re signed up at the studios where your child studies, and follow the sites of other Valley studios too. You’ll want to check for audition news at least once a week.

Watch for audition notices in unexpected places too — including your local community college theater departments, which sometimes need young actors for works like “The Music Man” when it’s hard to put a young adult actor in a child’s role.

Youth who take theater or other performing arts classes in school settings will discover that savvy teachers are often familiar with audition opportunities in surrounding communities.

Audition slots are sometimes limited, so call right away if appointments are required and your child has his or her heart set on auditioning. Then follow directions, bringing requested items like headshots and resumes, and making sure sheet music and such is ready to go.

One of Lizabeth’s voice teachers, now working on her own theater career in NYC, suggested some time ago that Lizabeth subscribe to a publication called Back Stage — which you can also explore online. It lists auditions in LA, NY and other regions — and breaks notices into various categories like film/television, theater, singers/dancers, commercials/models, comedians and entertainers. Even reality TV.

It never hurts to follow news noted on websites like www.broadwayworld.com, www.broadway.com and www.playbill.com. Some of the audition notices they post include options for auditioning by video for actors who can’t make the open call in person.

If your child or teen has Disney dreams, you can search for theater, television and other auditions on the Disney website at www.disney.go.com.

As kids get more experienced with auditioning and performing, they’ll begin to hear of auditions by word of mouth — sometimes getting called in to audition for roles because someone in the theater community has suggested they might be a good fit.

It’s one of many reasons it rarely pays to make a big fuss when your child or teen is passed over for something else. I doubt anyone wants to hire a young actor whose stage mom or diva dad has a reputation for ranting and raving within a camp, community theater or other setting.

As kids get older, they can do their own digging for auditions and other opportunities. If you’re pushing them to audition, it’s unlikely they really have the desire to do it — and no one wants to see a child struggle tearfully through an audition they’ve only attempted for the sake of pleasing a stage parent.

— Lynn

Note: If you’re a performing arts professional or young performer with audition tips to share, please comment below to let our readers know.

Coming up: Art meets the Americas, Moms who “Munch”


Acting pros share audition tips for kids.

Desperately seeking dogs

In a desperate attempt to ready our cat “Pinky” for upcoming auditions at Valley Youth Theatre, my daughter Lizabeth tried in vain to get the feisty feline to sit on command this morning. Attempts to train “Pinky” to answer to the name “Sandy” — the name of the dog in the musical theater classic “Annie” — were equally futile.

Madison Kerth & Mikey performed in a touring production of ANNIE at ASU Gammage in Tempe (Photo: Phil Martin, 2009)

Perhaps we should send “Pinky” up the street to the local dog park with a pawful of posters publicizing tomorrow’s auditions. “Sandy” hopefuls should be at Valley Youth Theatre Wed, May 11 at 3:30pm. I’m told no headshots or resume are needed.

The original “Sandy” was a stray beige terrier mix. I suppose that means “Bonnie” — constant companion of RAK calendar and directories editor Mala Blomquist — is out of the running. Pity because she’s better than most of us at taking direction.

Maybe VYT should try a humorous tack, substituting a “Sandy” of another sort as Annie’s newfound friend for their June 10-26 production of “Annie” at the Herberger Theater Center. Perhaps the syrupy-sweet “Sandy” who falls for “Danny” in the musical “Grease.”

Or they could run with an idea my daughter Jennifer suggested — turning to local animal rescue organizations for help with finding the perfect mutt, then partnering with them to spread the word about animal health and wellness.

VYT has long facilitated the collection of animals of another sort — helping Chandler teen Dennis Fries gather stuffed animals for hospitalized children as part of his “Operation Noah” program. Maybe the perfect terrier is actually a soft, cuddly toy.

For all the roles she’s performed through the years — mostly with Greasepaint Youtheatre in Scottsdale and Arizona School for the Arts in Phoenix — Lizabeth is still known to many for those beautiful barks she bellowed during the ASA production of “Lucky Stiff.”

If all else fails, I suppose VYT could recruit her to don some sort of “Sandy” suit — though I think they’d have better luck training “Pinky” to sing “Tomorrow.”

— Lynn

Note: Auditioners of the human variety (mostly ages 13 +) can try out for VYT’s production of “Hairspray” — either Fri, May 13 at 3:30pm or Sat, May 14 at 9:30am. Click here for comprehensive information on Valley auditions from Durant Communications.

Coming up: Arizona art adventures

The fine art of farce

A Valley reviewer recently dubbed Phoenix Theatre’s “Noises Off” the “best comedy you are likely ever to see.” I’d be inclined to agree had I not seen so much fabulously funny fare from this professional theater company through the years.

There’s plenty more to come from Phoenix Theatre — including the first production of the racy Broadway musical “Avenue Q” by an Arizona theater company. Who’s to say they won’t outdo themselves yet again?

Their casting is simply superb — and this show is no exception. Add a complex and creative set, maddeningly funny material and music to knock your socks (or boxer shorts) off — and you have a farce that’s nothing short of fine art.

"Noises Off" elevates farce to a fine art (Photo by Laura Durant)

Direction by Matthew Wiener, producing artistic director for Actors Theatre of Phoenix, only fuels the flames — for both the fantastically talented cast and the audience members who mistakenly presume they are out for a night of modest theater.

Picture yourself in a British theater waiting for the curtain to rise on “Nothing On” presented by “A Noise Within” productions. You’re leafing through the program only to discover actor/creative team credits that include playing Britain’s most famous lollypop lady, winning a coveted medal for violence, and loving anything small and furry.

It’s easy to imagine because every “Noises Off” playbill includes a fictitious “Nothing On” program replete with cast/creative team bios as well as a lovely bit of dramaturgy borrowed from an expert ‘in the semantics of Bedroom Farce.’

Members of the "Noises Off" cast in all their slapstick glory (Photo by Laura Durant)

If you carefully read the pseudo-program before the curtain opens, you’ll get your fix of fascinating facts about various elements of the production — the slamming doors, the falling trousers, mistaken identities and more.

You’ll discover that uproarious laughter, for some, “is a metaphysical representation of the sexual act.” If that’s the case, you’re in for one heck of an orgy when you see this show.

Good news for parents: Other than a black negligee and boxer shorts (not worn together, thankfully), there’s little that’s explicitly rude or crude in this show. It’s rife with inuendo, but I can’t imagine that many kids would catch the subtleties. They will, however, appreciate the many triumphs in physical comedy.

You never know where that baggage might end up (Photo by Laura Durant)

“Noises Off” by Michael Frayn consists of three acts featuring the folly of a ficticious “Nothing On” production. Act I depicts the final rehearsal for “Nothing On” — setting up characters and situations that won’t be fully appreciated until later in the work. It’s funny, but you won’t yet find yourself wishing you’d made that last minute potty stop.

Act II reveals a bevy of backstage bungling as we witness a performance of “Nothing On” from behind the scenes. It’s funnier and more outrageous than the first, but the farce really hits the fan during Act III, when we finally see the onstage mayhem as it appears to unwitting audience members.

Plenty of pratfalls involve persnickety props — a disappearing and reappearing plate of sardines, a rotary dial phone with a tendency-to-tangle cord, flowers that never cease to find their way into the wrong suitors’ hands. The rotating set-piece — the two-story home where “Nothing On” is set — is equally delightful.

I do have to wonder, though, whether younger audiences would be more appreciative if the work was updated a bit with Starbucks in lieu of sardines or computer wires in lieu of telephone cords. Of course, there’d be no stopping there since the world may soon be wireless — and the modern day quest for efficiency robbed of sensual pleasures like reading a paperback book over a cup of coffee might just as easily bring caffeine injections via some sort of biochip.

Steer clear of slippery sardines, among other things (Photo by Laura Durant)

It’s been several days since I saw the play, being performed at Phoenix Theatre through Sept 19 (extended from Sept 12 due to ‘popular demand and critical acclaim’). But I still find myself leafing through the actual program — where I’m learning all sorts of things about our local talent.

Leann Dearing (Brooke) and her husband Matthew are acting instructors with Dearing Acting Studio. Mike Lawler (Selsdon) is a member of Phoenix Theatre’s “Partners That Heal” program. Maren Maclean (Belinda) has extensive Shakespeare experience (including several seasons as education outreach director for Southwest Shakespeare Company) — which I’m convinced is the best training ground for the craft of comedy.

Gail Wolfenden-Steib (costume designer) operates Rukshana Raks!, a custom dancewear business specializing in belly dance costumes for both cabaret and tribal dance styles. Katie McNamara (properties designer) has worked as a prop artisan for the Utah Shakespearean Festival, Shakespeare Santa Cruz and others.

Matthew Wiener (director) holds an MFA from the Yale School of Drama. Michael J. Eddy (production manager/lighting designer) sits on the board of Scorpius Dance Theatre (which presents “A Vampire Tale” to sold out crowds each Halloween season). Pasha W. Yamotahari (assistant director and more) holds a journalism degree from the Cronkite School at ASU and has earned dramaturge and critic awards from the presitigious Kennedy Center.

Beware of doors that fly open or slam shut (Photo by Laura Durant)

Despite the farcical nature of the fare, I came away from it asking myself a rather serious question. Might I want to be a dramatuge when I grow up? Thankfully, I still have time to decide.

In the meantime, being an avid supporter of the Valley’s arts scene is a mighty fine gig.

–Lynn

Note: Mention the word “sardines” when ordering your tickets to enjoy a $5 savings while the offer lasts.

Coming up: Lynn and Liz encounter a frog and a toad a la Childsplay in Tempe; “Music Man” (with Phoenix Symphony and Phoenix Theatre) meets the Musical Instrument Museum; Making magic happen

Photos (from the top): Joseph Kremer;  Mike Lawler, Joseph Kremer, Christopher Williams, Maren Maclean, Cathy Dresbach; Christopher Williams, Leeann Dearing; Christopher Williams, Cathy Dresbach; Joseph Kremer, Cathy Dresbach, Robert Kolby Harper, Leeann Dearing (counter-clockwise from top left). All photos by Laura Durant of Durant Communications.

VYT earns an “Easy A”

"Easy A" opens in movie theaters nationwide on Sept 17

Note: This post has been corrected subsequent to its initial posting.

Usually a stickler for staying home on school nights, I made an exception last Wednesday to take Lizabeth to a preview of “Easy A” at the AMC Movie Theatre at the Arizona Center in Phoenix.

We learned of the movie’s Arizona premiere because we get e-alerts from several Valley theaters — including Valley Youth Theatre, where Lizabeth volunteered not too long ago on the technical crew for “Cinderella” at the Herberger Theater Center.

“Easy A” stars Emma Stone — well known to Valley theater buffs as one of many young actors who honed their skills performing with Valley Youth Theatre, which is headed by the highly acclaimed and heavily awarded Bobb Cooper.

Stone, known to Valley audiences for years as “Emily,” has performed in several VYT productions — including Old Queen Maude in “The Princess and the Pea” and Portia in “Cinderella” (both earned AriZoni Awards).

Cooper proudly introduced the movie after sharing that VYT’s current production of “Grease” has just been extended due to popular demand (you can now enjoy the work being performed at VYT through the Labor Day weekend).

I met an especially delightful mother and son during the “Easy A” premiere. The son first caught my eye while going in and out of the aisle where we were sitting. I always choose an aisle seat, so other folks have to step over me for those fabulous popcorn runs.

Stone's character "Olive" only pretends to be "easy"

“Excuse me,” he said each time he passed. Always a stickler for manners with my own children, I’m ever impressed when I see other youth (and their parents) shine in good manners mode.

We got to chatting after the movie — which easily earned an “A” in my book (despite rampant use of words I’d rather not print here). It’s smart, funny and best described by Lizabeth as “sophisticated.”

The screenwriter pretty much rocked our world, for a whole host of reasons that I’ll share in an upcoming post.

Anyhow, the mom shared that her son will soon be performing in his third VYT production. Recently he appeared in “The Hobbit” and “Willy Wonka.” Next up is “Pinkalicious” — being performed at VYT Oct 1-17.

Seems he’s also a film buff, so I invited him to shoot me a review for possible posting. I can’t wait to see what he does with it — especially since I gave him a rather short deadline.  He shook my hand and I knew he’d work hard at crafting a strong piece.

VYT alumna Emma Stone

I expect to post a detailed review as the movie hits theaters nationwide on Sept 17. For now let me just share how delightful it was to enjoy a movie premiere featuring more than one longtime local talent.

Lizabeth noted that the cast also includes Max Crumm, who first gained national attention as the winning “Danny” on NBC’s reality show titled “Grease: You’re the One That I Want” and went on to star in a Broadway revival of the musical “Grease.”

Hit the VYT website to learn about the many acting gigs and other adventures of VYT alumni — and the many shows you can enjoy seeing them perform this season (including “Annie” at the newly-renovated Herberger Theater Center in downtown Phoenix).

And stay tuned for a guest blogger review of “Easy A” — which has already earned high marks with at least a solid 4 out of 5 stars in my book.

— Lynn

Note: Auditions for VYT’s “Winnie the Pooh Christmas Tale” (a musical) will be held Sept 20 and 21 at 3:30pm at Valley Youth Theatre in Phoenix. Click here for audition details. Or click here for a comprehensive listing of Valley auditions for youth and adults provided by Durant Communications.

Coming up: Shakespeare ala symphony, opera and ballet; Multicultural music and dance