Tag Archives: Laura Durant

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.

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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 many faces of Childsplay

I’ll be donning my party clothes Friday night to join the fine folks of Childsplay for their “Childsplay Celebrates Its Greatest Hits Gala,” which kicks off at 6pm at the Scottsdale Plaza Resort.

Memories of my last Childsplay shindig are still fresh. And fabulous. Think all the energy and fun of a Childsplay production for children translated into the realm of grown-ups — but with no less imagination and wonder.

Lillian Castillo with Childsplay associate artist D. Scott Withers, who appeared in HAIRSPRAY with Phoenix Theatre late last year (Photo: Laura Durant)

Lillian Castillo (L) and D. Scott Withers in a Phoenix Theatre photo by Laura Durant

I’ve had Childsplay on the brain lately because it seems that everywhere I turn I discover another Childsplay artist lending his or her talents to additional creative enterprises — from television commercials to musical theater productions in other parts of the country.

D. Scott Withers, who performed the role of “Edna Turnblad” in this season’s Phoenix Theatre production of “Hairspray,” has been reprising the role with Arkansas Repertory Theatre (along with Lillian Castillo, who plays “Tracy Turnblad”) in a production that runs through May 8.

Jon Gentry (L) and D. Scott Withers perform in a Childsplay production of A Year With Frog and Toad (Photo: Heather Hill)

Allison Couture, whose husband recently left the touring production of “Billy Elliot The Musical” to accept a role in “Jersey Boys” on Broadway, worked for a time with the children in the “Billy Elliot” cast. Both are now NYC-bound.

Israel Jimenez, who teaches at Arizona School for the Arts, is known to many as “the face of SRP.” You’ll see his mug in commercials and on billboards throughout the Valley. Jimenez teaches ballroom dance at a local Fred Astaire Dance Studio (swoon) and is readying to direct “Frida” for Teatro Bravo.

Kim Manning is currently performing the role of “Liliane La Fleur” in the musical “Nine” at Phoenix Theatre, which you can enjoy through May 8.

Molly Lajoie Plutnicki teaches dance at Mesa Arts Academy and also keeps busy choreographing various theater productions. She’s both director and choreographer for Greasepaint Youtheatre’s “Schoolhouse Rock,” opening Fri, May 6 at Stagebrush Theatre in Scottsdale.

Yolanda London in a Black Theatre Troupe photo by Laura Durant

Yolanda London is rehearsing for “Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar and Grill,” a one-woman show about the life of singer Billie Holiday that Black Theatre Troupe of Phoenix opens May 13.

Todd Hulet recently staged a production of his original musical titled “The Wheels on the Bus” for Ovation! Musical Theatre Bainbridge in Washington.

Toby Yatso teaches at Arizona School for the Arts, and is nearly impossible to keep up with when it comes to acting, directing and other theater gigs throughout the Valley.

Yolanda London performs in the Childsplay production of Tomato Plant Girl (Photo: Heather Hill)

My soon to be 18-year-old daughter Lizabeth has trained with the talented artists of Childsplay for at least half her lifetime. She’s taken classes, attended summer camps, participated in the Childsplay conservatory program and more.

Childsplay has given her extraordinary opportunities to study with several of the Valley’s very finest theater talents — those noted above and many others. 

As we attend the “Childsplay Celebrates” gala Friday night, I’ll be celebrating not only the arts in education programs that’ll be funded with event proceeds, but the many gifts this theater company has bestowed on us.

— Lynn

Note: Click here  for “Childsplay Celebrates Its Greatest Hits Gala” event and ticketing information. The evening features cocktails, hors d’oeuvres, a silent auction, dinner and entertainment. (Bring your teacher, birthday and holiday gift lists to snag all sorts of fun finds at the auction.) Click here for a full roster of Childsplay company and staff (including associate artists, members of the acting company, teaching artists and others).

Coming: Valley museums celebrate “International Museum Day” with special events and discounts

Call for children’s artwork: I’m looking for photos, drawings, paintings and such with a garden theme for Friday’s post celebrating “National Public Gardens Day.” To submit your child’s work for possible use in the garden post, please send it to me at rakstagemom@gmail.com no later than 5pm Thurs, May 5 (include your child’s first name, age, city and your contact info too). Thanks!

Art meets community college

Head to SCC Wednesday for a film documenting the voyage of German Jews aboard a ship that no one wanted

Looking for low-cost or no-cost dance, music and theater productions? Fond of supporting the creativity of local students and those who teach them? Eager to experience art or film you won’t see elsewhere?

Then check out these offerings coming soon to Valley community colleges.

Chandler-Gilbert Community College presents…

“Get a Life” — an original CGCC production that “explores all the little things in life that drive us crazy from the cradle through the golden years.” March 24-27.

“14” — a play by Jose Casas that’s “based on interviews with Arizonans and their various different attitudes towards the contemporary issues of undocumented immigration.” Performed by Teatro Bravo April 1 & 2.

Mesa Community College presents…

“Student Art Show” — featuring diverse works of visual art. April 11-21.

“Almost Maine” — a play by John Cariani about residents of a “remote, mythical town” in which “residents find themselves falling in and out of love in unexpected and often hilarious ways.” April 22-30.

Paradise Valley Community College presents…

“Rumors” — a play by Neil Simon that recounts the adventures of four upper class couples embarrased by unexpected circumstances. April 9-17.

“Spring Dance Collection 2011” — a “compilation of dance works” choreographed by dance and adjunct faculty. Includes modern dance, jazz, ballet, hip hop, ballroom and other forms of dance. April 29 & 30.

Scottsdale Community College presents…

“Voyage of the St. Louis” — a documentary film that’s part of the SCC and Anti-Defamation League “The Many Faces of Hate” film series. It recounts the journey of 937 German Jews denied haven in 1939 by “every country in the Americas.” March 23.

Unique plays coming soon to Valley community colleges include SCC performances of works by Eugene Ionesco (Photo: Laura Durant)

“The Bald Chairs” — two one-act plays by Eugene Ionesco, both “from the school of drama known as the Theatre of the Absurd, a genre that often includes irony, slapstick humor and word play.”  March 31-April 9.

Each of these community colleges — as well as other community colleges in the greater Phoenix metro area — list art, dance, film, music and theater events online.

With just a little legwork, you can uncover a multitude of low-cost and no-cost events to enjoy with family and friends while supporting the budding artists in our midst.

— Lynn

Note: Our state universities — ASU, NAU and UA — also offer a wealth of visual and performance art open to the public. So stay tuned to their online calendars as well.

Coming up: More free and discounted arts events

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.