By Jeremy Kahn, BFA 4/Acting (plays Bobby Strong in URINETOWN)
It’s hard to believe that it’s only been two weeks since we auditioned for URINETOWN. The audition process was unique in a number of ways. At The Theatre School auditions for all the plays going up that quarter take place over one VERY busy weekend. The air is thick with tension and anticipation as we actors prepare to show our best in everything from Shakespeare to children’s theatre. Yet, this time there was something different. All weekend there was the sound of singing and the smell of dancing coming from one corner of the building. This, of course, was the audition for URINETOWN.
We were asked to prepare 16 bars of a song from a musical and come prepared to dance. As you can imagine this was a bit of a departure from the memorized monologue or scene most non-musical auditions require us to prepare. Each actor entered the singing audition alone. I was pretty nervous as I shuffled toward Mark (our wonderful musical director) at the piano, trying not to sweat on the sheet music I clutched in my hands. I recognized the various directors and designers in the room to watch my audition, but I couldn’t help feeling very alone up there. I don’t remember much, but I’m assuming I sang my song, because next thing I knew Dexter thanked me, I collected my music, and I escaped back to the lobby of The Theatre School.
Next it was time for the dance portion of the audition. This time there was a whole group of us. After a quick warm-up Brie and Jason (our lovely choreographers) began to teach us a section of one of the big musical numbers called, “Cop Song.” They told us that they had come up with a word to describe the quality of movement they were looking for: “rusky.” Then they proceeded to teach us a bizarre, and indeed, very “rusky” dance that many people really began to get the hang of…I was not one of these people. Still, I have a philosophy that if you can’t do something well, you might as well do it funny. I said to myself, “Jeremy, just dance your little heart away! It’s going to be okay.” It was okay and before I knew it we were done.
After the first set of auditions, lists are posted of who’s called back for a second audition for each play. The callback list for URINETOWN went up Saturday night and I was called back for the part of Bobby Strong. This time we were asked to prepare specific sections of songs from the show. Each actor was given sheet music with his or her name on it and we had until the following morning to prepare to sing it.
Sunday the energy was different inside the school. The tension was still there in full, but a new focus existed in the building. Actors had specific parts to read for and specific peers who had become their competition.
We were blatantly reminded of this in our singing callback when all the guys stood in a line and one by one took turns singing the songs. Yeah… it was really intense. After that, we were off to the dance callback where we recreated the “Cop Song” dance from the first audition (I still didn’t quite have it down… yeah… kind of sad). And after a long weekend it was time to go home and wait for the cast list to go up. When they finally did I was thrilled to see that Dexter had cast me as Bobby Strong.
The first rehearsal took place less than 24 hours later.
So far the rehearsals have been going really well. Dexter explained from day one that we would start by learning the music and the dance. We would take the time we need to get the musical numbers “into our bodies.” The first week was all focused on singing. We met with Mark individually to work on solos and all together to sing through the group songs. At the end of the week we had learned the music for the entire play! On Sunday we did a “sing through” where we sung every song in the score. Considering we had been working on URINETOWN for less than a week it was incredible. It had been an exhausting week, but after singing through the play there was a new energy in the room. Some of my own personal anxiety about doing a big musical was fading away and I don’t think I was alone. I finally was completely on board with Dexter’s early assertion that we can blow people away with this production.
This week we’ve been learning choreography. Well…some of us. Brie and Jason must remember my audition, because they don’t have me dancing much at all. I can live with this. Everyone is attacking the dance numbers with the same fervor that they did with the singing. Like I said, I haven’t been around much, but what I have seen of the musical numbers looks awesome.
It’s going to be really fun.
There’s something about rehearsing this play, with this company… I can’t help but smile… a lot! It’s a remarkable thing when you can get a huge amount accomplished each night and still have a blast. It’s a testament to every person in the room’s work and positive energy. I look forward to every rehearsal and feel kind of sad when I’m not called. The coming weeks will be busy and sometimes very stressful, but I have no doubt that they will be ridiculously fun and that we’ll end up with a successful production.
Photo: Members of the cast of URINETOWN work on choreography in rehearsal.
Photo by Margaret Morton