Cowan Palace: Shut Up And Act

Ashley Cowan has ten auditions for you to sign up for right now. Well, maybe read the blog first. Then get out there, kid! It’s time to be a star!

Fall is coming early, friends. And I’m of course referring to the return of Pumpkin Spice Lattes from Starbucks. Which will be available in a mere FIVE DAYS (on August 25)!


Also, keeping with the Theater Pub trend of looking ahead at autumn offerings and reading about the upcoming theater we all have to look forward to coming this season, I started to wonder how the audition scene was looking for non-AEA San Francisco based actors.

The good news? There’s a scene! The better news? I’m going tell you ten auditions to sign up for right now. They may not all strike your theatrical fancy, sure, but if you’ve been sitting around all summer missing the stage, here’s your chance to get back on it. In between double fisting your pumpkin caffeine juice, of course.

Well, this first audition is for a film and it’s TODAY. But it can’t hurt to try and submit, right? Who knows maybe you’re perfect for it!

1) Banquet Productions’ “Labyrinth in Time” – August 20 (THAT’S TODAY!)

Shakespeare nerds! They’re searching for: actors for short film written in iambic pentameter. 2M (30-40); 1F (30-40).

Writer/Director: Hank Voge; the film will shoot in early October in a variety of Bay Area spots. To book a last minute appointment contact: Producer, Gabriel Brown,

Looking to break out into well rehearsed song and dance? Here are a few auditions of the musical variety for you to check out!

2) FOGG Theatre’s “The Cable Car Nymphomaniac” – August 24.

Okay, the title alone is intriguing, right? Well, for this sexy piece, you’ll need two contemporary songs (one minute each). They are hoping to find: 3M (20s-30s, tenors, 1 to G, 1 to G & dancer, 1 to B & dancer); 4F (20s-30s, 1 belter & dancer; 1 2nd soprano, low A to high F#, & dancer; 1 belter to high E-flat; 1 low alto, low F to D4, & dancer).

The Playwrights are: Kirsten Guenter and Tony Asaro and the Director is: Terry Berliner. The audition is August 24 from 10AM-6PM (callbacks August 26 from 7-11PM). Salle Pianos, 1632C Market St., San Francisco. Rehearsals start on December 2 and the show performs January 15-February 1 at Z Below, 470 Florida Street, San Francisco. And it pays! $600-$1,400 bucks. For more information and to schedule your audition, contact:

3) Indelible Voices Project’s “The Little Match Girl”

If you love puppets like I do, check this out. They’re looking for: performers with strong musical theatre skills for multimedia puppet show. 1M (20-50, baritone); 3F (30-60, soprano/alto), 1F (10-18, soprano); 2 any gender (10-15, soprano/alto).

Playwrights: Marcus Duskin and Katrina Cameron
Send voice recordings via email; those called back will sing samples from score. Stipend available. Callbacks will be middle to late September. Rehearsals begin in November and the show performs December 13-21 in San Francisco and Berkeley. To apply for an audition, send voice recordings and information to:

4) Steve Silver Productions, Inc.’s – “Steve Silver’s Beach Blanket Babylon” – September 13

For this iconic show, you need one ballad and one uptempo number (please be ready with sheet music in your key as an accompanist will be provided) Bonus points if you can imitate some pop culture icons and you come ready with your dancing shoes!

Playwright: Steve Silver. Auditions are September 13 at 2PM at Club Fugazi, 678 Beach Blanket Babylon Blvd., San Francisco and the performances are ongoing. The show also provides a competitive salary and sweet benefits!
Info:; ­

5) General Singer Auditions for High Seas

Sponsored by the St. Francis Yacht Club, this one is just for the ladies! They’re seeking two singers to join their 12-voice, female jazz vocal group. The auditions will take place in early September and they’ll be looking for a first soprano and first alto. For more information and details contact: Auditions Chair, Janet Mansinne:

Always wanted to do a play for kids? Awesome. Get out there and audition for this!

6) San Francisco Youth Theatre’s “In and Out of Shadows” – September 4

You’ll need: 16 bars to be sung acapella and clothes to move around in to dance.
They’re looking for: 2M & 3F (18-26, Latino, Filipino or other Asian). Spanish, Chinese &/or Tagalog language facility a+.

The Playwrights are: Soto, Klion and Brooks and the Director is: Cliff Mayotte. Auditions are September 4 from 4:30-7PM (callbacks are September 9) at Brava Theater, 2781 24th St., San Francisco. Rehearsals begin September 11 and the show performs November 23-December 7 and Brava Theater and Fresno City College with a possible tour to follow. Stipend and travel expenses available! To book an audition slot, send your headshot/resume to: Emily Klion,

Are readings more your thing right now? Who wants to memorize words, anyway? Then you need to check out this audition!

7) San Francisco Olympians Festival – September 28 and 29

They are looking for literally DOZENS of actors for this festival of new plays running November 5-22! Rehearsals will be in October and November and will include a maximum of 3-5 meetups for each show.

For more information about the festival and the plays involved, visit: Auditions are September 28, 2PM-10PM, and September 29, 7-10PM, at the Exit Theater. Please email: to schedule an audition slot.

Straight up theater is your jam, huh? These are all for you, actor face!

8) Alma Theatre Company’s “You Are My Sunshine” – September 19

Bring a contemporary monologue and prepare to cold read. They’re looking for: 1M (20s-60s), 1M (20s-50s), 1M (20s-30s); 1F (mid-40s), 1F (20s-50s), 1F (20s).

Playwright/Director: Kelli Colaco, auditions are September 19 with rehearsals beginning in mid November at the San Francisco Playhouse Rehearsal Space, 323 Geary St. Ste. 211, San Francisco. And, yes, there’s pay. To book an appointment, contact Kelli Colaco: Info:

9) Custom Made Theatre’s “The Braggart Soldier (or Major Blowhard)” – September 2 and 4

Written by Plautus and adapted and directed by Evren Odcikin, they’re looking for: 3M/2W/2 any gender, any ethnicity. Auditions are September 2 and September 4. Callback will be September 6 with rehearsals beginning on February 24. The show performs March 27-April 26 (with a possible extension to May 2) at Custom Made Theatre, 1620 Gough St, San Francisco. There is a stipend available. For more infomation and to sign up for an audition slot visit:

10) No Nude Men Productions’ “Desk Set” – October 20

This one is just for the fellas! Written by William Marchant and directed by Stuart Bousel, they are seeking men of all ages, races, etc. who have evening and weekend availability in June and July of 2015. The show runs for nine performances, July 10-26 at the Exit Theater in San Francisco and there is a $150 stipend available.

To schedule an audition, send those handsome headshots and resumes to Stuart at: with “DESK SET” in the subject line.

So whether you submit to all of these auditions or just get inspired to grab a Pumpkin Spice Latte, the Bay Area theater scene is ready for you. Get off your butt, dust off that monologue or song, and act. That’s all you have to do. As always, I’m rooting for you, kid!


Cowan Palace: A Confidence Question

Ashley confidently proclaims she has a confidence problem.

On Sunday evening, I celebrated a friend’s birthday over cake, carnitas and chitchat. After a full weekend of callbacks, cleaning, and Cowan craziness, it was delicious to sink my teeth into a distraction. Spoiler alert, the cake was chocolate and the conversation was with the very talented and lovely writer herself, Rachel Bublitz.

Eat Me.

Eat Me.

As I continued to cram my face with food, we started talking about her kids and their many skills, which are apparent even in their early ages. Rachel mentioned that her daughter possesses a notable confidence. So much so that a teacher actually suggested that she be signed up for an activity she wasn’t particularly good at, so that she could experience what it feels like to be challenged outside of her immediate skill-set.

I was so struck by that idea! Personally, I grew up (and grew into) a person with the opposite issue. If you hadn’t noticed, I have a real confidence problem in almost everything. And sometimes it feels like my whole life is just a bunch of humbling activities to remind me of current skills and weakness. (I invite you all to watch me in a Zumba class sometime!) Besides the fact that my main creative love is a passion rooted in rejection. The theater isn’t always the first place one goes to feel confident, after all.

When I was younger, I was incredibly shy and while I dabbled in a myriad of after school activities, it’s fair to say I was merely mediocre at most. And sadly, it took until my senior year of high school for me to finally get the courage to sign up for drama class. Granted that decision proved to be one of the biggest influences of my life but I certainly didn’t come upon it with an abundance of assertive grace. In this case, my teacher pulled me aside after class and said I had to follow this seemingly crazy dream; that I should feel confident in my talent and continue the pursuit. Truthfully, without him, I’m not sure if I would have gone on to study Theatre in college, move to New York and then inevitably chase it to San Francisco.

While thinking about my conversation with Rachel and her daughter’s teacher, I couldn’t help but wonder about the key to success. Does confidence ultimately breed triumph? Is it better to be overly self-assured and not acknowledge your weakness so that you always believe your work is strong? Or would you rather be insecure and forever question your potential but hope that you can actually make it better?

And on a slightly bigger scale, if we lack confidence (or lack the ability to fake it) how can our audiences trust in our work? But if we remain overly confident, do we risk not being truthful to the process, the product, and its perception?

I think, once again, the secret is finding the balance of being confident enough to keep moving and humble enough to acknowledge that the path isn’t always easy or clear. Sometimes it’s okay to stop for directions if it gets you to your destination.

Luckily my love for theater has given me strength when my self-assurance lagged behind. But, I’m still a victim to my own lack of confidence. Too often, I talk myself out of auditioning for things or submitting my writing to a new opportunity. But I am working on it. We are all a work in progress. And in the meantime, we still have each other and cake.

How could this gal not be a product of confidence?!

How could this gal not be a product of confidence?!

It’s A Suggestion, Not A Review: Let He Who is Without Sin …

Dave Sikula on the callback.

I had a callback for a show Tuesday night. It wasn’t really a “callback,” since I didn’t audition for the show in the first place (getting a free callback is one of the perks of being a member of a company). But it was a callback for pretty much everyone else there.

The callback is one of my least favorite aspects of the theatre. On the production side, it’s an organizational pain in the neck. I need to comb through the script and find excerpts that will give the actor enough to play with, but that aren’t too long (two or three minutes is the maximum). They also need to show me aspects of a character that I hope to see conveyed by the actor. Then I need to work out how many actors to call back at all. In my younger and more foolish days (“Ah, youth, youth!” – “The Sea Gull,” Anton Chekhov), I’d call back any actor who seemed interesting immediately, with the consequence that, at the callback, I’d have, like, 40 actors to see – which is way, way, way too many. Ideally, I’d like to have two or three choices for each major role. In most cases, that’s pretty manageable – but when you consider that I’ll want to match up actors and see them in different combinations, the results become arithmetically astronomical. It’s easier to pick big group scenes; that is, I can see more people in a shorter amount of time, but then I’m never sure if I’m seeing what people can do. (Actor pro tip: Make bold choices. Even if a director doesn’t see something for you in the role s/he has you reading for, it may spark them to think of you in another part – sometimes a much better one.)

Nowadays, unless an actor is absolutely dazzling or perfect for a role, I won’t call them back on the spot. I wait until I’ve seen everyone, and then make the call. And that’s not to mention the “courtesy callback,” which I employ when the actor is a friend of mine or the producer or someone else on the production staff, and to not call them back might either be a bad idea politically or interpreted as unfriendly. And, of course, there are people with whose work I’m already familiar enough to not need an audition; I just tell them “I know what you can do; just come to the callback.” (Famous last words …)

So, I’ve got my sides – which I finally started to send to actors in advance, telling them exactly what I’m looking for (which saves time in the callback; not having to explain what I’m looking for to each actor as they come in,) and I’ve got the number of actors I want to see, but now I have to schedule them. My primary concerns at a callback are that I give an actor enough of a scene that I can see what they can really do with it, and that I don’t waste peoples’ time. They’re going to have to sit around, regardless, but I want to minimize that idle time. So I try to arrange a schedule that will allow me to read people in smaller groups.

Inevitably, though, that planning will go awry since I’ll want to read different people in different combinations. Meaning, I want to read Actor A with Actress B and Actor C. But I don’t want to read B with C, so do I call A and B or A and C first? And if I want to read both A and B with D, how do I call them? A and B? A and C? A, B, and D? It’s tiring.

I strive to get the whole thing done in three hours, but sometimes it takes four or more – and even then, there’s no guarantee that I’ll get everything I want, which means another round of callbacks – and depending on the roles I haven’t cast, I may need to call back another bunch of people. I mean, if I’m trying to cast Mr. Smith, and have called three people for that, I need to read them with the four candidates for Mrs. Smith. Then, if I have a really strong candidate for Mrs. Smith after all that, but no really good Mr. Smith, I’ll need to call different actors for Mr. Smith, and maybe all the Mrs. Smith candidates, because one of them might have better chemistry with a good Mr. Smith than the original “strong candidate.” On the other hand, my Mrs. Smith may be good enough that I don’t want to give her up and will forego calling the other possibles.

Sound confusing and exhausting? It is.

And, after working all of that out and going through the entire process and coming up with a good potential cast, I’ll need to sit down and look at schedules and conflicts, and see if the actors I want have enough availability or flexibility in their own schedules that they can rehearse as much as I need them to (five to six weeks with a play; six to seven with a musical) – or if they’ll accept a lesser role than they wanted.

And this is just for plays. When it comes to musicals, it’s even worse because not only do I generally need more people, I need to have the called-back actors sing and dance, and, on top of that, I have to have the actors I want to play leads or secondary roles read scenes. Scenes in musicals aren’t very long, so I have more to look for in less time. Usually in the case of a musical, I have to rely on the judgments of the choreographer and the musical director to determine if most of the actors (meaning, not the principals) will be able to handle the score and the dance moves they have in mind. I’ll listen to the actors sing and watch them dance, but for the nuts and bolts of things, will have to outsource the knowledge to collaborators.

And you wonder why directors look frazzled during the audition process?

Now, consider the equation from the other side of the table. As an actor, I’ll get a call or an email from someone connected with the production that, based on either an audition or from their having seem my past work, they want me to come to a callback. Sometimes I get the sides in advance, sometimes I see them only at the callback itself. (Of course, there’s also a chance that I know the play well enough or own the script that I won’t need sides.) This process differs from director to director, but when I send the sides, I include notes about what it is I’m looking for in each scene. I won’t be specific (“I need this really loud and slow”), but will try to convey the mood I’m looking for (“In this scene, he’s got to express for his anger and how he needs to make sure she understands” or “It’s their first meeting and they immediately fall in love, but the audience shouldn’t get that at the beginning”); I’m trusting the actor to interpret that general tone in the way they know best. If I know they can get the general stuff, I can hone in on the specifics during rehearsal.

But I digress …

So, I may or may not have an idea of what the director wants, but regardless, it’s up to me to deliver the material to the best of my ability – and in the most appropriate and interesting way. I show up to the theatre, and may or may not have to sit around for a while. Just as I do, the director has worked out a schedule that s/he feels will give him or her the best use of both their time and that of the actors. Which means that, even if I’ve been called at 7:00, I may sit around until 8:00. I may read only once or a number of times. It’s up to the director. If I give them what they’re looking for, I may be done early, or s/he may want to see me with someone else to verify that what they saw will work with someone else. Or they may see that what I’ve given them isn’t what they’re looking for (especially in the context of what other actors are doing), and I get an early evening. Or that this actor’s energy might play nicely off of that actor’s lack thereof. Or that the chemistry that this couple showed can repeat itself in another scene. (Years ago, I did a callback for a play called “Boy Meets Girl,” a Hollywood farce from the 30s that is one of my favorites. I did a scene with another actor that was brilliant and got us both the roles we wanted – and the scene never went that well again, either in rehearsal or performance.)

I thought this particular callback went pretty well. In looking at the script, I had the idea to approach it simply and non-theatrically; to just tell a story in as spontaneous a manner as I could muster (and, yes, I realize that may belie the advice I gave above about “being bold;” though, in this case, I thought taking the approach I took was a bold one, in that I tried less acting and more just being in the moment – which is darn hard, and something I don’t do a lot). I have no idea if that’s what the director wanted, but I felt it was the most appropriate way to deliver the speeches (which involved a lot of narration and just talking to the audience).

That’s all I could do, though; deliver the words in what I felt was the best way. If I could do that, I’ve done all I can and will feel good whether I get the part or not – and if I do, there’ll be one helluva lot of lines to memorize (and you know how I am about learning lines …). But it’s out of my hands. It’s all up to the director now.

To tell the truth, I’m not sure which position I’d rather be in, at this point. As a director, I get the chance to hire actors who are good and with whom I’ll be lucky enough to work. As an actor, I still get to work with great people, but will have the additional treat of having people notice my work as I do it.

While I’m not in this for the glory (or the money; anyone who’s in it for either is a sucker), but it’s nice to do work that is fulfilling and satisfying, and then get acknowledged publicly for it. I’m not self-effacing enough to do without that.