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!


Hi-Ho The Glamorous Life: The Kids Are All Right

Marissa Skudlarek is having high school flashbacks.

After going years without seeing any high school theater, last weekend I saw two youth theater productions in two days. Several of my friends are schoolteachers and it just so happened that two of them invited me to see “their kids” perform over the weekend. On the surface of it, the two shows couldn’t have been more different, but they both left me with a good feeling about today’s teens, and about youth theater in general.

On Friday night, I went with my friend Rachel to In and Out of Shadows, a new play by acclaimed author Gary Soto, produced by the Marsh Youth Theater. The script, based on interviews with undocumented California teenagers, is intended to draw attention to their plight. Because Rachel teaches English at San Francisco International High School, a public high school for recent immigrants, this subject is obviously close to her heart; and some of her students even performed in the show. Although the play was in large part an earnest, message-based drama, it was also enlivened with singing, dancing, and comedy bits.

On Saturday night, I went to the Bay School of San Francisco’s production of The Boy Friend, a fluffy pastiche of 1920s musicals. My friend Colin teaches at the Bay School (a private high school located in the Presidio) and, as he is also an accomplished jazz bassist, he helped oversee the show’s orchestra and played in the band.

Both plays were excellent reminders of why professional theater needs to try harder in terms of gender parity. At the high school level, so many more girls than boys are interested in theater, and both of these plays had a majority-female cast. In The Boy Friend, several girls played male roles; in In and Out of Shadows, written for the Marsh’s teen ensemble, Soto made sure to include a preponderance of female roles. It’s depressing to realize that high school and youth theater productions do a better job of gender parity than many leading regional theaters.

Colin told me that before deciding on The Boy Friend, the Bay School had considered staging Thoroughly Modern Millie, but the racial aspects of the script — the egregiously stereotyped “comical” Chinese characters — gave them pause. The Boy Friend has no such problems, and the Bay School’s production featured many Asian-American students in leading roles as 1920s English aristocrats. This is all well and good, but part of me wishes that the school had worked harder to find a show that avoided gender stereotypes as well as racial stereotypes. After all, the main takeaway from The Boy Friend is that a girl’s life is meaningless if she doesn’t have a man to call her own. In the title song, a chorus of girls energetically sing and dance, “We’re blue without / Can’t do without / Our dreams just won’t come true without / That certain thing called a Boy Friend.” And the Vassar-educated feminist in me sat there thinking “This is how we indoctrinate young girls with romantic neuroses.” You could say that the lyrics are meant to be humorous or satirical, but then, the Chinese characters in Thoroughly Modern Millie are meant to be humorous too. So why take a stand against racial stereotypes, but not against gender stereotypes?

While there were a couple of romantic subplots in In and Out of Shadows (one highlight involved a boy singing a humorous love song to two swooning girls) the play passed the Bechdel test with flying colors, allowing its actresses to be far more than just “the girlfriend.” It feels almost radical to see a play where the majority of characters just happen to be female and no one makes a big deal about it. And, while it’s obvious that a play about undocumented immigrants requires an ethnically diverse cast, it was still nice to see characters, and actors, from so many different backgrounds: Mexican, Salvadoran, Chinese, Filipino. I was particularly touched by the girl who talked about teaching herself traditional Indonesian dance by watching YouTube videos.

Both plays had the imperfections you’d expect from any show involving young performers. Some of the kids had great personality and energy; others were unable to project themselves beyond the footlights. (In both of these shows — as with much youth theater — the success of the piece relied on the students’ natural charisma, rather than on advanced acting techniques or the sophisticated display of emotion.) The script for In and Out of Shadows was oddly structured and had some cringeworthy passages that were clearly an adult’s idea of how teenagers talk. This sort of thing annoyed me about youth theater when I was a teen, too — maybe that’s the reason that the first play I ever wrote was a profane, scathing satire.

What came through amply in both shows, though, is how much they meant to the kids performing in them. You could see that the In and Out of Shadows teens were proud to be telling a story that might raise awareness and change people’s attitudes toward undocumented immigrants. And Colin told me that after the final performance of The Boy Friend, the cast and crew sat in a circle and discussed what the experience had meant to them, and all of the kids spoke up — even the shy ones.

That’s what I recall of my own high school theater experiences, too; how they gave me hope and support despite the turmoil of adolescence. Ten years ago this month, my grandmother passed away — it was the first time I’d ever lost someone close to me. I was in rehearsals for Little Shop of Horrors at the time, and I recall that play, and those castmates, as one of the things that got me through my loss. The night before my grandmother died, I had an emotional meltdown at rehearsal, and all of the other girls in the cast gathered round and gave me hugs. And, when the show opened two weeks after my grandmother’s funeral, I sang and danced with all my might, knowing that it’s what she would have wanted and that she’d have been proud of me.

You may not witness the pinnacle of artistic achievement if you attend a youth theater show; but you just might come away with a good feeling about the future of our artform and of our society. We were those kids once, you know: so happy to be there, so earnest, so innocent, so full of hope.

Marissa Skudlarek is a San Francisco playwright and arts writer. Her favorite high school theater experience was playing Black Caesar in Our Country’s Good (an extreme example of gender-blind and race-blind casting, to be sure). Find her at or on Twitter @MarissaSkud.