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)!

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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, gabe@banquetproductions.com.

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: namnguyen@foggtheatre.org.

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: marcusd@igc.org.

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: auditions@beachblanketbabylon.com; ­beachblanketbabylon.com/auditions/index.shtml

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: janetmehlhop@yahoo.com

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, sfyouththeatre@gmail.com.

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: http://www.sfolympians.com. Auditions are September 28, 2PM-10PM, and September 29, 7-10PM, at the Exit Theater. Please email: sfolympians@gmail.com 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: kellicolaco@gmail.com. Info: bykennethjones.com.

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: http://www.custommade.org/open-auditions-blowhard/

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: sfolympians@gmail.com 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!

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Cowan Palace: How To Make Actors Definitely (Maybe) Want To Work With You Again

Let’s be honest, actors can be real flakes sometimes. But Ashley Cowan has some thoughts on how you can encourage them to like you and commit to working with you again. Or at least avoid some of the mistakes Allison Page presented in her last blog.

When I read Allison’s last blog, I let out a whole lot of “mmmmhmmmms” and “that’s right, girl”s. Because apparently, I’m a sassy grandma. Werther’s Original, anyone? Anyway, I found myself feeling pretty worked up by her points because each and every one of them struck so close to home. Guys, we are better than this! Allison knows it, I know it, and you know it.

Last week Allison served up some advice. This week Ashley serves up... salad? Oh, and I guess appreciation.

Last week Allison served up some advice. This week Ashley serves up… salad? Oh, and I guess appreciation.

So to try and balance my frustration and not immediately leap off the Golden Gate Bridge in an act of dramatic expression over some of those poor theatrical habits, I thought, why not make a list of theater practices gone right? Because there’s a reason so many of us are willing to wade through the muck. Sometimes there are some truly great producers/directors/general theater makers who deserve more recognition.

1.) I ENJOY IT WHEN YOU FEED ME: Well, we all know I love food. But I’m obviously not the only one. It goes a long way when someone thinks to bring a little snack to a rehearsal or before a performance. Considering most of us aren’t doing shows for the money, these food items are often enough to say, “hey actor, I appreciate you”. And at the end of the day, feeling appreciated can be everything. Next time you’re organizing a reading or rehearsal, remember that a little bite can go a long way. And for me, it’s often made a world of difference.

Here's a treat I once made my cast. No need to nerd out like I did but I like to think those weird little owls helped make our rehearsal a little more memorable!

Here’s a treat I once made my cast. No need to nerd out like I did but I like to think those weird little owls helped make our rehearsal a little more memorable!

2.) REJECT ME LIKE YOU MEAN IT: I get that we can’t all get a personalized rejection each and every time we audition for something when we don’t make the cut. Thankfully we have froyo for that kind of pain. And perhaps it’s unprofessional of me to encourage it but whatever, this is a fairly intimate community. We’ve got a lot going on here and we all have a lot of feelings. Sometimes, after spending hours preparing, traveling, and giving it all you’ve got at an audition, the rejection can be a real bitch. It’s softened my blow, ever so slightly, by the folks who reached out to genuinely acknowledge me as an individual and thank me for my time rather than simply sending out a mass generic email. I’ve appreciated this rather rare occurrence in the past but more than anything, being kind goes a long way and everyone who walks into your audition room will thank you for it.

3.) RESPECT THE SCHEDULE: It’s just the worst when you’re called to a rehearsal for hours on end and not used. Granted, I’ve worked on knitting several scarves in the process but overall, if you don’t need me, I’d rather be binge watching some reality show at home. But when you get a team who can organize a schedule thoroughly and honestly, with respect to everyone’s time, well, that’s just so great! Your actors are more likely to give you focused work that leaves them feeling excited and productive because they won’t feel like their precious trashy TV time is being wasted.

4.) THROW A CAST PARTY: Nothing promotes company spirit like getting your cast and crew together to enjoy spirits… and each other. For me, the biggest successes in this area were the folks who threw an event at the beginning of the rehearsal process and a celebration to conclude it. People like feeling like they’re a part of something. Ariel sang a whole song about it. So a big cheers to those of you for making events like this happen and giving us a moment to party together!

5.) HELP US FEEL PRETTY: Anyone who says they don’t have a moment of insecurity before a show opens is either a liar or an idiot. Most of us have small budgets and tiny crews to help put on large productions. The producers/directors who have remained calm in front of their actors and reassured them that things are fine have certainly earned my approval. We don’t want to hear you bitch, we want to feel confident our show is in good hands. Voice your appreciation for your actors. Give them constructive feedback and acknowledge their successes. If you can do all that along with keeping steady, confident control of every situation, you’ll continue to make our “I want to work with them” list.

6.) DELEGATE LIKE IT’S YOUR JOB (SPOILER ALERT: IT’S YOUR JOB, HOMIE): We all know great shows can be ruined by poor leadership and management. Have a huge tech heavy show? Well, then yes, you probably need a stage manager. Have a dance scene? Well, then get someone in here who knows how to move besides your actress who’s dabbled in Zumba at the local YMCA. The shows I’ve been a part of who succeeded assigned jobs for the entire process of the production and clearly defined those positions to interested applicants before moving forward. Wow, that’s a good idea. Don’t be afraid to ask for help and don’t be afraid to ensure that person is capable and up for the responsibility. It’s amazing what having a strong team can do to helping your show surpass its potential.

7.) MAKE IT ABOUT MORE THAN BUSINESS: One of my favorite parts of being involved in a show is getting the privilege to bond with a new, unique group. The directors who have encouraged their casts to check in with one another before getting to work and reward each other with positive feedback at the end of the rehearsal are truly giving their team a great support system. You’re strengthening trust and building friendships beyond the text of the play. People feel invested in not only the work they are creating but each other. It’s awesome and I thank you for making this positive effort a presence in your rehearsal.

 I'd much rather be rehearsing with you than watching this dummy! Most of the time...

I’d much rather be rehearsing with you than watching this dummy! Most of the time…

Just with anything else, your experiences are what you make of them. And if you can promote a good one, you’re doing something right. Thank you to the producers/directors/general theater makers who welcomed me, made me feel appreciated and valued, and established a space for creativity to thrive. I know it wasn’t easy but I’d trade countless evenings with the TV to work with you again.

Cowan Palace: A Page from the Book of Theatre Fears

This week Ashley Cowan talks about taking on a role with some history.

It’s a question every actor faces when accepting a role that has been performed before: why me, why here, why now? Or at least I do. Because unless it’s a world premiere, the part has been played already and sometimes stepping into footsteps that are not your own can be a tricky business.

Maybe it’s been done just once before, maybe a million trillion gazillion times before (remember that summer in 2011 when everyone and their mom put on a production of Twelfth Night?) so it’s no secret that you run the inevitable risk of being compared to those who came before you.

And this summer, I’ve found myself having to embrace this idea. I’m beyond delighted to be performing in Custom Made’s Book of Liz with three talented and hilarious other actors (with a preview tomorrow night and our opening scheduled for Friday). But I have to admit; I’ve been a bit terrified of the role.

Not because the part is challenging; consisting of six different characters in a fast-pace, high energy, comedy. But because two years ago, a close friend of mine played it on the exact same stage. Let’s call her Gallison Gage! Crap, no. She’s much better at making up fun aliases than I am… Anyway, Allison’s performance was memorably dynamic and strong so my fear kicked in immediately, imagining audiences with rotting tomatoes waiting to be thrown at the dud who tried to live up to the past.

The interesting thing is, Allison and I have traveled this territory before. Kind of. We met over five years ago when she joined the cast of Tony n’ Tina’s Wedding. She was first hired to cover bridesmaid extraordinaire, Marina Galino; the role that I had been covering for the past few months. I was going on to play Terry, the nun-in-training, as she began making Marina memories. And I’ll admit, I had a hard time letting the part go! I had originated the current San Francisco role of Ms. Marina so I was very protective of it. But it was the nature of the show, and maybe the nature of show business in general, that you can’t be clingy for long and we were forced to learn quickly that each performance would be different. Everyone brought a new energy, a varying perspective, and their own “thing” to it. After a few months, we were both playing a series of different roles, and by the end of the run (years later) we had played virtually every female part and kissed many of the same people along the way (but that’s another blog all together). In the process of makeshift changing areas in stairwells, sharing costumes, and perfecting the use of hairspray and blue eye shadow, we became friends.

Here we are playing Tina and Terry. And Terry and Tina. When we switched parts a week later we wanted to capture the same picture as different characters for our selfish enjoyment alone. Friends forever!

Here we are playing Tina and Terry. And Terry and Tina. When we switched parts a week later we wanted to capture the same picture as different characters for our selfish enjoyment alone. Friends forever!

So when I was asked to audition for the 2013 production of Book of Liz, I went to Allison first. (Well, after I texted her about something Bachelorette related. We still can’t believe Mikey T. is no longer in the running! It’s so wrong!) And before accepting the part, I had to make sure that it wasn’t going to be weird for us considering she had just done it two years earlier (while I was in one of the many productions of Twelfth Night). Although sharing roles was something we had become acquainted to, I remember how much work Allison had put into her Book of Liz and the many conversations we had about it. When she offered her support in me taking the role, I was excited but the fear followed close behind. Fear that I couldn’t compete with the past.

And I’ll be truthful. We’re all friends here, right? That fear has weaseled its way into our rehearsals from time to time. It’s become a slightly sore subject for our current cast to be constantly compared to the last cast. Our production process has been fast and furious so often we’ll hear, “well, when this was done two years ago…” as means of figuring out how to solve a problem. Which unfortunately doesn’t always provide an appropriate answer for a group trying to create their own identity.

On top of that, since Allison and I can sometimes roughly fit into some similar costumes, I’ve been awarded many of her old pieces and I can’t help but worry that everyone will be expecting me to make all of the same choices she did and will end up disappointed when I don’t.

Please don’t get me wrong. I love having this opportunity and I am so grateful to be working with a cast and crew who make me laugh each day and push me to be better. But I can’t help but wonder if this is an obstacle many other actors are facing. How do you make your role special and unique when you’re following in someone’s footsteps? And how do you move beyond those thoughts to just get out there and try your best?

I think what I need to remember from my Tony n’ Tina days is that different doesn’t have to mean better or worse. It can simply just be different. The energy we’re bringing to the theater will undoubtedly be changed from the past production and that’s okay. We’re not aiming to be better than any other cast, we’re striving to run a solid show and make people laugh.

And I’m sure that’s the conclusion many other groups come to when they’re involved in a show that an audience may have seen numerous times before. We’re not inventing the wheel here but actors across stages everywhere still have the opportunity to pour their passion into a role as only they can and for that I couldn’t be more thankful. It’s so easy to get into the frame of mind that everything is a competition. In a competitive industry, I think it’s an easy leap. But if you get caught up in who is winning, you ultimately lose the chance to leave a footprint or two of your own.

And while I’m still battling my own private fears (well, I guess you now know about them reader, but you can keep a secret, right?) and trying to find my own way, I hope that Allison (and others!) will come see the show and allow this current cast to take them on a new journey of an old story. (And then we can go out to froyo as that’s something that Gallison Gage and I are great at!)

In any case, I’d love to know your thoughts. How do you go about acting/directing/producing/etc. a show with a history? Does it impact your choices during the process? Does it forever change you as an audience member when you see someone else doing a show you once worked on? And what’s your favorite flavor of froyo?! This gal needs to know! It would be swell to see you and discuss this further at Custom Made Theatre during the Book of Liz run or at Theater Pub’s newest installment of Pint Sized Plays. And I look forward to spending the rest of the summer in the company of San Francisco Theater.