Director’s cut: insight to auditions and accents

Jim Drake’s Entertainment Blog

The story in the news last week on the upcoming auditions for the CAST production of “Good People” prompted me to contact director Judie Hanel and ask her a few questions on a topic I know very little about: auditioning for a play.

It seems to me that Judie’s answers reflect that a heck of a lot of work goes into a local play production, and we’re not even talking about a multi-million dollar studio operation here.

From what I understand, the cast and crew are donating their time to make the plays happen — which is a huge contrast between the likes of, say, Sony, who just released “The Interview.”

But based on the poor review of “The Interview” that a trusted friend sent in a few weeks ago, I’m inclined to say that more quality work is probably going into our local theater production than into some national movie releases. And I’ll support quality work over world-wide hype any day.

Interview with Judie Hanel

How many plays have you directed and which one has been your favorite so far and why?

I have directed more than 45 shows in Hood River and many shows in Canada.

Anything Arthur Miller tops my list. One of my favorite shows directed at CAST was Arthur Miller’s “All My Sons,” because Arthur Miller dedicated himself to examining the moral plight of the American working class.

I’ve also directed “Death of a Salesman,” “The Crucible and Clara.” I’m also passionate about shows that look at women’s rights issues/human rights such as “Death and the Maiden,” “The Vagina Monologues,” “Welcome Home Jenny Sutter,” “If We Are Women” and “The Good Body.”

What exactly are the things a director does for a play? What does a director add that’s not already in the script?

The director has responsibility for the overall practical, managerial, and creative interpretation of the script and helping/collaborating with actors to achieve characterization clearly. She/he advises, inspires and encourages.

A director works closely with the creative team that includes a stage manager, costume, lighting, sound, set design/building and house manager.

As a director, I’m concerned with the “given circumstances” — the necessary elements or environment of the play. This includes regional accents, design oversight and implementation and staging the play – where do the actors go on stage; their movement while on stage.

In the managerial role – it’s casting, rehearsals, technical rehearsals, dress rehearsals, opening night and also taking into account the budgetary and physical constraints of your production. The director is involved at all stages of the process.

Since Good People is based in Boston, are you looking for people who can do the particular regional speaking accent? If so, how should one prepare to do that?

The short answer is “Yes.” “Good People” takes place in South Boston (so the characters are “Southies”) and the cast will be asked to learn that accent. I will have a dialect coach to help them. Also, ages may play up, or down, depending on auditioning actors’ ranges.

How many people typically show up at an audition and what overall qualities are you looking for to fill these roles?

It wholly depends on the show. Sometimes it’s name of the play recognition or the ages of each cast member that can bring more or less people, or even a particular subject matter.

When I directed “The Vagina Monologues,” I had over 30 women show up for auditions.

I don’t precast a show. Instead, I wait for auditions to see what each person can bring to that role on that particular day.

I think you need to own the role on that day you audition, because if you don’t, someone else will. But I think you need to do your work beforehand if you’re going to audition.

I suggest anyone that auditions take some time to research the show and learn about each character and how they interface with each other.

I think the job of an actor is to do research on the show they are approaching and come prepared with some insight about the role.

Audition notice

Auditions for “Good People,” David Lindsay-Abaire’s tough and tender new play about the insurmountable divide between those who make it and those who don’t, are scheduled for Sunday, Jan. 18, from 1-3 p.m. and Monday, Jan. 19, from 6-8 p.m. at the Columbia Center for the Arts, 215 Cascade Ave. in Hood River.

MARGIE (40-50s) a tough cookie with a heart of gold, down-on-her luck single mother from South Boston.

MIKE (40-50s) a successful fertility doctor who escaped Margie’s South Boston neighborhood and not too eager to be reminded of his past.

DOTTIE (60s) Margie’s landlady and friend.

JEAN (40-50s) Margie’s tough as nails friend, “the mouthy from Southy.”

STEVIE (20-30s) Manager of the Dollar Store, son of an old friend of Margie’s.

KATE (woman of color 30-50s) Mike’s wife, kind, beautiful, highly intelligent and well educated.

Rehearsals for “Good People” will begin in March with performances running from May 8 through May 23. If you are unable to attend these audition times, please contact director for an alternate time, if possible. Bring a headshot and resume if you have one.

Readings will be from the script. Sides are available at the art center at the gallery desk. For more information, please email judieh@ or call 541-386-6221.

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