Wednesday, July 27, 2011

A peek inside the Grassroots audition process!

We all know what a typical audition entails; you walk onto a bare stage, introduce yourself to a vaguely discernible casting director sitting somewhere out in the fourth-wall ether, and then (if you're lucky) launch headlong into a monologue that you have spent weeks preparing.  Almost immediately, you finish, head out the door, and await the results with baited breath for days, sometimes weeks.  Grassroots auditions are... different.

From the very first moment of auditions, you are part of an ensemble.  You're encouraged to give and take feedback from your fellow auditioners.  You're urged to speak directly to them during your performance, and to notice and use the surrounding environment effectively.  In some ways it's a bit daunting, trying to stand out and be heard in the middle of a vast park, and having your audition piece openly scrutinized by strangers.  But in other ways, it can be quite satisfying to let the energy of an audience enliven your performance, and to foster a sense of community with your peers.  Auditions are never easy, but Grassroots auditions are, at the very least, unique.

The most difficult, and perhaps the most important part of the Grassroots auditions, is the voting.  After devising a few scenes in small groups, and performing them for each other, the recalled group of actors write up confidential ballots, listing the people they would most like to work with.  After that, a simple tally determines the company.  For those who, for whatever reason, don't make the final cut, it can be pretty disappointing.  But those who do make the company find an instant network of supportive, trusting, enthusiastic friends, each of whom are there because of each other's votes.

The instant bond created by this exciting, if harrowing process, allows us to jump straight into rehearsals.  And for Grassroots, that's an absolute necessity.  We only have ten days, after all.  There's no time for trust-falls or bridge-building.  The connections have to be there from day one.  If we're trying to approach Shakespeare the way his original players did, then we need an incredibly cohesive, tight-knit group, like they had.  So, although it can be dispiriting for those who feel rejected by the voting (and the difference between total validation and total rejection is often just a single vote), it is incredibly beneficial to the creation of an enthusiastic and sincerely collaborative ensemble.

If you like what we do, please help us by sharing with your friends and family!  In England, follow us at Grassroots Shakespeare · London on facebook, or @grassroots_lon on twitter.  Our upcoming production of A Midsummer Night's Dream promises to be a surprising and enchanting event!

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