Following the success of “The Best Christmas Pageant Ever,” the Kaatza Lakeside Players have returned to the drawing board for another theatre production.
The Lakeside Players hosted auditions on Jan. 10 and 12 for their spring performance entitled “Mending Fences,” which will hit the stage in May.
An abundance of local actors and actresses attended the two days of auditions to try their luck for certain parts in the play.
“Mending Fences,” is written by renowned Canadian playwright, Norm Foster. Lakeside Players have been a big Foster fan over the years and have performed his plays in the past.
The play will feature a much smaller cast than “The Best Christmas Pageant Ever” and much racier content, as well.
Artistic director Dena McPhee is ready to reignite theatre in Lake Cowichan now that it’s the new year.
She thinks auditions are an important and exciting aspect of the theatre process.
“Auditions are very interesting. It’s pretty gutsy for people to come out and audition,” said McPhee.
McPhee noted that despite the auditions being in good spirits, she could sense an air of competitiveness amongst her cast. She said that just showing up to auditions makes a statement.
“Showing up to auditions is like saying that ‘I want this part and I want to be better than the next guy.’ All auditions are really good for actors but they’re also difficult. Even though it’s your neighbour or the guy you buy coffee from you don’t want to act competitive but that’s what it is,” described McPhee.
McPhee is in charge of selecting the cast for “Mending Fences.”
She will also ensure that each actor or actress fits appropriately into the role for the character they are selected to play.
“My biggest job is to listen and observe the actors interacting together,” she said.
McPhee evaluates her cast through cold readings, in which they read the script allowed. This gives McPhee a good feel for who might fit a particular part. The Lakeside Players’ director was adamant that potential cast members’ first impression of their respective character is extremely important.
“The very first impression of a character that somebody reads cold is what will grab me and very often that’s what we strive to get back to at performance time. It’s a very important process.”
Several of the actors and actresses who showed up to the auditions had starred in “The Best Christmas Pageant Ever.”
Gilbert Lewis and Bailey Calihoo, both 14, played characters from the rebellious Herdman family in “The Best Christmas Pageant Ever.” The two young actors were squaring off for the part of Young Harry in “Mending Fences.”
“I like auditioning because it gives you a chance to see a lot of different views of how the character can be played and it gives you an idea of how you want to play it,” said Calihoo.
Competing against each other for the part isn’t a big deal for Calihoo or Lewis — they’re just happy to be involved with the Lakeside Players. They admitted it’s not always easy though, either.
“It’s definitely hard because you want to do your best because you want to have the best chance of getting the part you want. When you’re up against a lot of other people it’s definitely difficult,” said Calihoo.
Lewis said even if he doesn’t get the part of Young Harry he will still lend a helping hand behind the scenes.
“I’m pretty sure I have a 50-50 chance of getting it and if not then I just want to help out backstage,” said Lewis.
Calihoo said the character is a leap from playing a Herdman character but noted that both characters are similar in that they have had turbulent upbringings.
“He’s had a rough childhood,” Calihoo.
Lauren Frost, also 14, starred in “The Best Christmas Pageant,” too.
“I really like the auditioning process because you get to see the first impression of each character. You never get to see that again,” said Frost.
This time, however, Frost has decided to make the jump to assistant director for “Mending Fences.” She’ll work alongside McPhee in putting the production together.
“This is the first time I’ve been sort of behind the scenes,” said Frost.
Shifting from acting to the director’s chair, Frost now views theatre from a completely different perspective than before. She does not think directing is as stressful as acting either.
“It is really interesting for me to look at all the characters developing without worrying about what line I’m going to have to say next. I’m noticing a lot of different things than I would have if I was auditioning myself so it’s a really cool experience,” explained Frost.
Carrol Patrick is Kaatza Lakeside Player’s secretary and will perform the role of production coordinator when “Mending Fences” hits the stage in May.
Patrick was thoroughly impressed with the number of actors and actresses who showed up to flaunt their theatre skills.
“There have been a number of people who have shown up for the auditions,” said Patrick.
For Patrick, she’s thrilled that the auditions process has finally got underway. She cannot wait to see the final product.
“This play will tickle your funny bone and it will provide you with some really thought provoking moments,” explained Patrick.
McPhee will select her cast in the coming weeks and the play’s new cast will begin a rigorous practice schedule that will take them through the remainder of winter and into spring.
There is a volunteer sign-up for “Mending Fences’” production crew that will be held at Centennial Hall on Jan. 19 at 6:30 p.m.
McPhee and Patrick encourage anyone interested in helping out or seeing what local theatre is about to contact Kaatza Lakeside Players.