This blog post comes to you from Mount Gretna, Pennsylvania, where I am spending my summer performing at Timbers Dinner Theatre!
This is my second summerstock venture, after working at the Huron Playhouse last summer. Last summer, I submitted a video audition, but this year I decided to do auditions at Strawhats and OTA’s (Ohio Theatre Alliance). Both of these auditions invite many theatres to come and watch auditions, so one audition allows you to be seen by dozens of companies. They can then give you callbacks or job offers from there.
Timbers Dinner Theatre gave me a callback and later an offer after seeing me at Strawhats, though I was able to get a handful of other offers from other companies. While summerstock is an invaluable experience, it does not pay as well as the typical retail job. Certain companies don’t pay at all, and some charge a tuition to be an apprentice! Finding the right fit is important.
Here at Timbers, I spent the first two weeks rehearsing full days, with no weekends. We had a limited amount of time to put up a full show, and we needed all the rehearsal time that we could get! This Tuesday we opened after just 15 days of rehearsal. We work five days a week, performing 6-7 shows, depending on whether or not we have a Saturday matinee.
The show is split into two acts. Act one is made up of Billboard #1 Hits, so anything from The Anderson Sisters to The Beatles, Adele to The Supremes. It is made up almost entirely of medleys and ensemble singing, so it is very demanding both vocally and physically. Versatility is a requirement, since we sing everything from jazz to pop to oldies. I myself sing solos by The Platters, Sonny and Cher, The Beatles, and more!
Act two has characters and a plot, and follows a losing baseball team through to their redemption in the final game. My character is the shortstop on the team, involved with a waitress, but is not the most faithful. The act contains perhaps even more variety than act one, including a Fred Astaire/Eleanor Powell duet that I sing with another Fredonia alum, Elizabeth Ruff. Other numbers are from Damn Yankees, Queen, Catch Me If You Can, and even a song by Raffi. Then finally we close off the show with a tap dance to Take Me Out to the Ballgame.
While I’ve been employed at these two summerstock theaters, I have noticed that special skills are incredibly important in our profession. Directors love actors who can tumble and do acrobatics, yet even being able to a cartwheel or a Russian is invaluable. Last summer I would have been so much better off in the role of Henrik (A Little Night Music), if I had ever played a string instrument.
And my last piece of advice is that you should take advantage of any chance you can get to improve your sight reading or piano skills. Summerstock shows go up in the matter of less than three weeks, and being able to learn music quickly will make life a whole lot easier, especially if you are cast in a show that is very vocally heavy, such as a revue or a Sondheim production.
As for me, I have seven weeks left of the run of this show, then I’m back at Fredonia for my junior year! Time flies.