By Nick Bernard
Konstantin Stanislavski’s theory of theatre offers the idea there are no small parts, only small actors. Here in Haliburton, the search for actors big and small is on, ahead of the 2022 season of the Highlands Summer Festival. Auditions begin Feb. 26 and 27 at Haliburton United Church.
This year’s festival season is carrying over the program from 2020, which was delayed due to the pandemic. The lineup includes beloved musical The Sound of Music, Oscar Wilde’s comedy The Importance of Being Earnest, and one-person show Every Brilliant Thing. Two other shows, Lucien and Across The Pond will also be taking the stage, with commissioned performers for each.
“We’re looking for the two leads in the Sound of Music, Maria and the Captain,” Festival artistic director Scot Denton told the Echo, “And all of the kids.”
It’s a sad story, Denton said, as the festival had cast those roles in 2020, only to have to defer. Casting for the children is particularly difficult, as the original actors have almost certainly grown in the two years that have passed.
“I said to the kids, you know, I’d like you to be able to play this role when we come back to do the show, but you’re going to grow,” Denton recalled, drawing the image of the seven Von Trapp children arranged by age in descending order. “And part of the drama-slash-comedy of the Von Trapp family kids is that when they come in, they’re like a set of stairs.”
By far the most experimental piece in the festival’s lineup is Every Brilliant Thing.
Denton said the play was centered around a character who decides to write a list of things in life worth living to read to their struggling mother. The part, which Denton says is open to anyone regardless of gender, requires a constant stage presence, with participation from the audience.
“You have to have the right person,” Denton said, describing the part. “They have a script, but they have to be prepared to think on their feet … At one point, the narrator person asks somebody to be his father, and they have to pick someone in the audience.”
Denton says that of the 20-odd possible roles across all of the plays, 10 are already cast from before the two-year delay.
“We have a lot of roles to cast right now, much more than I thought,” he said.
For those unfamiliar with the auditioning process, Denton says anyone interested can expect the process to be friendly and relaxed, but will also try to draw the best performance out of everyone.
“They would expect us to be friendly and welcoming, and [wanting] them to just take a breath,” Denton explained. “Usually, if they’re auditioning for the musical, we need to hear them sing something, even if it’s … the first few bars of O Canada, you know, just to hear the sound. If we think they’re right for a role, we often ask them to take away a little bit of a scene, read it through a bunch of times, and come back in the room later on and read through it with us.”
Denton also always encourages new faces at auditions.
“We love meeting new people. Sometimes people who have never been on stage before turn out to be very, very good at it,” he said. “And they get a lot of support and training from us … It’s the training you get when you rehearse, like you learn from other actors and you learn from the director, and there’s a lot of support.”
A full list of roles, and a full rundown of the 2022 season of the Highlands Summer Festival, is available to view at www.highlandssummerfestival.on.ca.