TAKE ONE: What I learned about stagecraft


By Kay Stoltz
Part 1 of 3

What little girl doesn’t dream of being the next Hollywood Star? At 83, it still niggled at the back of my brain. Then I saw the headline, “Readers’ Theater. Auditions next week. Put on by the Riverbend Players.” Maybe? my chance on stage? In Readers’ Theater, the actors read the script, rather than performing the story, the article explained.
How’s that theater? I wondered. Actors act out a story in a play with costumes, sets, scenery, don’t they? However, it sounded easy enough; I wouldn’t have to memorize, and my age wouldn’t matter, or my looks.
OK! Let’s go for it! I’m first to arrive at the audition, held in the building where the plays are performed. People arrive slowly, some looking a little nervous, some like they do this everyday.
“Hello everybody! I’m the Director, Brian. The plays are three stories from Alfred Hitchcock’s early days, written for radio. Please have a seat and fill out these cards with your name and contact information.”

Chairs are casually arranged in a loose circle. We hand back the cards, and receive the scripts. The Director asks each one of us to read a passage. After the first go around, he singles someone out and says, “You read the part of Stevie,” or “You read Vladimir.” Without pressure, he asks if anyone has another part they’d like to read. Not as I pictured it, but what do I know? I get all my information from the movies.
Wow! I get a call back! Excited and nervous, I enter the Police Station, of all places. One of the policemen is a regular with the Riverbend Players. The theater unavailable, we use the “Cop Shop”, as everyone calls it, to rehearse. We read parts repeatedly, the same part read by two or three people, as the Director determines the cast. Not enough men, thus the men will play multiple parts. There’s no formal introduction of players, so to identify them, I make up names: Friendly Lady, Pretty Lady, Perfect Posture Man, Deep Voice, Broadcast Gentle Man, and so on.
Friendly Lady plays the young man. In radio, only the voice matters, and she does an excellent job. The casting finished, we are each given a list of the actors and the parts they play.
I quickly look to see my role. I have parts in all three plays! One-liners, still I’m nervous. Seeing the other, more seasoned actors taking highlighters to their parts, I quickly do the same, easier to find my part. For one or two lines, I need all 30 pages? Per play? Later, I see the need for the complete play: absences require a complete script for any stand-in.
We spend a couple of weeks practicing the lines, sitting around a table at the Cop Shop. At last, we can rehearse in the theater! A remodeled school building, now known as North County Recreation Center, holds the theater, itself recently updated. Rehearsals get more intense. Director starts each rehearsal with his notes from the previous day.
“Hold your papers up, look out at the audience from time to time. Speak into the mic, practice your English accents.” Then a few directions to individual actors.