Six hours and fifteen minutes. That is the amount of time that more than 100 people and I spent in workshops and a final audition to hopefully get a part in the Thornton Wilder play, Our Town, being presented over Labor Day weekend at Boscobel as part of the 30th anniversary of the Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival.
It was stressed that it didn’t matter if you had never set foot on stage. This production is about community and non-actors were encouraged to audition. I did some acting in high school, and I performed monologues on stage after college (both many years ago). I do a fair amount of presentations at my job, and every time I do them, I prepare as though it’s a “performance.” So when I saw the articles about participating in this production, I knew I had to try out for a part.
I was fearless diving into this. The production is using only three professional actors. The rest of the casting (approximately 25 parts) is from the community. Indeed, introductory workshops were held in Newburgh, Peekskill, Cold Spring, and Beacon! Essentially, our town …
I had no idea what to expect in the three workshops (the first was introductory and other two were mandatory). I must say that participating in them was a transformative experience. Imagine bonding with complete strangers by staring into their eyes, by walking and stopping together (sometimes stopping intuitively), by laughing hilariously together and by wailing together, by encouraging each other to get through a jump rope, by feeding each other lines from the play. It was a powerful connection to be able to bond with absolute complete strangers and feel as one.
I took an unfortunate bad fall leaving the last workshop while going up a step, with the audition being the following day. I ended up breaking my foot, needing to wear a cast (black boot) and using a scooter to get around for eight weeks, followed by wearing a foot brace for the next six months! (Many of you see me daily on Metro North going to work on my scooter.) Yes, “break a leg” was not lost on me. I went to the 15-minute audition the next day with a temporary cast on and crutches. I gave it my all.
A week later I got a call that I was not selected for a part. I cried for three days … I desperately wanted to be part of this incredible production and once-in-a-lifetime experience. No one likes rejection, but it’s a part of life. Tears are all gone now and reality has set in. I would encourage everyone in town, along with friends and family, to attend this play over Labor Day weekend. The entire premise of casting those in our surroundings who are not professional actors is brilliant, given what this play is all about. And tickets are free. I know that I will be sitting front and center (albeit with a foot brace) to see this quintessential play. Kudos to John Plummer, Emily Knapp and Sean McNall for the powerful workshops you ran. No doubt this production will be beyond expectations and top rate … undeniably our town …
Mary “Scooter Girl” Schlitzer, Cold Spring