Audition Help!

How to Audition- and how NOT to Audition- for Community Theatre

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Community theatre is a funny little world that one can’t fully understand until they’ve been swept up into it, and once that moment has happened, it cannot be undone. Never again will you have a normal human being’s perspective where matters of the stage are concerned… you are a Thespian, you’ve been converted, you’ve gotten the ill-fitting, T-Shirt with the production’s name emblazoned across the front of it, and you’re going to cherish it until you get the next, because almost everything else about being in a show is fleeting: the applause fades, the make up is wiped off, the lights are dimmed, the sets are bumped out, your best theatre friendships are immediately put on trial for long-term sustainability, the transformations are reversed, and within days or weeks, the program and your memories are shelved so that you have the mental capacity to tackle the next production.
A lot of people scoff at community theatre, sometimes even those whose lives have been most overtaken by it, and once you’re in that little world you’ll start hearing ‘Who cares? It’s just community theatre. It’s not like we’re getting paid or famous here…’
But the fact that you’re not getting fortune or fame out of it, is what makes these local productions so important to people. For some, it is a stepping stone they want to hop off on their quest towards seeing their name in lights but for others- those that didn’t make it, those who never tried, those who have too many kids to support to try, or those who didn’t realise how badly they wanted it until it was too late to try (not that I believe any of these things matter for those ambitious enough to try and damn the consequences) this is their moment. This is their spotlight. Perhaps they will never get to see their name in lights, but they might get to see it in the newspaper, or receive a standing ovation or even, if you’re like me- get a rush out of being literally surrounded by so much talent and music and beauty and art that your little overdramatic heart runneth over. I came because I wanted to sing the songs I loved- I stayed because there’s nothing quite as magical as hearing, and feeling, a perfect harmony resonating off the walls off someone else’s high school gym. And also because as good as the acoustics and as grand as the mirrors are in showers and elevators, there’s never enough space to really bring it home with a high kick.
As you can see, I got the T-Shirt, and I intend on collecting many more because ill-fitting or not, they were hard-earned.

‘Don’t go around complaining if you don’t get the role you wanted, or even cast at all! In the big picture of the production the casting team needs to consider ages, balance of males and females, and which skills are most needed in the ensemble. You might have a great voice, but be edged out by someone who maybe has a slightly less great voice but also dances and acts magnificently.’- Anonymous MD

But trying to inch our way into community theatre is a tricky thing to do, especially for those of us that haven’t come out of a performing arts school, and haven’t had any sort of formal vocal/dance/acting training at all. It can be intimidating enough to walk up to a group of incredibly talented, self-assured people that are well known to each other (and have more inside jokes then a bunch of Star Wars fans at a Comic Convention) even if you do have years of classes and programs up your ill-fitting sleeve… but if you don’t, then trying to edge your way into a group is like proclaiming: ‘Hey, I might be talented enough to hang with you! Mind if I give it a try?’ and it’s daunting. In fact, it’s terrifying because if you want to get your foot in the door, you’re gonna have to start with an audition.
Confession? I hate auditions. They terrify me. Put me in a room full of one thousand people and I am perfectly at ease- put me in front of a panel made of two local drama teachers, a freelance vocal coach and a choir conductor and I sweat bullets. I sweat, I shake, I find it impossible to breathe and worst of all- I mess it up. A lot of people in community theatre won’t admit that, but I have no shame so I’m happy to announce that I must be one of the world’s worst auditionees for everything. I can nail a song in the privacy of my home/ car/ shower/ karaoke/ drunk at a wedding and sometimes in my kids’ school parking lot (no shame, at all, it’s not a joke, I actually have high-kicked in an elevator) but make me sing in front of just a couple of people that are LOOKING at me at short-range and I fall apart.
And I’ve noticed that the longer I’ve stayed in community theatre and the better I’ve gotten to know the people on the panels, (though ever changing) I have gotten much worse. I don’t know what it is, but I suppose it’s harder to pretend to be someone you’re not when the people you’re in front of know exactly who you are, and this is an issue that people have in community theatre that people on Broadway aren’t going to have unless they’re so talented that no introductions are necessary. You’re trying to impress people that not only know how good you’re not at certain things, but know how awesome the person waiting behind you in line is. What Jerry Seinfeld once said about dating is true for auditions in community theatre: ‘It’s like Magicians trying to impress one another with the same trick. You pulled out a rabbit? So what? I’ve got a high C.’

‘Once you have completed your audition try to put it out of your mind and think of something else! It’s easy to get caught up in over analysis, which only shakes your confidence.’- Anonymous Thespian.

Yes I hate auditions. In fact, if it was up to me, there would be a revolving door so you can come in, fall apart, stuff up, walk out, kick yourself sensible… and then waltz back in ready for take 2. If auditions worked that way I think I’d fare much better but like I said, everything in community theatre is volunteer based, so no one’s got the time to indulge everyone’s panel-fright. You gotta get in, get it nailed and then get it out and then pray like hell that the other people going for the same part as you sucked worse.
So although I am no expert on auditions, I have gone for a few and have been on a panel for a few now, so I have a pretty good idea on what to do, and what not to do. But in the quest of offering all wannabe Thespians some well-rounded advice, I have asked a few local directors/ musical directors/ producers/choreographers and long-term performers to give me some tips to share with you about what to do, and what to definitely NEVER do in an audition, so I hope you take something away from this… So long as it’s not the part I want. 😉
I’m going to start with my own two cents, which tends to turn out to be seventy-five cents or a dollar and change, but for what I lack in talent I make up for with self-awareness and attention to detail.

Who: 

Samantha Munt

Affiliated With:

Mackay Musical Comedy Players, Red Giraffe Theatre, Thespian Ink.

Although most of my theatre experience is from the ensemble POV, I’ve produced four of my own scripts as theatre restaurants with Thespian Ink, over the past eighteen months and go into auditions with very specific expectations, probably because the characters have never been portrayed before but have been manifested inside my head.
In addition to that, I’ve played Amber in Hairspray (MMCP) had the leading role of Angel Delight in Stiff, (MMCP) and have been in the ensemble for Rent (Red Giraffe Theatre) Ma Baker’s Tonic (MMCP) A Wink At The Sphinx (MMCP) Beauty And The Beast (MMCP) Wicked. (MMCP) and Rock Of Ages (MMCP).
I also do some freelance critiquing and those who can’t do, review 😉

Do’s:

*Know the show. It’s not often that an audition panel will want you to sing ‘The’ song from the production, but another. There’s no point in preparing yourself for an audition if you don’t attempt to familiarise yourself with everything that the role will entail. Also you will most likely be asked to read dialogue and if your characterisation is in the Cats ballpark for a Hair production, you’re going to look like a dolt.

*Breathe. I cannot stress this enough. I hyperventilate when I’m nervous so I always end up sounding less than effortless when I’m in an audition than I would at any other given time. I’ve actually started putting vocal warm-ups and breathing exercises on my iPod, which I listen to with headphones before I go in. I don’t think it’s gotten me any parts, lol, but I haven’t died in an audition yet so it’s something.

*Try and get some audition help from someone that you know you can trust to give you honest feedback. If you no someone that’s directed before, or who usually has a lot of interesting stuff to say about other people’s performances, ask if you can do a mock audition with them and demand blunt feedback. It might end up disappointing you but then again, one or two of the right tips could get you into the role you want or save you a lot of heartbreak.

*Do love being in the ensemble if that’s what you get, or find a way to love it. Make friends, learn something new, hone other skills and it could be so much more rewarding than having a lead role can be.

*Treat every single rehearsal as an audition for the next show. Be prompt, be professional, be prepared and be a pleasure- regardless of whether you’re the lead or ‘Guy in crowd #5’. If there’s a fundraising opportunity, put your hand up as often as possible. If there are sets to be painted, show up and offer to help. If the sewing ladies look overwrought, ask them what you can do to help and if you can’t help, find an Aunty Thelma that might. Being in the ensemble can mean a lot of sitting around and waiting, so take a book or a tablet or work on something that needs working on so you can kill the time productively instead of complaining, and be respectful of the people that are being utilised by keeping your voice low. If you only promote the shows that you’re the lead in, other people are going to notice. If you bring a bad attitude every time, someone will remember. If you throw a diva fit or get yourself a reputation as a gossip or a slacker, there’s a good chance that it will come back to bite you because in community theatre, the person sitting next to you in the alto section of the choir now could end up being the one on the other side of the audition panel the next. In my shows, I assume that people that are constantly late, lazy, unprepared or miserable to be around are asking for a much smaller role next time, or to be shelved onto the ‘Do not cast!’ pile all together.

*Go to effort with hair, make-up and dress but not overboard. Try to dress in basics, like black work out clothes, or something that will help them envision you in the part without being distracted… but I’m not a fan of people arriving in character costumes unless they’ve written down that they’re only after the character, and not interested in anything else. Worse still, I think, is when people look completely sloppy. The directing panel are going to have the responsibility of looking after the production for months- why show up looking like you haven’t given their ‘baby’ more than a few minutes’ thought?
DON’T:

*Don’t go in there assuming you have anything in the bag. Prepare yourself for the fact that you might not be the best fit for the part, even if it is your dream role. In community theatre we tend to think we’ve got everyone pegged but there’s always an upset because one hundred people cannot be squished into eight roles. Blondes will be cast as brunettes, older women will be cast as younger and vice versa, and you might only end up being as worthy as your audition buddy is tall. Walking in there and knowing this might just give you the confidence boost you need, because we often give more of ourselves when we figure we’ve got nothing left to lose.

*Don’t slack off in the dance/group auditions. I know some of us have two left feet, but I’ve seen so many people actually just give up or laugh their way through without going to any effort at all, and it’s face-palm worthy. The panel might be able to overlook the fact that you’re not a dancer, but not that you think you’re entitled to try less than the others. Even if you’re not required to go to the dance audition, go anyway and give it your best shot.
*Don’t turn down the opportunity to be in the ensemble just because you think you’re better than that. Being in the ensemble is the best chance you have of proving it, so unless you’re not the right fit (for example, I didn’t go for the ensemble parts in Bonnie and Clyde because I knew I didn’t make sense as a gospel singer) take every opportunity you can get to get your foot in that door and make it a revolving one.

‘I learned never to bring props into a audition. I’m not saying what it was for but I was doing I Go To Rio and brought maracas. Self playing maracas- I just couldn’t stop shaking!’ -Ethan McCarthy, Thespian.

 

‘Accept that in community theatre, pre-casting happens. It might not be acknowledged and it could be blatantly denied, but it happens when the talent pond is small and the stakes high. It can be a hard pill to swallow, but it’s one that should be taken with every audition pack before you dare to get your hopes up. Walk in there determined to be the best you can be, yes, but as soon as you walk out, release your hopes to the universe and accept that for every leading man bathing in glory, there’s an ensemble member that was just as if not more deserving of it that might have other things to offer aside from talent, whether it be a generous donation, a history of solid performances and reliability, or a friend or three on the panel’- Anonymous Director/Choreographer/Thespian.

WHO: Cheryl Peppin

 Mackay Musical Comedy Players, Valley Players, Kucom Theatre, Red Giraffe Theatre, Fame Talent School.

Cheryl Peppin is well known for her incredible talent, brutal honestly and effortless execution of everything she sets out to do. She’s played the leading lady, featured roles, ensemble, director and producer, and brings more energy to a production than I bring coffee- which is a lot.

Do’s:

*Be nice to EVERYONE. Director, receptionist and anyone in between. And not just surface nice – try to be genuine. It goes a long way.

*Be confident or fake it til you make it. There’s nothing worse than people apologising when they know they’ve done a crap job . We all heard and saw it too so there’s no need to explain – just move on and do the next thing better to make up for it.

Don’t:
*Never try to ‘psych’ other auditionees out at an audition (or any time for that matter) all it does is make you look like a total tool. It’s horrible behaviour and so unnecessary.

‘Do whatever it takes. I didn’t know any songs for Bonnie & Clyde at the audition so I sang “The Lion Sleeps Tonight,” and I got a role, lol!’- Jay Shipston, Thespian and Radio Host for Triple M.

Who:
Anonymous

Affiliated with: Anonymous.

Our anonymous judge has been in front and behind a lot of audition panels, and has played everything from the lead, to the ensemble. Not only have they always accurately predicted how my auditions may pan out, but they have the same sense of prophecy when it comes to their own, so take the advice!

Do’s:

*Do warm up your voice before your audition! They may not have time to do warm ups with you in the room.

*Register for your audition early, and ask for a time slot that suits you vocally. Get the audition info pack as soon as it becomes available. You don’t want to be singing first thing in the morning if you’re a night owl or vice versa!

*Consider your suitability for the role, in terms of your age, look, skill set. Research the role and find out which Broadway/West End Star is considered to be the best portrayal of this role. Do you sound like this singer? Do you appear to be a similar age? Do you have a similar look (if that is critical for the role). No amount of putting your hair up in pigtails will make a late 30s early 40s woman pass for a high school student (with the possible exception of Stockard Channing!)

*Watch the great performers performing the role you’re after, and treat with caution a college production that’s been uploaded on YouTube (some are great and some are not). You want to make sure you’re choosing good role models! Consider asking a singing teacher / vocal coach for some help in preparing.

*After researching the role, considering your suitability for it and deciding that, yes it’s you, you should go for it! Prepare your audition material as requested.
Backing track?
Keep it in the original show key and don’t bring the soundtrack (singing over a star won’t show your true ability).
Accompanist?
Bring the sheet music if you’re doing your own choice of song. Find out how the accompanist wants the music to be prepared, e.g. some prefer bound copies, some like to work with display folders. NOBODY likes to play from loose sheets of paper.
No accompaniment?
Good luck!! But seriously, make sure you can stay in key. Get a teacher to check this for you if you’re unsure. If you know you can’t do this, it may be an indication that the role is out of your skill set.

*Take the time to learn the harmony parts! The MD will generally need the following:
Super high singers
Confident Harmony holders in the lower ranges
And…
Every guy they can get

Don’t:

*Don’t complain about being sick at the audition. Too many people use this excuse to cover up for nerves or not being able to reach the high notes (see above). If you’re well enough to do the audition, you’ll be ok. If you’re really unwell contact the producer to reschedule or withdraw.
*If the MD asks for a song that is not from the show, that does NOT mean choose a random song! Don’t sing True Colours by Cindy Lauder at your Eliza Dolittle audition. These days you can search “audition songs for (character)” and a list of great choices will appear. These songs will relate to the vocal style and/or character of the role you’re after (ideally both).

*Audition for the lead role in every show your local company puts on, regardless of suitability. That’s setting yourself up for disappointment after disappointment, and will earn you a reputation which can even work against you when you go for a role that actually DOES suit you. Don’t fake a coughing fit through the high / tricky part you can’t quite nail.

*Copying another performer down to every last detail can result in you coming across like a great impersonator. Learn from the best in the business, but don’t be an exact copy – ensure you also give it a touch that is all your own (choosing roles that REALLY suit you will help with this).

*Be an overconfident guy (see above) and decide to “wing it” i.e. turn up not knowing what to sing, relying on the MD to teach you the song at the audition!! It’s not only rude, there’s a fair chance you won’t get it well enough to really shine. However if you’re a well prepped male Chorus auditionee you may find yourself being asked to try for a lead that you hadn’t previously considered.

‘Ladies, you could seem perfect for a lead role and get a call back! But once they decide to cast someone really short or really tall or much younger or older for the role of your onstage husband, suddenly you don’t fit when seen together. If the male role is a bigger role or there are only a few men to choose from, always prepare for disappointment when auditioning for a “couple” role. This can also apply for males who have to appear together on stage in non-comedic pairings e.g. Marius and Enjolras in Les Mis.’ – Anonymous Thespian.

WHO: Joel Bow

Affiliated with: Joel Bow Productions, Red Giraffe Theatre.

Joel Bow is a producer, director and choreography, with a heavy performance resume and a lot of relationships with super stars, like Dirty Dancing’s own Kurt Phelan, and a column in The Daily Mercury as the theatre voice for Mackay. I believe his eye for talent is equalled only by his passion for the performing arts. His advice is short and to the point, but to be taken very seriously for that fact.

Do’s:

* Do be on time, please, dressed appropriately and listen to all instructions in your audition.

* Please be VERY familiar with the show. EVERY song in the show.

Don’t:

* DON’T audition for a role or a show you aren’t right for. Make sure your vocal range, age, acting and dance ability are in line with the requirements of the character.

‘The one time I didn’t research a role I went in and did an American accent for a British person. Director said: ‘Why American? Did you research the part?’ And I said: “No I just assumed he was American.” Fail big time.
I don’t think I’ve blown an audition, but I’ve not gotten roles due to certain things, height, vocal range and experience.’- Anthony Edwards, Thespian.

WHO:
Marina Duncan

Affiliated With: Mackay Musical Comedy Players

Marina has directed and starred in many community theatre productions over the year and is currently directing Wicked. She’s also a big fan of watching musicals, and knows what she’s looking for as far as the performing arts go because she’s been heavily invested in her love of theatre for decades.

Do’s:
*Do come prepared. Know your music nothing a directing team hates more than not being able to see your face. It helps you sell the song and the character.

*Know and understand the context of the song. How you use your body to convey the emotions of that character in the song will shape your performance with more clarity.

Don’t:

*Don’t be inflexible. This is were things can get difficult for you may have done all the Do’s right but the directing team sees the character differently. Sometimes it looks like the auditionees have all watched the same youtube performance….which doesn’t help the auditionee stand out.

Thank you so much for listening to my pearls of wisdom, and to those I borrowed from my personal go-to theatre gurus and friends. It’s a bit of a trope yes, but at the end of the day, we’re in community theatre to have fun, and if you’re always fun to be around, people will look forward to working with you again.
I hope this has helped my readers in some way, and I’m going to leave you with one final bit of wisdom from someone I adore working with. Thank you so much to my contributors, and if you’re interested in checking out their projects, please search for their Facebook pages by company name on Facebook!
Chookas!

‘Try hard not to be a selfish, self cantered cast member . Think of the crew, backstage and anyone assisting on production team . Sometimes your solo is NOT the most important/crucial thing for the benefit of the show over all: learn to be patient and don’t sweat the small stuff. Just continue on learning your pieces and wait for further instruction instead of jumping the gun and being a hinderance to crew by asking a million unimportant questions’ -Cheryl Peppin.

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Sneak Peak At The Wildest Woods, Book #4 The Eden Chronicles S.K Munt

The Book Of Liberation

By Samuel J McIntyre

Chapter One

 

The archangel and his angelic daughter moved as quickly as they could once she had regained consciousness, but it still took them eight hours to make their way through the labyrinth of subterranean passages that were buried deep in the cliffs beneath Arcadia’s shoreline and up into The Wildwoods beyond.

It was a difficult journey for the girl, because not only was the path cramped, slick, cold dark and unfamiliar to her, but because there was nothing to do on that journey but reflect on all of the awful things that had happened to her, and dread all of the awful things that could potentially happen now that she was out of the Barachiel’s clutches, but in debt to Satan. In debt to Satan and apparently headed north to meet The Sequestered: a band of nomads, miscreants and law-breakers that were waiting for her to not only join them, but to assume responsibility for them all by becoming their leader.

The Shepherd swore to her that they were looking forward to meeting her and claimed that some of them had been anticipating doing so since before she’d been born… but the girl had a hard time believing that anyone would be happy to meet Satan’s spawn, especially once they found out how badly she’d already mis-managed her own life. And even without taking her questionable parentage into consideration, the thought of becoming a leader to anyone was an overwhelming prospect, and one that was completely impossible for her to imagine while she was still labouring to mentally process everything that she’d already endured in her short lifetime.

They think I can lead them all through to the northern part of the continent, but the only thing I know about the north is based on that stupid story my brother told me when I was four, about how a man had followed a stream to a great lake! It sounded like such a romantic notion back then, but… oh Satan! How am I to trust my instincts, when all of them are screaming at me to fly out of here and never look back?

That was another thing that was overwhelming her- the knowledge that Satan’s strength was completely dependent on her daughter’s loyalty now. Her dark mother had apparently exhausted the last of her power when she’d healed her, and so she had left her under her father’s guidance, ordering him to watch over their child until she could return… but the only way that she would be able to return was if the girl was able to convince others to have faith in them both- to turn their backs on God and embrace the devil and her offspring instead. Could the girl do that? Did she want to? Or was there some way that she would be able to guide these people while leaving both God and Satan out of it? She hoped that there was, but what did she know about anything? Her head ached just thinking about it.

Knowing that she would not be able to solve any of her conundrums while she was still so tired and frazzled, the girl quietly and obediently followed the shepherd like the mindless sheep that she wished she could be, watching the flames from the shepherd’s torch leap and dance towards the uneven roof of the cave’s ceiling in hypnotic rhythms that were soothing to her. Those flames were as responsive to her as the ones inside her were, she soon realised, because they dipped when her breathing was even and her mind comfortably numb, but flared angrily every time an unwelcome recollection reared its ugly head in her sub-conscious; as attracted to her as she was to them. And every time the prince that had branded her slipped into her mind, the flames roared so brightly that they endangered the shepherd’s eyebrows. The Nephilim girl didn’t know how she felt about the eldest and youngest Barachiel sons in that moment, but she did know that if given the chance, she would make the one that had branded her as a whore for life suffer for what he had tried to do to her that night.

Sensing her unease and clearly desperate to forge a bond with her after years of estrangement, her father filled the silence and the darkness with stories that he knew would feed her curiosity regarding the time before- stories that were hundreds or even thousands of years old and he hoped, impressive enough to grab and hold her attention, distracting her from her emotional turmoil and finally giving him the chance to do something right by her, however small. He spoke of great ships, ghastly wars, computer codes and rock music. He recounted a day when airplanes had crashed into the tallest buildings in the biggest city on earth, and of a tidal wave that had killed half a million people in several different countries in the space of a few minutes. He talked about the Wild West and the great south, of African plains and tropical rainforests and finally, he started talking about heaven- a place that he agreed was perfect, but flawed for its perfection.

‘I do not doubt that Heaven is the ultimate destination for a human soul, child of mine,’ the shepherd said quietly as they began to ascend after hours of what had felt like walking downhill in zigzags’ to his charge, ‘and I do not blame God for focusing on it so, because it is the only place that everybody is truly equal in the end. Equal, content, sated and at peace. There are no tears in heaven, and there is no pain. It is everything that he promised us it would be, and his most perfected creation yet…’

‘Then why are you here?’ his daughter asked him, bewildered. The cave was opening up, but she kept her voice as reverently hushed as she had all evening, shivering when she felt a biting breeze waft past her for the first time in hours. ‘If Heaven is so perfect then why have you, Miguel and even God returned here time and time again?’

The shepherd had smiled his golden angelic smile and then they had rounded the corner and had walked into a larger cave, one that was three times her height and thirty times the width of the one that they had commenced their journey within. It had a gritty floor that was covered with footprints and extinguished campfires, and a wide entrance that opened out almost directly into a growth of Devil’s Claw trees so thick and spiky and deeply ensconced in briar weed that they formed an impenetrable screen around the clearing in front of the cave, which was only three feet wide at its deepest point.

‘Because people aren’t perfect,’ the shepherd said sagely, indicating to the filthy crowd of people that were abandoning whatever it was that they had been doing- collapsing their camp, it seemed- and rushing at them while hooting and cheering and caterwauling in delight. They were so loud that the shepherd had to raise his voice to finish: ‘So it is not perfection that they crave above all else, Larkin of Eden, but life! Being in Heaven is like enjoying a wonderful dream, but nothing is like living a wonderful dream. God has forgotten that since he dispensed with his humanity, but I have not… and these people have been told they’ll never experience a dream come true here or in heaven by the righteous for so long, that they had begun to accept that as their fate! That was of course, until Satan told them that you could- and would- help them change that. That she would send her beautiful, golden daughter to them, and that you would bring hope with you. Hope like they’ve never known before.’

‘But I can’t make their dreams come true!’ the girl cried, ‘I wouldn’t know where to start!’

‘You just showed up as Satan predicted you would Larkin- and for most of these people that was the only dream they had, you know. That you would show up and here you are: golden, beautiful- and bringing them hope.’

And that was the last thing that the girl heard before she was knocked off her feet by the eager embraces of her people, and to her amazement, the hope in their eyes was blinding to her. Blinding enough for her to temporarily be infected by it too.

*

Screaming, crying, rejoicing and brandishing their babies high above their heads so that they too might witness this wondrous moment, the members of The Wildwoods branch of The Sequestered threw themselves at their new messiah demanding blessings and kissing her hands and face while the object of their affection gaped at them, a beautiful, sparkling and utterly confounded harbinger of hope, even if she wasn’t ready to believe it herself yet.

The shepherd wanted to watch that moment, and to drink in what good he and Satan had accomplished so far, but one look up at the overburdened grey sky above him confirmed that the brightness of the day was destined to be as fleeting as everything else wonderful could be, and so with a heavy heart he turned away and began to gather together what belongings he’d left behind when he’d gone to Eden, making his preparations to leave the moment that his daughter had had the chance to catch her breath. He usually only took the bare essentials, but this time was different because this time, he hoped that they would never have to return to this Godforsaken section of The Wildwoods again.

That was when a young man emerged from inside a tent to his left and looked from the angelic human girl to the Shepherd, and then back again. ‘May I?’ he asked, his cobalt eyes narrowing with determination as he reached out to the girl’s mind while he shouldered his black velvet cloak, which looked as heavy and overbearing as the darkening skies above. ‘I need the full story, you know, if I am to do this right. The sooner, the better.’

The Shepherd glanced back at his daughter who was now holding an infant and gazing down at it with wide, astonished eyes.

‘Lark?’ the girl demanded softly in a voice that was almost identical to Satan’s: low and velveteen and lovely but with a ring in the upper register. ‘You named him for me?’

The shepherd smiled gently, but then looked back to his new associate as his heart thumped happily. ‘Give her a moment of peace to enjoy this, son. She has earned that much, even if you don’t yet believe it.’

The boy turned his eyes back to him. ‘What about you?’ he asked, somewhat snidely, glancing down at the amber ring on his hand. ‘Would you like a minute to bury your most private thoughts too? It won’t do you much good, but I do enjoy a challenge…’

The Shepherd sighed wearily and removed the ring from his finger, stuffing it down into the bottom of his satchel and then stepping away from it, distancing himself from the stone’s power. ‘My mind is an open book- turn whatever pages you will and be done with it- we have miles to go yet today, remember?’

We is subjective to what I see, remember? And I won’t be going anywhere if I don’t like what I see,’ the boy reminded him, stepping closer to him and narrowing his eyes to slits, and then suddenly the shepherd couldn’t feel or think about anything for the pain in his head as the Nephilim boy raked through his thoughts and took what he wanted for himself. It pained him more than he would ever admit out loud, but he suffered it in silence and urged his assailant to take whatever he could if it meant taking less from his daughter- if it meant that the story that would be written about this time in history would be an authentic one that not only detailed God and Satan’s might, but the power of the human spirit, reflected in Larkin’s actions.

‘Well?’ the shepherd asked when he felt the boy’s power retreat, but when he looked at the boy, he discovered that an old man was now standing in his place. ‘What say you?’

‘I’ll follow you to the second camp,’ the man said gruffly, pulling his hooded cloak over his head, his expression giving away nothing of what he’d learned or how he’d interpreted it before he turned to collect his few possessions. ‘But whether I follow you beyond that will depend on what I find inside her mind, all right?’ He glanced over at the girl and then smirked. ‘And something tells me that her thoughts will give me as much of a headache as my inquest will give her. Honestly, couldn’t this have waited until she’d had time to mature? She looks as fragile as a porcelain doll- and as coddled as one.’

But the shepherd smiled, fairly certain that his daughter’s spine was made of steel, and that whatever was inside her mind would prove to be as radiant as her exterior was- and five times more brilliant than any test scores could ever have hoped to prove. She could lead them to safety, he was sure of it, and he would coddle her at every opportunity that she allowed him.

Now, he just had to convince her of that.

*

The time that they had spent underground had shielded the girl from feeling the shift in the climate, but by the time they’d trekked halfway through the densest part of The Wildwoods, she had become very aware of the fact that being this far north of Arcadia came with more than a drastic change in scenery- but with a drastic drop in temperature as well. Not only because the northern half of that continent had always been colder than the southern part due to its proximity to the north pole, but because they were slowly ascending the foothills of a mountain range, so the elevation was making matters worse.

The girl knew that in the time before, the country of Canada that they were now hiking through had been as green and lush in some places as it had been ice-capped and frigid in others, but that had changed during Armageddon and so now it was all ice frosted across a monotonous landscape of broken, grey things. Satan had reversed a lot of the damage that God had done to the earth after they’d argued over the fate of it… and yet she had left the northern half frozen over. Cleared of pollution, yes, but locked in an eternal winter- and now, the girl couldn’t help but wonder if that had been a strategic move all along- to save a large part of a continent for later by making it so undesirable that no one would think to stake a claim on it until now, when they (The Sequestered) were as desperate to distance themselves from the rest of human civilization as she was.

The girl had always been told that The Wildwoods were impassable- they all had- and although that had proven to be more or less accurate, someone had cleared a path through that hostile forest before them, and that was the path that the shepherd led them along that day. The Devil’s Claw trees grew branches like vines that strangled everything that they encountered, and in moderate climates, could actually be regarded as pretty and relatively easy to control because their branches tended to sag and coil neatly on humid earth like the fingers of loosely closed fists, proving that it was a relative of the weeping willow… But in cold climates, those vines quickly died and then petrified, turning grey and becoming as hard as steel, locking whatever it was that they’d managed to latch onto in an eternal embrace- usually the trunk of the next tree closest to it- and becoming as menacing as briar after, because every vine was encrusted with large, sharp thorns that could cut into human flesh like butter.

Though the girl was slightly built, she couldn’t see a single place that she’d be able to pass through two of those trees unharmed except for on the path, which she knew must have been painstakingly carved out of the forest with a sharp axe wielded by a mighty arm. But that arm would have tired quickly and as a result, the path was so narrow that there was no way to overtake anyone ahead of them without brushing up against the thorns or stepping into a patch of briar- a fact that proved very frustrating to her once she realised that by opting to go last, she’d inadvertently positioned herself behind an elderly man with a limp who travelled at half of the pace that the shepherd was setting ahead of them.

At first she was frustrated to know that they were falling further and further behind the others, but as the oddly-affected accents of the chattering group ahead of them faded more and more, she remembered herself and exhaled slowly, purging herself of her irritation, and knowing that it was unkind to resent an old man for not being able to move as fast as a young, healthy girl like herself could. Besides, if she was to be a leader then she was going to have to keep that fact in mind: a group could only ever be as strong or fast as its slowest and weakest member, and if that member was left behind in the name of progress, then that group had already failed despite what triumphs they might go on to claim, or what races they might end up winning. That was the Barachiel family’s problem, wasn’t it? The majority of their castes had been thriving, and so they’d blamed the minority that were flailing for their own problems- forgetting to acknowledge the fact that if you skimmed the cream off the top of the milk, then the remaining milk could not be faulted for being not creamy enough.

Keeping this in mind, the girl slowed her pace to equal the man’s and took the time to breathe in that frosty air, aware of the fact that this was the first time she’d ever gone on a journey without being ordered to. Yes Satan had pushed her to follow this path, and yes she still had the right to demand that her daughter perform two tasks for her in compensation for the wishes that she’d granted her without argument, meaning that she wasn’t yet truly free… but if she’d wanted to unfurl her wings and fly away on those northern winds than she could have, and the only person she’d have to answer to for that was herself and her guilty conscience.

I was always free, the girl thought then, and it was a sobering notion. If I’d let my rage and unhappiness rip out of me the way it had last night years ago, I would have realised that I had wings and therefore, the ability and the right to fly as far away from the Barachiels as possible! But no, I kept my pain and anguish bottled up inside me because I thought that I deserved that fate, and look what happened! Look at how limited an existence a powerful, intelligent human being can resign themselves to living if they believe that they don’t deserve any better! Oh, what good I could have done the people of Arcadia, if only the Barachiels had encouraged me to spread my wings and soar, instead of commanding me to grovel at a prince’s feet and be thankful for having the opportunity to do so!

Anger and resentment surged inside her again, heating her blood (she couldn’t bear to think of how happy she and Kohén might have been together if only he’d known that she was a more powerful Nephilim than he!) but aware that there was nothing that she could do to reverse time and change anything, and conscious of the fact that thinking about The Barachiel’s for too long brought on an instant migraine, the girl went back to watching her feet trip along that barren, hard-packed and frosted earth, resenting the fact that she was walking this path when she could have been soaring above it, but mindful that every step that she was taking was carrying her- and everybody that trusted her to be a thoughtful leader- one more step away from Eden and the so-called angels that lived within.

Away from the holy place and the pious people that had scorched her soul even more than Satan and her hell fires had.

Don’t worry, Larkin said silently to the man in front of her, I’ll protect you as best as I can, old timer. I know how it feels to be betrayed because you are considered to be worth less than others, and I’d sooner die then let that happen to another human being!

He did not answer of course, but he heard her. And I know this because, dear reader, I was that old man, and like that angelic girl, I had been charged with a mission by Satan- not to make history, but to record it with absolute accuracy.

I am Samuel McIntyre, and although this isn’t my story, I am a part of it now- as are we all.

Please- pray that it ends well for all of us. Just don’t ask me whom to pray to.

 

End of the Beginning! Follow Me On The Fairytail Saga on Facebook for release dates!TWW cover.jpg

‘Aussie humour, seasoned voices and just a bit of glitter’ -A Review of ‘Random Acts’ by Kucom Theatre.

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Kucom theatre is Mackay’s longest running theatre group, but  I am embarrassed to say that I only saw one of their shows for the first time last night.
I have excuses- all of them pitiful. I have tried to go to a Kucom show on 4 prior occasions, and every time I have been thwarted by my schedule or because the tickets were sold out. So I made an extra special effort to write this on every calendar and set multiple reminders in my phone so I wouldn’t miss my chance again and I’m pleased to say that I finally got go to catch ‘Random Acts’ last night, featuring two plays from the Australian Playwright, Hugh O’Brien. The showcased included two one-act plays, ‘The Traveller’s Table’ and  ‘Husband Murders Support Group.’
I’ve never been a big fan of ‘straight’ plays because I’m definitely a Musical Theatre Girl, but I must say that I really enjoyed myself last night. For starters, I love Paxton’s Warehouse as a venue. It’s one of those places that’s so drenched with history that it becomes a support character all by itself, giving every suitable show staged there an extra dollop of atmosphere. Random Acts were both incredibly ‘Aussie’ shows, and so they could not have picked a better venue. Oh it has its issues- partial flooding  in the summer and in the winter, a breeze that will blow your hair right off your arms… and because we went in the Australian Autumn it managed to have both flooding and the stiff breezes last night, not to mention rain thundering down on the ol’ tin roof but let me just say that anyone that takes exception to that sort of suff has no sense of adventure. I love how comfortable and spooky it is in there, and it is a major credit to the actors that I was still able to hear every word over the rain, and that they did not even blink when it started to come down.

Both shows were fantastic litttle stories with highly original premises with that undeniably Australian ‘Shabby Chic’ feel that comes from mixing our causal language, with a complex plot and a hint of rustic romance, and as a novelist, I liked the fact that there were no scene changes or distracting costumes to take away from the dialogue which was witty, authentic and well articulated. It seemed to me as though there were a lot of very seasoned actors onstage, and a few newer ones, and what really surprised me was the fact that they blended together seamlessly, because as the first show, The Travellers’ Table, progressed, it was evident that the cast were feeding off one another’s energy every time a new player entered the stage. There were no more than four actors in both plays, and yet the energy level was kept high and consistent from the first line to the very last, and the second show exploded to life from the very first moment, depite the fact that the rain made itself an ensemble member off the bat.

Between that, and the rude departure of two people that had taken their mobile phones out as dates for the evening and had to leave early in order to recharge, I’d have expected that tiny cast of three to feel overwhelmed and yet they did not miss a beat. There were years of experience on that stage, not just evident in the actresses’ performances, but obvious via the direction. There wasn’t a superfluous step taken or overplayed action exaggerated, so it all came off as very natural despite the fact that the plot was highly unrealistic. Kudos to any group of Thespians that can so gracefully walk that razor-thin line between comedy and tragedy while selling the audience on both, and  hat’s off to the writer for such original characters and concepts. I was besotted with a character when I learned that in order to get closer to her car-obsessed husband, she’d started learning how to become a mechanic. That tugged on my heartstrings, and got me on her side in a heartbeat, despite the fact that she’d just killed him.

All of the actors did a wonderful job, but the stand-outs to me were the women I bought the tickets to see, Bronwyn Grannall and Kristyn Everett. I’ve had the fortune of working, watching and directing both actresses dozens of times in the past now, and I will endeavour to see everything that they ever do. Both women are utterly graceful, one hundred percent authentic and a pure delight to watch, and they keep the bar for community theatre set to Meryl Streep for all of us following in their wake. Perhaps not Meryl Streep- more like Helen Mirren, and Jane Lynch, respectively. Either way, they can quite literally embody any character.

There was a lot more to Random Acts than two plays, too, and the halftime performance by the Shamoodah belly dancers was lovely, and a great way to ‘mix’-up’ the evening. I’ve never seen a belly dance performance with wings before, and like the dancers themselves (who were in the plays as well) they added that little bit of sparkle and glamour to the evening that set it right off. I also have to say that I’m impressed with how much trouble the support crew of the show went to to give the audience and an incredibly comfortable experience. There was food and drinks available before, during and after every act- everything from juice to coffee to booze, and two kinds of raffle tickets sold on the door. All that was asked for, for the show’s colour program was a gold coin donation, and I ended up walking out of there not only with one of the many raffle door prizes, but a voucher for a free belly dancing lesson which I plan to utilise immediately. Considering that the ticket prices are half that of what I’ve paid for any other show I’ve seen this year, I’m pretty thrilled with the fact that I’ve won twice what I paid for entry in prizes!

I will absolutely be going to see a Kucom performance again, and urge my friends in Towsville to go catch ‘Random Acts’ when they’re performed by the same performance troupe at the Townsville One-Act play festival in two weeks. Go see Kucom’s page for more information!