CAN YOU ESCAPE AIRLIE BEACH?

 

REVIEW: ESCAPECQ

1a/400 Shute Harbour Road
Airlie Beach
PHONE: 48293411

Ever been to an Escape room before? I hadn’t, and I hadn’t even heard of one until a few months ago when I found out one was being built in Airlie Beach and now that I’ve seen it, I can’t wait to go back a second time!

The premise is so cool; you are locked inside the first room of a place called Addington Manor, and are left to your own devices to find your way out while a clock ticks nearby, giving you an hour to beat the game in order to win, or fail. 

I’ll admit that when I first heard about the idea, I got a little anxious because I’m known to get claustrophobic when I’m locked in anywhere (regardless of the size of the space it’s a mental thing) and because I thought I’d spend the whole time freaking out about the pressure that I was under, but to my shock, I was one hundred percent comfortable the whole time and I had an absolute ball. 

Getting into the manor is easy- teams ranging from 2-6 players are given the safety instructions, the rules and some tips and then, your game master reads the scenario’s back story to you which in this case concerned a haunted old house with a bad reputation, firstly because the original owner, old man Addington went mad after his wife died and killed his daughter, and then because a curious group of kids went in there during the 80’s and couldn’t get out. That was until, the last one of them managed to cast a spell, which you must now recreate if you too want to get out alive. 

Then, once you’re ready to go, your sent into the room, the door locks behind you and then tick tock- you’re racing the clock!

I was absolutely gobsmacked by how detailed and atmospheric Addington Manor was on the inside giving how unassuming it is on the outside, but once that door locks behind you you’re in another world entirely. I shouldn’t have been surprised because the creator of Escapecq has a heavy theatrical background and it shows, all right, because he’s created a bit of a spooky time portal in the middle of one of the sunniest, happiest places in the world. Every detail was beautifully presented and well thought out but even though the space is small and dimly lit in order to keep the atmosphere of the scenario intact, our team of five grown adults found it easy to get around anyway without worrying about getting under one another’s feet or knocking things over.

It’s going to be difficult to explain why you should go to Escapecq or what exactly goes on in there without giving any of the game away, but I know a lot of people are curious about how it works so as my friend Dave said, it’s very much like being in one of those video games that have a heavy focus on exploring the area you’re in in order to get to the next. I thought you’d be given one clue to begin with and would then have to follow a specific formula but it’s not like that at all. Instead, you’re locked in the room and then are encouraged to ransack it, without having any idea about what you’re looking for or why, and even when you work one clue out, it might not necessarily work out for you or make any sense until you’ve figured out a different part of the puzzle, which is why it is such a great team activity because everyone can contribute to solving the problem simultaneously. 

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You’re not abandoned in there either. The attendant out front is able to monitor you the whole time, so if you get stumped or scared or you hit a wall, they are able to offer extra hints via the AV display in the room itself, which my group needed (I suspect) a lot in the beginning because we were too excited to focus. Atmospheric sound effects are played the whole time to keep that haunted house feel going, but if you are in dire straits, a wolf will howl, which is your cue to look to the monitor for an extra hint. Really, it’s exactly like being in a haunted house ride, only more authentic feeling than any I’ve ever been in before. 

The clues and puzzles are all tied in with the original storyline in a very clever way, and come in all sorts of forms too so everyone gets a chance to contribute to solving the problem regardless on what their strength is, whether they be someone that’s into riddles, or decoding or even if they just have a knack for problem solving or are just there to offer encouragement and enjoy the ride. For instance, you might need to get into a drawer that’s locked with one kind of lock, but in order to open that lock you have to decode an audio visual clue, or trigger one of the mechanisms in the room that leads you to the next step, and to my delight, that next step often involved advancing into another room that you wouldn’t have guessed was there until everything all clicks into place. It’s a lot of fun and a bit chaotic to begin with, but as you start to get a feel for how the game works, you have the chance to pace yourself and get some organization going. 

Is it complicated? Definitely so I’d suggest having a strong coffee before going in (At one point I heard myself hysterically exclaiming: ‘There’s no DIAMOND symbol in Morse Code!!!)  but it’s complicated in a way that’s fun and it doesn’t get tedious at all, and though that racing clock keeps the pressure on to complete the scenario in under an hour, the games have ranged between forty minutes and seventy-five, so even if you don’t make it in time, you do get the chance to make it through anyway. Also, the company keeps track of those who get through the fastest so if you’re the competitive type, the incentive to escape as quickly as possible greets you the second you enter the building and see the placard advertising the record to beat. 

There wasn’t anything about the experience that I didn’t enjoy, but the very best part for me, was the way everything was so automated. There were sensors and triggers lying in wait everywhere, setting off a response in something else, so it sort of reminded me of being in one of the fictional playing fields in The Hunger Games only instead of it all being controlled as you go, it’s all been set up so every lock, every candle flicker, every AV prompt is self-activated. Honestly I was in awe of how everything worked because of how fluid it was, and although the second Escape Room isn’t due to be completed until next week, the owner Victor Scott gave us a sneak peak at the new scenario and although it’s a similar concept, all of the puzzles are different again and relate back to the new storyline, and I know that if it had been ready to go today we would have all begged to have a crack at the other immediately after we’d finished the first.

We all know there’s a lot of stuff to do in Airlie, but if you’re up there any not in a mood to get wet or drunk sometimes, it can feel a bit limited which is exactly why the escape room is an awesome idea, especially now that the weather’s cooling down a bit. My group and I drove up there just to play the game and had to head back to Mackay immediately afterwards, but it was totally worth it and I won’t hesitate to do I again as soon as the next game is ready so I heartily encourage all locals to do as I do- get yourself up there as soon as you can because there’s no adventure quite like it anywhere near here. Not only is this a great way to amuse tourists that are looking for something a bit different to do, but it’s an entertaining way for locals to have fun too, in addition to being a great team-building idea for secondary students and work groups or an inventive way to celebrate a special occasion, like with a hen’s Night, birthday or anniversary etc. In fact, the company will actually help you theme the room to compliment your event if you give them enough notice. 

Escapecq’s office is open for bookings between Tuesdays and Saturdays from 11am to 5pm, but the games themselves run every day of the year except for Christmas Day. Booking in advance is heavily recommended if your plans are time-sensitive, but they will take walk ins if the room is available. Right now the only room available is ‘Addington Manor’ but the new scenario, ‘The Stitch Up’ will be open as of this Thursday May 17th, and they’re taking bookings for it now for all people aged 14+. It’s recommended to have at least two people who speak English in the room with a party, but the attendant will try to help overcome any language barriers if such are present anyway.

Player’s rates vary according to the size of the party, starting at $44 for 2 people, and going as low as $30 each for 6, so like their page on Facebook or call: 48293411 to make a booking!

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BUMP IN TIME! Kurt Phelan shares tips to survive production week in the theatre!

The nerves are setting in and the eyelashes are vanishing off shelves- it’s almost bump in week for the Mackay Musical Comedy Player’s production of Wicked and as always, tensions are high and hopes and stresses are higher! There is so much that can go wrong in ‘tech’ week, especially in community theatre, which is very dependent on close to one hundred people giving every ounce of time, focus, money (they need a frequent shopper card for gloss stockings!) and energy that they have in the desire to make what happens on Broadway- with a budget of hundreds of thousands if not millions- happen in the space of a week with a bunch of people that are already exhausted enough to drop.

People can get sick, people can overdose on McDonalds (they knew what they were doing when they built it close to the theatre here!) people can forget moves, people can get on each other’s nerves, and then on the other hand, people can make friendships and memories that last forever, which is why we do it in the first place, isn’t it?

But how do you make sure that you get the best of it all, without ending up an irritable, germ-ophobic, rundown wreck? Especially when you’re volunteering, and trying to balance kids, a job, your bank balance and your health?

Personally, I have a few little tricks up my sleeve to see me through. I brew a special tea that pretty much includes every natural anti-flu ingredient there is, from apple cider vinegar to licorice root leaves to pure honey, and I keep it in a thermos so I can offer it to everybody. I also make sure that I take a pair of comfy slippers with me because it can get cold backstage, especially during tech week when you’re sitting or standing around a lot. As for luck/tradition, I’ve made it a point since I started cheerleading to spritz on one of my (many) Britney Spears perfumes for star quality (It’s Sammy, bitch) and I used to have an awesome post-show ritual with a friend in cheerleading, where we would race one another to get changed afterwards, and the first one that was ready to go party would get to pop the Ricadonna. We’re funny little creatures of habit, humans, and Thespian and Athletes tend to have more productive ‘tics’ than anyone, but what really works?

This week I had the amazing opportunity to hang out with Kurt Phelan, who played the iconic Johnny Castle of Australia’s tour of Dirty Dancing, and because he always looks 100% together, I decided to pick his brain for tips on how to survive production week, and was curious to see how professional shows differ from community-based ones.

Of course Kurt has developed his many skills on a rich diet of both, so take his advice, fellow Thespians, and leap and whirl with it!

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Photo, contributed by Kurt Phelan.

S.K:
What are some huge differences between moving into the theatre before a community show, and a major production?

Kurt:
Mostly time. The first time you mount a large production you have at least a week, and the crew and technicians have a week or two before you get there to sort things out on their end so there’s a lot less standing around because the technical stuff is mostly ready to go by the time you arrive. There’s a lot more to be done in community but that’s part of the charm of it. When I went back to Townsville for Rent, I found it hard to get out of the ‘pro’ focus headspace and remember that it was supposed to be fun. In the bigger shows, you shut up and go.

S.K:
Is there anything in particular that you like to have in your dressing room to make you feel at home?

Kurt:
I like to have music if I’m in a room by myself. I listen until half hour call so I don’t end up all neurotic. Theatre’s also have a very specific smell, so I like to have a scented candle or something familiar going to make it feel like home.

S.K:
What kind of examples could you give for what you consider to be correct dressing room etiquette?

Kurt:
I hate it when people aren’t observant of other people’s needs, especially when you’re sharing a dressing room. Try not to make a lot of noise and fuss if you’re with people that require quiet and focus, and don’t bring in something to eat with a really strong smell, like butter chicken. Once I’m at the half hour call, I turn off music, and only start conversations if other people initiate them, just in case. It’s different for different shows though. Sometimes you need to be pumped up but if it’s Shakespeare, I like to focus in order to disappear into his world, and to get into the zone.
S.K:
What kind of meals do you have while you’re in a performance season?
Kurt:
A lot of vegetables, I eat really clean because I tend to get reflux, and that can often mean that I’ll lose my voice. I avoid the saucy stuff and go for simple, clean things like chicken and broccoli and savory mince. I’m not really into pastas either, but that’s because I end up with my shirt off a lot! On that note, Protein shakes are great too.

S.K:
How do you make sure that you don’t end up feeling run down, especially during the cooler seasons?

Kurt:
I’ve found that I’m always really hot and sweaty after I’ve finished a show, no matter what the weather, and everything outside of the theatre always feels cooler so I always have a jacket handy so I don’t catch a cold the old-fashioned way. It’s easy to do that too, because when you’re in a theatre you’re breathing everyone else’s air. It’s so easy to eat crap too, so I take in a lot of vegetables and vitamins.

S.K:
Coffee, Red-Bull, Gatorade, Water or all of the above?

Kurt:
Coffee always before a show!

S.K:
If you had a theatre survival kit, what would be in it?

Kurt:
(Quickly) Jameson Irish Whiskey. (Laughs) Nurofen. Moisturizer. Oh, and Difflam throat spray. I think it’s awesome but singing teachers don’t. It’s good to have honey and lemon nearby too- the real stuff.

S.K:
Do you have any pre-show or after show traditions that you like to observe for luck or just for the sake of tradition?

Kurt:
I used to do five push-ups before the finale, and it was cute, because the crew used to do it with me too. I also like to give each of my roles a particular smell by theming a cologne with it. I wore old spice for the whole tour of Dirty Dancing because I figured that back then, that’s what Johnny would have worn. Kirby would say ‘Oh, I just smell you again!’
And ever since forever, I used to spit on the soles of my soles – especially my tap shoes. It helps for slipping and makes me feel more confident. Just a little spit though (laughs) I’m not hocking up a big… anything.

S.K:
We are so dependent on our costume, stage and sound crews during a production in community theatre, and it’s not unusual for those in the cast to be asked or required to land a hand. Can you remember a time when a techie/crew member saved your ass from a backstage emergency?
Kurt:
When I was singing on the cruise ship, the lift didn’t come up the whole way. I stepped as I always did, fell and knocked out my front tooth! But a crew member looked for it until he found it and I thought that was cool. Another time, when I was an understudy, for Felicia in Priscilla, the lead hurt himself in the first ten minutes. I’d never done his role before, but the resident director and the stage managers had my script and costumes ready and followed me around for the whole thing, feeding me lines and entrances and exits.

S.K:
Wow! What’s the biggest tech-week disaster you ever experienced?
Kurt:
The first Priscilla show I did went for three and a half hours because the bus kept stopping! It was charity so everyone took it well, thank goodness. Oh and another time when I was playing Felicia I got off the shoe too early and ended up stuck and suspended over the audience!

S.K:
What’s the worst mistake that you’ve ever made?
Kurt:
(Groans) Okay, look- I fell asleep. (Laughs) It was my first musical, Singing In The Rain. We had an hour off between act one and two, and a lot of the older and cheekier cast members saw that I’d dozed up and said it would be funny if they left me there. I’m sure someone meant to tell me to get up eventually, but I woke up suddenly when I heard : ‘Gotta dance….!’ Which was, of course, what I was supposed to be singing! I ran out there, but by the time I made it to stage, the number was just ending. It was hilarious, in hindsight, but I was in tears.

S.K:
Can you remember another stressed out actor treating someone appallingly during a diva moment?
Kurt:
Not really. I have seen some tantrums, but Divas don’t last long in this business. However, I have been trying to work on how I treat people when I’m stressed out or in a rush because sometimes, when I’m having a crisis I forget my manners. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed and go: ‘Shoes! Shoes!’ during a quick change, but I’m working on it.

S.K:
If a friend or a fan wanted to give you a performance gift, what would you prefer over the standard chocolates and flowers?

Kurt:
Something cute that is linked to that particular show. Like if I was doing the Book of Mormon, It’s be funny to have a God-themed present. I’m allergic to some pollens though, so if I get Lillies, I can’t even be in the room as them, so people give me wine a lot.

S.K:
What kind of wine would you like?

Kurt:
Anything from bubbles a nice bottle of red that I can keep for sentimental value, then look back at it and go: ‘Ahhh, I got this, for that show!’

S.K:
Have you ever had a ‘show-mance,’?
Kurt:
Yeah… but I’m not one of those people who seek it out, and once this someone and I kept it really quiet so people were stunned when they found out. ‘Don’t Screw The Crew,’ is a good expression, I think.

S.K:
How many long-term friends have you made during a production?

Kurt:
I find that you tend to keep two or three ones out of every production, but you almost always get along with everyone. Funnily enough, a lot of my closest friends are part of the crew- so I have a lot of muso mates.

S.K:
If you could do any show from your whole career again, what would it be?
Kurt:
Witches Of Eastwick, if it was a musical, or Tender Napalm. That was a performance art piece I did once and it was just amazing.

 

I would like to thank Kurt so much for making himself so available to the performers of Mackay, and to Joel Bow for organizing so many fantastic workshops. If you’d like to keep on track with what this shooting star is up to next, make sure you jump on and ‘like’ his Facebook page!

https://www.facebook.com/KurtPhelanAus/

And a big, fat CHOOKAS to the cast of MMCP’s Wicked! Going live next week! Only a few tickets left so get into people!

Audition Help!

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

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Image downloaded via Shutterstock

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.

‘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!