‘I hope I get it’
Actors try out for roles in Wuthering Heights
By William Wright firstname.lastname@example.org
At The Acting Loft, a community theater group based in Manchester, expect the unexpected.
Late last year, they set up residency in their new home, located in the basement of St. George’s church. For the first time in the group’s 10-year history, they can conduct theater classes, produce shows and store equipment all under one roof. It’s something some companies take for granted, but not Acting Loft’s artistic director Christopher Courage.
“This is so freeing for us,” Courage said. “For the first time, we can think about producing a show and not build time into the schedule for moving into another location on the other side of town.”
To help celebrate this new freedom, Courage is directing The Acting Loft’s production of Wuthering Heights, a musical written by Bernard J. Taylor, in the new space. The show, which is the only adaptation of the original story approved by the Bronte estate, is making its North American premiere at the Loft on May 12. Courage procured the rights to the show after an exhaustive proposal to Taylor himself.
“I had to send a detailed proposal to Bernard explaining why I wanted to do the show,” Courage said.
Courage says Taylor granted him the rights because he did something no other applicant had previously done.
“I asked him his opinion,” Courage said. “When he asked me what my concept was for the show, I turned around and asked him what his original vision was when he wrote it. He said that in the hundreds of requests he’d received to do the show, no one had ever asked him that.”
Word of this rarely seen show spread like wildfire through the local community theater talent pool, and when audition night came, Courage couldn’t believe his eyes.
“This is probably the best turnout we’ve ever had for an adult show,” he said. “And I’m pleasantly surprised at the quality of talent represented.”
The range of candidates was also surprising. First timers waited alongside semi-professional actors; teens filled out audition forms along with middle-aged men. The range in ages and abilities thrilled Courage.
This has never happened before, where there are two and three people who are all good enough to be cast in one particular leading role,” he said. “I really felt like I got the cream of the crop with this group of actors.”
An audition with the Acting Loft is not your typical theater experience. Yes, actors are expected to come in with a prepared song and monologue, but the atmosphere is more nurturing than in most audition rooms. Courage tells actors to take their time, take a deep breath — whatever they need to do to shake any stage fright.
“I’m not trying to give these people acting lessons,” Courage said. “I’m just trying to see how they respond to direction, and maybe help them look at their material from a different perspective.”
Courage hopes that actors who come to auditions at the Loft have a good experience, even if they aren’t always cast.
“My goal is to cast a show using the best possible people, but my other goal is to get people to come back for future shows,” he said. “Unfortunately, I can’t always use everyone, but I want them to understand that somewhere down the line I certainly can use them in something else. That’s why we keep it light; we keep it loose.”