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Local Theater Companies Extend Hand Up to Rising Stars

Groundbreaking workshop series will include the first-ever Santa Barbara County General Auditions, open to performers of all ages

Two of the newest theater companies in town, Elements Theatre Collective and Out of the Box Theatre Company, have joined forces in a two-fold effort — to help local performers polish their audition skills, and help local theater companies find new talent.

Their groundbreaking five-workshop series, designed to explore a variety of theater audition situations in a workshop setting, pools their knowledge and experience to offer practical insight as they focus on basic skills of auditioning. Their goals are to offer honest constructive criticism to help participants better understand the art of auditioning and the casting perspective.

“For participants in the workshops, we want to push them in new directions, break bad habits, and empower them to leave auditions feeling good about their work,” Out of the Box Director Samantha Eve said.

The first three workshops of the series, which began in January, addressed musical theater, monologue and theater dance. I was fortunate enough to sit in on a portion of the dance workshop, and watched while a group of dedicated young people with differing levels of dance background gamely learned a lightning-fast combination from A Chorus Line, taught by local choreographer and dance instructor Jessica Hambright, then lined up in approximation of a Broadway-level audition to be put through their paces.

After being frankly informed who would have been called back and why, the participants took part in a detailed question-and-answer session with Tracy Ray Kofford, professor/director of dance at Santa Barbara City College and dancer with Santa Barbara Dance Theatre, a well-known figure of the Santa Barbara dance community with extensive experience both here and in New York. It was apparent that this dose of real-world, nuts-and-bolts information about the way professional theater really works could be nothing but beneficial to these hopefuls.

The fourth of the series, “Getting the Callback,” happens from 2 to 4 p.m. this Saturday, April 14, at Anacapa School, 814 Santa Barbara St., and will focus on familiarizing participants with the business of theater. It will provide information to help prepare them as savvy, self-employed performers, and learn the world of performing arts that happens outside of the audition room. All aspects of the behind-the-scenes work required for an actor will be covered:

» Types of theater auditions and appropriate material for those auditions.

» Types and type casting in theater auditions.

» Headshots and resumes.

» Important players you will encounter at auditions.

» Benefits of signing with an agent or manager.

» Production contracts.

» Unions rules and regulations — to be equity or not to be.

» Business strategies to market yourself before and after auditions.

» Networking strategies.

The cost is $15, or $10 for Elements Theatre Collective members. To register, email Eve at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

The grand finale, as it were, of the series will be the first-ever Santa Barbara County General Auditions from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, May 26 at Center Stage Theater. Performers will have a chance to be seen by more than a dozen local theater and performance companies all at once. Scheduled companies and auditors include:

» Jonathan Fox, Ensemble Theatre Company

» Matthew Tavianini, Boxtales Theatre Company

» Jeff Mills, Proboscis Theatre Company

» Miller James, Santa Barbara Children’s Theatre

» John Blondell, Lit Moon Theatre Company

» Maggie Mixsell, Speaking of Stories

» Samantha Eve, Out of the Box Theatre Company

» Emily Jewell and Sara Rademacher, Elements Theatre Collective

» Casey Caldwell, Ratatat Theater Group

» E. Bonnie Lewis, DramaDogs

» R. Michael Gros, Santa Barbara City College

» Susie Couch, Circle Bar B

» Santa Barbara Revels

Performers of all ages and union status are invited to attend. Each actor will have 90 seconds to perform one or two monologues or 16 to 32 bars of a song and a monologue. As part of the theater community’s dedication to education, a short question-and-answer session will be held at the end of the audition day. Everyone will have an opportunity to ask questions and hear feedback.

The cost is $25, or $20 for Elements Theatre Collective members and participants of previous workshops in the series. To register, click here for the Elements Theatre Collective’s website.

Q&A with Samantha Eve, Artistic Director of Out of the Box Theatre Company

Q: Where did the idea for this workshop series come from?

A: Emily (Jewell), Sara (Rademacher) and I have always wanted to find ways to integrate performing arts workshops into our schedules, where aspiring local performers could not only learn, but could get up on their feet and work. Elements Theatre Collective had already hosted a couple of workshops on their own, and I was in the process of organizing an audition workshop through Out of the Box when we realized that we had the same goal — and that we could achieve it much more effectively by combining our efforts and our own individual strengths and knowledge.

Q: Was it difficult to coordinate all these different theater companies?

A: Surprisingly, no. I originally thought it might be, considering how busy everyone is, but so far everyone that we’ve contacted has been really eager and happy to participate in an event like this.

Q: Who has mainly been attending the workshops up to now, and do you expect that to change for the last two?

A: We’ve had a lot of students, both from UCSB and SBCC, but we’ve also seen a few older and younger participants. We’ve had high school students busy preparing for their college auditions and adults balancing their careers with their passion for performing arts. As for the final showcase, I believe a lot of the local, semi-professional and professional actors will be coming out of the woodwork, so to speak.

It’s just too wonderful an opportunity to pass up — to be seen by over a dozen local theater companies in one room, at one audition. To get feedback from those mysterious, intimidating people that sit behind the table at auditions and to learn that really, they’re just people, and they want you to do well.

Q: How do you see this carrying forward in future years?

A: I have no doubt that Elements Theatre Collective and Out of the Box Theatre Company will continue to host a variety of workshops, both together and independently. It’s actually pretty fantastic, because arts-related workshops are popping up all over Santa Barbara. The Santa Barbara Performing Arts League has teamed up with Art Without Limits to offer their own series of workshops, related to business aspects of the arts.

I led one of them, about headshots and resumes, and have attended others. I really love the collaborative energy that has begun to develop within the performing arts community here, and I think this is a wonderful thing for us all to work together on in the future — providing local talent with realistic, practical information to help prepare them for a career in the arts.

— Justine Sutton of Santa Barbara is a freelance writer and frequent Noozhawk reviewer.

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