Tuesday, November 10, 2015

A Snowy Night at SCR: Auditioning For "A Christmas Carol"

The kids of A Christmas Carol from left to right, Lauren Lyons, Rachel Bailey, Catherine Mitchell, Aoife McEvoy, Jamie Ostmann, Kennedy Haynes, Carissa Diller, J.T. Casey, Colin Root, Jack Matthews, Sean Kato, Hudson Mattingly Stefanello and Louis Alvarez Tonkovich (missing: Rachel Charny, Kiana Kamm and Nick Trafton.)
“It’s Christmas Eve. Imagine what’s around you—a snowy night, crowded streets, festive decorations. It’s just you and your imagination. Have fun!”

That’s Theatre Conservatory Director Hisa Takakuwa, inspiring young actors as they take part in an improvisational pantomime (a street scene in 19th-century London), the first step in auditions for A Christmas Carol.

As many as 75 students in the Kids and Teen Acting Programs try out, and 16 are chosen (double-cast in eight roles). Auditions are open to all students in the third year of training and above and second-year students recommended by their instructors. (First year students may audition for the role of Tiny Tim, which is cast separately.)

In class, they’ve been taught the importance of process over product and reminded that auditions should be a learning experience. “I encourage them to listen, be flexible, try new things and show a positive attitude,” Takakuwa says. “If they do all that, they’ll feel really good— no matter the outcome.”

During step two of the audition, the young actors read scenes from A Christmas Carol. They’re called in groups that represent the ages of the characters they’ll portray—from the youngest Cratchit daughter, Belinda, to the oldest boys, Peter Cratchit and Ebenezer as a student.

A week later, everything is repeated—in front of a larger crowd. (Takakuwa is joined by Director John-David Keller, Casting Director Joanne DeNaut and Casting Assistant Stephanie Marick for “callbacks”).

Within a few days, Takakuwa sends personal letters to those who didn’t make it. “I remind them to be proud of doing their best and most confident work. They’ve learned how to audition!”

But if the phone rings—you’re in!

Those who made it range from first-timers to more experienced young actors.

Nick Trafton and J.T. Casey
Kennedy Haynes
Colin Root and Hudson Stefanello
Carissa Diller and Kiana Kamm
J.T. Casey and Nick Trafton, who alternate in as Boy Ebenezer, are “old pros,” having been in the Summer Players production of Mary Poppins. In that audition, J.T. learned, “You have to be prepared. I was expecting the unexpected this time, and the first audition felt good. I thought I nailed it in the callback, but there were a lot of kids who were really good.”

Nick had been nervous at the Mary Poppins audition because it was his first play. “I was a little more relaxed this time since I knew what to expect,” he recalls. “After the first audition, I was hopeful. When I walked into the callbacks and saw Mr. Keller I thought to myself, ‘stand up straight and look professional.’”

Kennedy Haynes is a third-year student, who has been waiting for the chance to audition for A Christmas Carol since she was eight years old. “I felt confident about my improv,” she says. “But I walked out of the callback thinking there was no way I would get a role—it was so quick, and I thought quick usually wasn’t good!”

Hudson Stefanello and Colin Root alternate as Turkey Boy. Hudson is in his second year and was recommended by his instructor. “It was an honor to be chosen,” he said. “I was excited about auditioning because I love the play and was dying to meet the man who plays Scrooge.* I wasn’t nervous because I blocked out everyone to focus on the character and the improv.”

This is Colin’s second time auditioning for A Christmas Carol. “Looking back on last year, I realize that I wasn’t ready,” he admits. “But this time I felt I would get a role because I took the director’s advice and applied it to the audition. I made better decisions and was more open.”

Second-year students Carissa Diller and Kiana Kamm were recommended by their instructors. Kiana, who likes sewing, pantomimed making beautiful dresses in a tailor’s shop. “I felt confident doing the pantomime again in callbacks, but I didn’t think I would get a part. This was my first audition, and I was just very happy to have the experience.”

Carissa thought she might have made it to the callback. “SCR has a very good audition process because they treat you well and make you feel comfortable. I learned to be calm and listen to instructions. I felt like I did a good job, but didn’t expect to get a role because so few kids get chosen.”

How did they react when the phone rang?

Carissa: Super happy.
Hudson: Screaming, “I’m Turkey Boy—I get to meet Scrooge!”*
Kennedy: This is completely RAD.
J.T. It was like a dream come true.
Kiana: So excited—I was ready to pass out.
Nick: Excited—and relieved. It’s going to be great working with professional actors.
Colin: Beside myself with joy—excited to meet the cast.*

*And, of course, they’ll all get to meet the cast, led by SCR’s Scrooge—Hal Landon Jr., playing the role for his 36th season.


A Christmas Carol runs on the Segerstrom Stage Nov. 27-Dec. 27, 2015. 

Children’s roles are double cast. Actors with † appear Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday at noon. Others appear in balance of performances.
FAN, the sister of Ebenezer:
J.T. Casey, Nick Trafton†
Sean Kato, Louis Alvarez Tonkovich†
Carissa Diller, Aoife McEvoy†
Kiana Kamm, Kennedy Haynes†
Jamie Ostmann, Lauren Lyons†
Hudson Mattingly Stefanello, Colin Root†
J.T. Casey, Nick Trafton†
Jamie Ostmann, Lauren Lyons†
Jack Matthews, Catherine Mitchell†
Carissa Diller, Aoife McEvoy†
Sean Kato, Louis Alvarez Tonkovich†
Rachel Bailey, Rachel Charny†
Kiana Kamm, Kennedy Haynes†
J.T. Casey, Nick Trafton†
Hudson Mattingly Stefanello, Colin Root†
Learn more and buy tickets.

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