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On with the show

Staging a play can present unexpected challenges

Posted: September 1, 2011 - 2:26pm
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Karen Garcia
Actors take to the stage during recent auditions for the Triumvirate Theatre’s production of “Arsenic and Old Lace. Performances are scheduled for October.

It’s kind of hard to put on a play that calls for a cast of three women and 11 men when only four people show up for auditions.

Such was the case Saturday for the Triumvirate Theatre’s “Arsenic and Old Lace” try-outs. The 1939 farcical black comedy written by Joseph Kesselring will be directed by Shannon Sorensen, who hopes that more actors and actresses will turn out to participate during subsequent get-togethers.

“If there are not enough people to put together a show then ... we have a problem,” Sorensen said Saturday.

Andrew Gunter, one of the four who turned up for the initial auditions, said he was  surprised by the poor turn-out since the Triumvirate, in his experience, usually has a lot of people show up during the first night.

The paucity of potential actors was mostly attributed to scheduling conflicts and the word not getting out soon enough.

Gunter said the group met again Tuesday evening to read through some of the play and several more people were able to attend.

“We’re going to try and start rehearsal on Thursday and hopefully some more people will show up,” he said. “If not, we’re probably just going to have people playing multiple roles.”

The lack of bodies didn’t prevent those who did show up from having a good time, however: Sorensen staged an improvisation exercise where the four men and women took on the personalities of the “Arsenic and Old Lace” characters but within the context of an evening news broadcast.

Gunter, Helena Schoolcraft, Evyette Tappana and Ian McEwen played homicidal old ladies, deranged psychopaths, and alcoholics as they delivered the weather, sports, and breaking news to an empty theater.

McEwen, who has performed as Dr. Einstein in a production of “Arsenic and Old Lace” before, explained his affinity for the play and why he thinks audiences will enjoy its black humor and absurd plotline.

“It takes some rather disturbing topics and makes them really funny,” McEwen said. “It’s also a complete farce, which is doors slamming, people getting things confused, misunderstandings, ridiculous characters, ordinary people put into extraordinary situations.”

Tappana, a self-described “stage [filtered word],” said putting on this play is harder than most due to the large number of characters with XY chromosomes.

“You end up having to beat the bush for males to come out in almost all cases,” she explained. “Men seem to be a little bit more hesitant.”

As a former bartender, Tappana knows there are basically only two things to do in the Kenai/Soldotna area: go to a movie, or go to a bar.

With the Triumvirate Theatre and the Kenai Performers, people have another option. But the key is getting the word out and letting them know that this option is available.

“There are still so many people that are like, ‘Wow, I didn’t even know they had a play going on,’” she said. “If people are interested, hook up with the two groups that are performing, listen up, and come enjoy all the theater that we can offer.”

Those interested in playing a part in “Arsenic and Old Lace” can call the Triumvirate Theatre at 953-7262. The play is currently slated to run during the two middle weekends of October.

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