Auditions have tended to follow a tried-and-true formula that involves having a lot of people in one space at one time and moving very quickly through the process. Neither of these elements fit in with the current Covid safety guidelines that demand physical distancing and include implementing a number of checks that slow down the audition’s flow.
Auditions have begun again in Australia though. Pippin is preparing to reopen in Sydney in the Lyric Theatre in November and The Producers begins auditions next week ahead of its opening at Brisbane Powerhouse. Its announcement coincides with the launch of new Brisbane production house, Altitude Theatre.
“The Producers was playing on Broadway in 2001 when 9/11 occurred in New York. It was one of the first productions to re-open on September 13, and audiences flocked to the show to laugh and escape the terror on their TV screens,” noted Altitude Theatre company directors, Joseph Simons and Adam Gardnir. “The Producers became the perfect musical to prove resilience and courage in the face of fear. As we begin 2021, this big-hearted musical is the perfect way to welcome Brisbane audiences back to the theatre after the difficulties of 2020. “
“It feels really exciting (and slightly nerve wracking) to be bringing Pippin to life for Sydney audiences in November,” stated Pippin producer, Suzanne Jones. “Although COVID safety is front and centre, we do feel that audiences are ready to come back to the theatre after watching performance online only for the past six months.”
Pippin’s auditions are being held in the Lyric Theatre. Suzanne Jones, and her team from the Gordon Frost Organisation, are working very closely with colleagues at Foundation Theatres to ensure they are Covid-safe. “Performers will dance first before those selected move through to singing and acting. They will also be auditioning circus performers as well as there are seven acrobats in the show. All will receive Covid guidelines prior to their audition. When they arrive for their audition they will also need to complete a Covid symptom questionnaire, wear face masks at all times when they are not in their audition, sanitising stations will be set up and they will be required to social distance when waiting.
Auditions for The Producers begin in one week. The major changes will be implemented to adhere to social distancing and hand sanitisation requirements, said Simons and Gardnir. “Additionally, we have designed auditions to use multiple waiting rooms, and smaller groups than usual. As such, we will be running the auditions for ‘The Producers’ over two days.”
The Pippin auditions will also be adjusted to accommodate smaller groups. “Where we would normally try to fit as many dancers as possible into a room for a group dance call, for these auditions we will need to ensure that there is enough space between performers to meet social distancing requirements,” Jones noted. “As a result, we will need to schedule more dance calls with fewer performers. Our audition spaces will also be set up in such a way to limit physical contact between auditionees and audition staff and cleaned at least twice a day.”
The greatest challenge to the audition process at the moment is uncertainty, stated Simons and Gardnir, “even though Queensland currently is a relatively safe space. We have brought auditions forward in the timeline to take advantage of the current situation, but we remain vigilant to the threats and pressures of Covid-19. Perhaps the obvious thing to do to keep the auditions more Covid-safe would be to cut the numbers of auditionees before they actually get into the room. However, at Altitude Theatre we believe in the vast wealth of talent available in Brisbane and we felt it is unfair to turn people away. With this in mind, our team has made every effort to welcome artists in a way that they can present their best work. So in order to see everyone, as well as auditioning in smaller groups over two days, we will manage the arrival and departure times very carefully.”
“As we are all navigating this for the first time, it has been a real education process for the Pippin team, Foundation Theatres and also performers,” Jones added. “We are very fortunate that Live Performance Australia released their Guidelines for COVID Safe Auditions, Rehearsals and Performance which has been a great resource. Probably the biggest challenge has been dealing with border closures and lockdown restrictions, which has meant only being able to audition in Sydney. Normally we would audition in Sydney and Melbourne, but it has not been possible on this show. We are also having to navigate hotel quarantine and permit approvals for our interstate and international creatives. That has been fun!?”
Has Covid made anything easier? “No,” Jones stated. “No,” Simons and Gardnir stated.
- CANDIDE MCDONALD
[Top image: Photo by Joan Marcus]