Jun 25, 2019

What are you, chicken?

I never expected to be a chicken, walk a dog on an invisible leash or mimic a scary witch when I set out to cover a story about next semester’s “Theatre for Young Audiences” production.

The Dennis and Cheryl Woods Theatre at California State University, Fresno was empty Monday evening, except for an animated gibberish sounding conversation between two students across the room from where I entered. My intention was to catch a glimpse of the “Tomás and the Library Lady” audition.

The director arrived and quickly reassured me that the auditions would take place in a few minutes. I settled into one of the red cushioned, fold-down seats, notebook in hand and pen posed to jot down notes when the director began to speak.

After introducing herself as Kim Morin, she summoned students to the theater floor where she stood. “This is going to be unusual,” she said, “but we’re going to be playing games.”

Soon they were standing in a circle facing outward, and under Morin’s instructions, tossing around imaginary tennis balls and bowling balls. A girl wearing a plaid scarf dropped her imaginary tennis ball and skipped away to retrieve it. Another girl shyly pretended to toss the ball, glancing around, curious what the others were doing.

“Really imagine it,” Morin encouraged, as students pretended to walk a Doberman and a poodle on an leash.

“This is weird,” I mused but attempted not to look as surprised as I felt. My thoughts were abruptly interrupted by Morin calling cheerfully to me, “Are you just going to take notes or would you like to join us?”

“Why not?” I wondered aloud, and then to myself, “What am I getting myself into?” as I slowly joined the group.

In a matter of a few short minutes, I became a chicken, flailing my arms and ruffling pretend feathers. Surprisingly, this “magical realism,” as Morin called it, proved to be sort of fun. It was the type of situation that I would typically laugh at but secretly enjoy, like singing at the top of my lungs and head-banging to Miley Cyrus’ “Party in the USA,” or writing my boyfriend’s name over and over again with heart doodles under the guise of taking lecture notes. Perhaps silly, but who could pretend to be a chicken and not secretly enjoy it? I wondered.

We flitted our wings, made chicken noises and did a chicken walk around the room.

Walking like a chicken required one to fold their arms back and walk slowly while moving the chest forward and backward with each step. Much laughter and “ba-caw” noises followed.

“I consider this audition to be high energy and low stress,” theatre arts major Kevin Grow confided to me. Grow said he auditioned for the past three shows as well as the Experimental Theatre Company’s “Edgar Allan Poe Affair,” but failed to be cast in any of the roles. Since his last role was for a high school play, Grow said he was eager to jump back into the acting groove.

Morin definitely allowed for jumping. The purpose of these exercises, she explained, was to relate to children and be able to tell a story in a way that entertains and appeals to their imaginations.

As a final exercise, the six of us paired off into three groups to dramatically read through a scene. Morin encouraged each student to have fun with the exercises and by the end of the hour-long audition, I was cast for the production, pointing out that she welcomed students from all areas of study.

Whether I choose to pursue acting or not is still up in the air. However, this audition illustrated that my preconceived ideas of what constitutes as theatre might have kept me from an enjoyable experience. It will not soon be forgotten.

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