For decades Turlock Youth Performing Arts has been showcasing the talents of the area’s youth by bringing a multitude of plays and musicals to the stage. Each production is an undertaking that requires a mountain-sized supply of determination, hard work and patience, as well as a cumulative creative streak about a mile long. Unbeknownst to many, there is an equal amount of drama and theatrics happening behind the scenes as there is on the stage. The Turlock Journal will be following and documenting the course of TYPA’s “Disney’s Cinderella,” from the nerve-racking auditions to the thrill of opening night in April.
It’s a cool and crisp night in early December and there is a buzz reverberating from the auditorium at the Turlock Community Theatre. Inside are about 50 kids waiting to try out for TYPA’s newest show. Some are newly-minted eight year olds, while others have sprung into their teens. Some sit in clusters with their school chums chattering away and others sit alone pouring over their lines. For some kids the audition process has become like putting on a favorite pair of jeans — familiar and comfortable. For others, this will be their first time on a stage and their anxiety is drawn like a curtain across their faces. But for all their differences these kids have one thing in common at this moment — the desire to land a role in the show.
As the auditions get underway the nervous energy in the auditorium has built to a level that if bottled would likely keep the town aglow for a good week.
In this first stage of the auditions the kids are taken in pairs to a large dressing room behind the stage. In the room seated behind a long table is the production team, made up of Director Chris Green, Choreographer Amber Traini, Set Director Ernie Anderson and production assistant and TYPA alumni Ethan Hennis.
Each pairing will act out a short pre-determined scene from the show and then individually they will sing a snippet of “A Dream is a Wish Your Heart Makes” in front of the production team.
Green explained that the team is looking for kids who possess a certain ease on the stage, as well as the ability to stay on key and tempo.
“We’re looking for the kids with some pizzazz,” Green said.
There is no doubt that the singing portion of the audition is a nervous butterfly-inducing moment. Some come into the room with looks on their faces that are more appropriate to someone facing a firing squad rather than the four exceedingly friendly and personable adults. But for a few this is truly a moment to shine.
FACES IN THE CROWD
For Hickman Charter student Eva Cluff it was a moment to claim as her own. This is her first audition and the 10-year-old enters the room looking timid and jittery, but with a disarming smile bookended by two deep dimples. A few nervous giggles escape from her lips as she gives the production team her name and school. But when it’s her turn to sing she belts out the tune with a bravado that belies her diminutive stature and with a melody that seemingly floats out of her.
Encouraging to all who pass in front of them, the production team lets loose with some wide grins as Cluff made her exit.
“That’s what we are looking for,” Green said.
Also making her first audition is 8-year-old Alyssa Sandoval, who is home-schooled through Connecting Waters. Alyssa is a pint-sized fireball of energy and sheer will. Bespectacled with thick black curly ringlets framing her face, Alyssa comes into the room a little unsure of the process, but absolutely brimming with confidence in herself. And she backs that confidence up by delivering her song with a clarity and power that can’t help but impress the team.
It isn’t just the young ones leaving a good impression with the production team. The tweens and teens are showing they have the chops to take on the lead roles.
Abby Helnore, a 12-year-old Denair Middle School student, has done shows in the past for the Denair Gaslight Theatre, but this is her first audition with TYPA. Her singing voice is soft but resonates with a certain ethereal quality and it doesn’t take much of a stretch of the imagination to see her as the beleaguered Cinderella wishing on a star and waiting for her prince to arrive.
The auditions have brought in lots of new faces for the production team to consider, but there are plenty of TYPA veterans making their presence known.
Dutcher Middle School student Abbey Horan at 13 has been cast in numerous TYPA productions since she was eight years old. She approaches the auditions like a seasoned professional. Up on the stage she displays a self-awareness and enchantment that is rarely found in someone of her age. Abbey delivers her song with near perfect pitch and melody and hits the big notes with ease.
The night has featured some real standouts, but nothing is definite at this point.
The entire process will be repeated a few days later when a second group of hopefuls gives it their all.
By the end of the auditions the production team has heard the same tune enough times to have it permanently embedded in their minds and have seen more than a hundred smiling faces. Within a few hours after the last audition the team will post their callback list online and kids all over the area will flock to the TYPA website to see if they made it through the first round of cuts.
Look in the Jan. 18 edition of the Journal to read the story detailing who made the cut, and who will ultimately land a role in the show.
To contact Sabra Stafford, e-mail email@example.com or call 634-9141 ext. 2002.