Monday, March 1, 2010

Chicago in Feburary and PAC at the U/RTAs

I recently returned from a trip to Chicago in February. It was not nearly as cold as I feared. High temperature did only reach 25 degrees and there was little sun but (even the day it snowed) it was dry. So it did not feel as cold as 40 degrees sometimes feels in Portland. Oh, and there was very little wind.

I think I was lucky.

I was lucky to be the Conservatory’s representative in Chicago at the National Unified Auditions for the University Regional Theatre Association (U/RTA). As an accredited institution, Portland Actors Conservatory was able to participate in the new, open call portion of the traditionally graduate school-only auditions. I saw 121 students perform one minute monologues over two sessions. I scheduled 18 interviews and met some very talented people.

The open call is a brilliant idea started by U/RTA to provide students greater access to more performance training programs. Before the implementation of the open call, many students would attend the U/RTAs and never be seen by any schools. Competition for placement into programs is fierce, and U/RTA schools only have enough time to see a portion of those students interested in more training. So they hold screening auditions limiting the number of people seen by the U/RTA schools, which means hundreds of potential actors are screened out and are not seen. The open call gives these students the opportunity to be seen and heard by other training programs. This year they were seen by a representative of Portland Actors Conservatory.

I saw a cruise line employee do a grounded, simple and provacative Maggie the Cat. I saw a PhD candidate in toxicology with an easy charm who, miraculously, talked openly to the auditors in front of her. The Neil LaBute piece that followed was sharp, intent and transformative. I met a young man who wore his passion on his sleeve and a young woman with a winning, bright smile. I met a university student in New Orleans, the receipient of his school’s Denzel Washington Scholarship for actors. His sensitivity, self-awareness and intelligence were delightful.

I was lucky to be in Chicago in Febraury.