It will be a year of firsts as we open our new theater in the Gordon Square Arts District, featuring fly space above the stage, new lighting and sound equipment, and all kinds of theatrical possibilities we’ve never had before. The first of those firsts is this month: auditions for Shrek the Musical, on Tuesday, Jan. 20, Wednesday, Jan. 21, and Thursday, Jan. 22, at 6 p.m. for ages 7 through 12 and at 7:30 p.m. for teens and adults of all ages. Full details about our friendly, fun audition process — no experience or preparation necessary! — are at the end of this article. (Note: the new building is still being completed, so auditions will be elsewhere!)
“It’s the opening show in our brand-new building, and we are looking to cast a large, racially diverse ensemble — more than people of all ages, ethnicities, genders, sizes and physical abilities and challenges,” says Artistic Director Bob Navis Jr., who will direct Shrek. “There are multiple principal roles, and the company plays a large range of characters, from fairy-tale creatures to an angry mob, guards, rats, knights and much more. There are huge production numbers throughout the show. This will be true ensemble theater.” All roles are open.
“I can’t emphasize enough that this will be the first giant musical in our new, $7.3 million building,” Navis says. “For the first time in our history we have a fly system over the stage, a pipe grid above the house with state-of-the-art lighting and sound, even a scene shop so we don’t have to build set pieces on stage during the rehearsal process.” For 36 years at Near West Theatre’s rented church ballroom, casts were accustomed to cramped conditions backstage, and, with unreliable heat and no air conditioning, a lot of discomfort during hot or cold weather. Now there will be wing space and a changing area backstage, a multipurpose room downstairs for more changing and green-room space, and cast rest rooms that don’t have to be shared with the audience. And full climate control in a super-energy-efficient building. And space for more multiple rehersals at once. “I really hope all of that — in addition to the content and story line of the show — will inspire people to audition.”
Based on the 2001 DreamWorks film Shrek and William Steig’s 1990 book Shrek!, the musical is a good match for Near West Theatre’s mission of bringing together diverse people from all walks of life — and from all levels of theatrical experience, including none at all — to encounter each other and build relationships around a piece of theater. The story involves an ogre, a donkey, an imprisoned princess and a gang of fairytale creatures exiled from their home for being freaks. With music by Jeanine Tesori and book and lyrics by David Lindsay-Abaire, the show ran for over a year each on Broadway and in London’s West End and also had an extensive national U.S. tour.
If you’re intrigued but not sure about auditioning — perhaps you’ve never auditioned for anything before — know that Near West Theatre’s process is designed to be friendly, inviting, and low in anxiety, whether you’re 7 or 77 years old. Participants are led as a group through exercises to build teamwork, experience movement, improvise, sing and let their best selves shine. Bob and his production staff look less for trained singers and dancers than for a person’s spark, willingness to go on an emotional journey, and interest in engaging the people around them as part of an ensemble. Below are audition details a few recent videos about the audition experience. — Hans Holznagel
Audition information for Shrek the Musical, 2015
Place: West Side United Church of Christ, 3800 Bridge Ave., Cleveland 44113. Ages eligible: 7 through adult. Dates: Tuesday, Jan. 20; Wednesday, Jan. 21; Thursday, Jan. 22. Pick one of those evenings. No advance reservations necessary. Stay for the entire time for your age group. Times: Ages 7 through 12, arrive 5:45 p.m. to register; audition 6 to 7 p.m. Ages 13 through adult, arrive 7:15 p.m. to register, audition 7:30 to 10 p.m. Rehearsals for those who are cast begin Feb. 15 and will typically be Sunday afternoons, Sunday evenings, and Monday through Wednesday evenings. Performance dates are listed here.
Near West Theatre is grateful for ongoing programmatic support from the Ohio Arts Council, Cuyahoga Arts and Culture, and Greater Cleveland Community Shares, and for special support from Ronald McDonald House Charities of Northeastern Ohio for equipment used by young people in technical workshops and other backstage experiences.
Shrek the Musical
Book and lyrics by David Lindsay-Abaire
Music by Jeanine Tesori
Based on the DreamWorks Animation Motion Picture and the book by William Steig
Shrek the Musical is presented through special arrangement with Music Theatre International (MTI). All authorized performance materials are also supplied by MTI. 421 West 54th St., New York, NY 10019. Phone: 212-541-4684. Fax: 212-397-4684. http://www.MTIShows.com