Fall musical auditions prompt students with new challenges

Lauren Puckett

Actresses line up to sing their selected number from "Urinetown" during Tuesday evening's auditions. Photo by Asa Lory
The stage is silent. The audience is mostly empty, with a scattering of students and adults seated in its chairs. A long line of actors rest against the brick wall, biting their lips and mouthing lyrics underneath their breath. Auditions are about to begin, and the hushed whispers stop as director Mike Pierson calls the girls up to perform. Each actress walks to the platform, takes that fateful step forward and opens her mouth to sing.
For junior Sam Ryan, that fateful step is foreign. The last time she performed in an acting role was in her elementary school performance about the digestive system. Waiting amongst the other, more experienced actors, she forced herself to stay calm.
“It’s definitely intimidating knowing that everyone’s been doing these since they were really young, and they’re so comfortable with it,” Ryan said. “And there’s so many talented people here at Rock Bridge, that it’s like ‘Ohh, no.’ But I just want to be a part of it.”
Ryan and around 80 other students picked up an audition packet from Pierson, wanting to “be a part” of Rock Bridge’s fall musical, “Urinetown.” The cast was announced today, Friday, at 3 p.m. here.
Some reacted to the title with disgust and worry, others with laughter and excitement, said Pierson. Many rushed onto Google and Spotify to research the show and its ambitious score.
“We typically do a musical in the fall that attracts people by its name,” Pierson said, “and the big ones are always ‘Oklahoma’ and ‘The Sound of Music’ and ‘The Music Man,’ the tried-and-true well-known musicals. … [This year] I was looking for something a little different.”
This year’s musical takes ‘different’ and pushes it to the limit. “Urinetown” tells the story of a near-future, disheveled society that has suffered a 20-year drought. Therefore, water is scarce, and private toilets are made illegal so that everyone must pay to pee. A young rebel named Bobby starts to realize something isn’t quite right with the governmental system and sparks a rebellion to lead the people of Urinetown to true freedom.
The crazy subject matter and interesting music drew many students to find out if they’d heard the title wrong—“Is it Urinetown or You’re In Town?” Others were drawn in by the gossip of others through the grapevine.
“Mr. Pierson just seemed so excited about it this year,” Ryan said, “and it seemed like such a funny show that I thought it would be a really fun way to start off doing musicals. … And everyone else got so excited, so I just jumped on the bandwagon.”
The show, from the beginning scene, establishes that is it not a typical, ‘bandwagon’ production. One of the characters, Officer Lockstock, begins the performance by addressing the audience rather than other people on stage. This shows the Brechtian style of acting on which the story is based.  This different acting mechanism presents a challenge for actors and actresses that are used to the Stanislovskian method of “becoming your character.” Instead of their character, they are prompted to represent a central theme, a theme applicable to everyday human life.
“It’s a very almost superficial style of acting, but that’s on purpose,” Pierson said, “because [the writers of the show] want you to … not become emotionally attached to the plight of the actors or how the actors are feeling. … When you become emotionally involved with the actors and characters on stage, then you don’t have that disconnect where you can say ‘How does this translate into my life?’”
For sophomore Raychel Mooney, this acting style is a brand new obstacle. Unlike Ryan, Mooney has acted in various theater productions since she was in fifth grade. A dedicated member of Performing Arts Children’s Education (PACE), Mooney has participated in 18 shows with the company, while also performing in school plays such as “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” and “Twelve Angry Jurors,” an adaptation of “Twelve Angry Men,” with Jefferson Junior High School.
Yet even this show presents its challenges for Mooney, and she’s had to learn methods to relax as the room quiets and auditions begin.
“I think for my very first play I auditioned for, I was shaking in my boots,” Mooney said. “And then I did that play, and I met all these people and they encouraged me. Through them, I gained my courage. And now it’s to the point where I can encourage other people.”
Encouraging was rampant throughout Tuesday and Wednesday’s auditions, as the students learned scripts and songs with twisted ankles, common colds and pulled muscles. The try-outs included an acting, singing and dancing portion, each of which had to be done in front of Pierson, two other judges and the rest of the auditioning students. For some, this may sound chillingly difficult. For actors, it’s just another day-in-the-life.
“Truth be told, I’ve been waiting to be at Rock Bridge since I was about eight,” Mooney said. “I would come to all my brother’s performances, because I just love the people here. Even though it’s not the same people [every year], it’s the same environment. And I’m really looking forward to stepping on that stage and growing up. Because this is really where you grow up.”
By Lauren Puckett
Have any questions or comments about the musical? Post them below! What’s been your favorite Rock Bridge musical so far? What excites you about “Urinetown”? What day do you think you’ll attend the show? Let us know!