Herndon High School
The eccentric, the plain, the nervous, and the vain: these are all examples of stereotypical auditions, all of which are hilariously showcased in Freedom High School's self-written production of "Bad Auditions"!
While casting Shakespeare's "Romeo and Juliet" through an online video call, Director Rebecca (Maiti McKenna) and Assistant Director Christie (Shannon Herrmann) meet a collection of committed contenders for the starring roles. Each audition displays common mishaps within the acting world as well as the virtual world, such as not having monologues prepared or a glitching laptop, and as auditions keep coming and going with no looks of success, both the director and assistant director wonder if they'll ever find their leading actors.
The students of Freedom HS didn't let their virtual environment become an obstacle in their show process, but instead embraced it with open arms and cleverly tailored their show to this medium. One standout example of this is Sahana Anand's performance as Jackson, where her character's monologue was unintelligible due to the background noise in their home. Sabrina, again played by Anand, was also victim to these online complications as her character was caught wearing pajama pants during her audition. Both roles were played amusingly!
On a similar note, common audition setbacks were included as well, with Christian Jarwa's character, Arlo, capturing the nervousness one is met with when continuously messing up during their audition. Though Jarwa's comedic timing on his repetitive line "Can I start over?" was impressive and admirable, his character's uneasiness and embarrassment were unfortunately relatable to many.
But this show, of course, would not have been the same without the performances of Maiti McKenna and Shannon Herrmann as Director Rebecca and AD Christie (respectively). The polarity between the two characters created a peaceful balance between optimism and its counterpart as Christie would respond to Rebecca's sullen comments with hope for the next audition. Each role was played with energy and commitment, and the variety across characters was refreshing and entertaining!
Another applaudable aspect of this show was the scriptwriting. Allison Fountaine, Cameron Nguyen, Cami DiVenere, Maeleigh Moore, Maiti McKenna, Sahana Anand, and Shannon Herrmann all combined their efforts to create the script for "Bad Auditions" and their hard work paid off! It's also notable that all of those who contributed to the script were students at Freedom, which is an inspiring feat in itself! The well-written lines had a wide variety of humor to them, and the stereotypes displayed in the characters were cleverly and comedically written. The costumes, done by Shannon Herrmann, Anna McDonald, Sahana Anand, and Asli Bal were another aspect of this show well-done. All of the costumes were natural and accurate to an audition or home setting, and none of them distracted from the scene (unless intentional like Sabrina's pajama pants mishap!)
Freedom High School's "Bad Auditions" helped to share a laugh and a great piece of theatre in these unprecedented times where some may feel like humor and art are not as close by as they used to be. The students' commitment to this show is commendable and their impressive array of talents have been poured into every aspect of the show, ranging from script writing to acting to stage management. And to do it all from a distance is an achievement in itself! Relevant to this moment in history as well as the final overarching theme of the show, Freedom High School's "Bad Auditions" ultimately taught us that art has no limits! (And also, not to wear pajama pants to an audition.)
Flint Hill School
"O Romeo, Romeo, wherefore art thou Romeo? Deny thy father and refuse thy name – Wait, can I start over?" And… there went another over-enthusiastic, albeit anxious candidate for the role of Juliet, something not altogether uncommon in Freedom High School's self-written play, "Bad Auditions."
Through narrating a series of unfortunate events befalling a theater director and her assistant, this production not only brilliantly encapsulated the exuberance and exasperation of the two protagonists but also illustrated the quotidian nuisances and shortcomings of modern virtual communication. Spending several months on applications such as Google Meet or Zoom to conduct business or facilitate school, everyone has experienced the half-dressed arrival to morning classes, the raucous background noise of a vacuum cleaner or family pet, and, yes, the dreaded awkward silence; it is this - this reflection of daily life, of the 'new normal' - that defined this play's relatability and versatility even in the face of contemporary constraints.
Indeed, "Bad Auditions" lent itself extraordinarily well to the online climate, providing the audience with second-hand embarrassment, genuine laughs, and even morsels of insight into the self. Truly, it established a palpable rapport with the audience by integrating elements of nuanced humor and hilarity into the dialogue between the directors and the candidate.
As the only constant presence throughout the show, Director Rebecca (Maiti McKenna) and Assistant Director Christie (Shannon Herrmann) accomplished quite the feat: 40-minutes on camera, non-stop. However, it was not their capacity to remain in character for an extended period that fomented their laudable performance, but rather their interpersonal dynamic. In balancing each character's respective personalities - whether it be the incorrigible cynic or the buoyant Pollyanna - the actors endeavored and succeeded, with the aid of playful banter, in portraying the complementary nature of optimism and pessimism. Furthermore, their vocal projection, enunciation, and intonation exuded their behavioral proclivities and ensured the audience consummately understood the plot and character progression.
Similarly, Maeleigh Moore's Ethel exhibited exceptional vocalization, as well as an astounding expression of physicality in the form of tap dancing, a certainly unforeseen and unforgettable turn of events for both directors and audience alike! In fact, the character secreted so much personality and vitality through the screen that it was impossible not to grin at her antics, especially in contrast to the actress's dual role as Cozbi. Moreover, when Albert Steinein (Jacob Neale) joined the proverbial stage toward the end of the production, he had all but stolen the ability to steel oneself into calm collectedness. Representing a technologically inept, elderly gentleman, he immaculately summarized the misadventures and daily battles between the aged and the internet in comedic detail.
While the logistical constraints of rehearsal and filming likely posed some hindrances to its successful production, the adaptation of this self-written play onto an online format only enhanced Freedom High School students' possibilities. The outfit changes, the hair, and make-up, all aspects exhibited self-evident intent on behalf of the cast, contriving and buttressing the idiosyncratic personalities that had been ascribed to each character. Additionally, as a sort of droll interlude, Allison Fountaine's rendition of Vanilla Ice's "Ice Ice Baby" injected an inimitable pause between the second-hand embarrassment experienced vicariously through the screen.
Through the highs and lows of virtual tryouts, "Bad Auditions" ultimately reminded the audience of the reality of the contemporary world, concluding their commendable play, with two short words: ‘A Plague."