We discover passions throughout the entirety of our lives, but when one finds us in our youth and makes a permanent home under our skin, it’s special. When a young person is serious about pursuing that passion, it’s invaluable to experience what it takes to break into that field. It’s with that in mind that the Ocean State Theatre Company has created the OSTeenCo program.
OSTeenCo was set up to not only encourage aspiring teen actors, but to give them the opportunity to participate in a professional theater experience, culminating in two upcoming Ocean State productions: Freckleface Strawberry the Musical and The Brothers Grimm Spectaculathon. Keeping in line with the authentic experience, the adolescents were made to audition. From the hopefuls, seven of them were picked, ranging from 13 to 18.
“Our goal was to hold these auditions in the same manner as our professional auditions,” director Robert Miller Jr. says. “Each student came into the auditorium one at a time and performed their audition selection for our musical director, choreographer and myself. We then chose sides (short scenes from either Freckleface Strawberry or Brothers Grimm) and placed the students in groups. They had a short time to read over and ‘work’ on the scenes and then they performed them onstage. Frequently, I would give them notes after their first performance and have them do it again, to see if they were able to take direction and see what changes they were able to make ‘on the spot.’ After the readings, our choreographer, Karen Gail Kessler, taught the whole group a dance combination to one of the songs from the musical and they were asked to perform the routine in small groups. The entire audition process was completed in three hours, so it’s a whirlwind.”
It’s tough, which is exactly what professional theater is like. There’s a famous Thomas Edison quote where he says that genius is 1% inspiration, 99% perspiration (he doesn’t say what percent applies to ripping off Tesla, but I digress). Eddie Van Halen said that he would sit on the edge of his bed at 7pm, guitar in hand, while his brother Alex went to parties; when Al returned at 3am, Ed would still be playing. Stephen King said that talent is as common as table salt, and that the difference between the talented writer and the successful one was a lot of hard work.
The point: is that there’s a level of dedication and discipline that has to be met in the real world, no matter the field.
When asked what the young actors had that made them stand apart, Robert says “Since we were looking for a cast who can perform two very different shows – one being a musical and the other being a play in which everyone must play multiple characters – it would be difficult to cast by ‘type’ or look for a kid who fits one role perfectly. Since the one-hour musical has 15 songs, vocal ability was a high priority, with movement being another. The other focus was on kids with a strong personality and those who are unafraid to take chances. I was most interested in kids who weren’t afraid to try something on stage – whether they succeeded or failed. I feel that those are the kids who are going to work until they discover the right character, or line delivery. I wanted kids who were going to bring as much to their roles as possible.”
All of their hard work will pay off when they have the opportunity to perform in both productions. Robert says “they have been cast as a ‘company’ for both productions and we actually have only assigned them their roles for Freckleface Strawberry. As we go through the rehearsal process, we will then assign the roles for The Brothers Grimm Spectaculathon.”
The experience is invaluable to the young actors, and OSTC wants to continue cultivating their talent and preparing them. “Our hope is that the OSTeenCo becomes an annual company. Each year we would hold auditions and a new company would be formed.” The work is hard and the expectations are high, but the goal is to encourage the talent of these young actors. He adds “I would like to encourage children of all ages to come to OSTC and catch one (or both) of the shows that the OSTeenCo will be performing. We love watching theatre being introduced to the next generation, but I think anyone will enjoy watching these talented students perform. I would also encourage all teenage performers to attend the performances and consider auditioning for OSTeenCo in the future.”
Ocean State Theatre Company
Freckleface Strawberry the Musical - Saturday, March 7
The Brothers Grimm Spectaculathon - Saturday, May 23
1245 Jefferson Blvd, Warwick