Three men living in Muskegon heard good news today. I know two of these men. Adam Bell serves as a chef at Ryke's Bakery & Catering of Muskegon, now serving up great baked goods, soups and burritos in our town and Grand Haven too. Chris Beaman handles White Lake's medical needs, filling prescriptions. Kristopher Arnold came up in Muskegon, a twenty-something who fell in love with theater in high school and never looked back.
Today, the word went forth that the three were cast for The Drawer Boy, the hottest script off the great stages since the opening of Hamilton the Musical. Bell, an actor raised in Shakespearean tradition will play Morgan, a farmer working the land in Clinton, Ontario. Beaman, so often the leading man, shall be staggered by the challenge of depicting Angus, a man with a traumatic brain injury that bestowed an odd gift. Angus's brain injury made him an architect, a drawer boy. Miles made friends with the two while touring Canada with an acting troupe, and he thought he smelled a play on the farm of Morgan and Angus, so to speak. This role as a mildly unctuous interloper has become Arnold's challenge.
Muskegon Civic Theater is a community theater with high production values. It's as close to pro as an actor can go without an agent. In fact, the troupe put a real, red Nissan Truck on the Beardsley Stage for Hands on a Hardbody, another hot script just off the Broadway boards. See it this weekend. The Red Nissan, nicely detailed, stood on stage as thirteen local actors contended with Bell, Beaman and Christopher for the shot at these roles. Although none of the sixteen would say the auditions were a fight. Far from it.
MCT opens auditions to all interested actors. On Monday and Tuesday of the week after Thanksgiving, hopefuls sat in the rows of Beardsley Theater, waiting for the director to call their name and put them in a scene. MCT doesn't require an agent to get that far. MCT doesn't even ask for a headshot photograph. One form is all it takes to audition. Watch the MCT Facebook group for notices.
It wasn't a fight among the men. Natalie Carmolli placed threesomes into scenes as Morgan, Angus and Miles, gave out scripts and a few directions. When she called action, the actors found themselves cast into a web of dependency. Morgan had to feed Angus the right kind of energy, gruff, rude and yet caring. Miles had to anticipate his cues from Morgan and Angus, hoping to speak at the right second. A missed beat could ruin the audition for all. Without the help of two actors bringing their best reads, an actor could not hope to shine in the director's eye. With her "thank you", the chance faded and three different actors got their shot to rise up by raising one another up.
Now begins the hard work of making great actors and a great script add up to a great performance. The team has until January 20th of 2017 to find the magic when the show opens on the Frauenthal Stage in the black box format. The rehearsal schedule requires more than fifty nights, many hours up late for men with responsible jobs.
In the Black Box, the audience knees jut out into the actor's space. There's nothing more intimate than Black Box in theater, and that's why MCT sells this annual feature out yearly, often extending runs. The Drawer Boy is set in Clinton, Ontario, which is a farm town set near the eastern shore of Lake Huron. It will raise many comparisons to farm towns in Muskegon County, set near the eastern shore of Lake Michigan.
MCT keeps adding more chances for young people to act too, including a summer camp with several sessions. See the show. Follow the Facebook page for updates.
As for the thirteen actors who didn't get cast in The Drawer Boy? See their knees in the front row of the Black Box this January. You'll see them watching their fellow actors with careful attention, cheering the threesome on, as if theater were a spectator sport akin to basketball or mixed martial arts.
Thank you Fergus Grand Theater of Fergus Ontario for the Image.