After the final bell on a cold December day students at Kentlake High come to the green room to wait for their turn to audition.
There’s the outgoing and bubbly, the quiet and shy. The confident. The stage fright stricken. Soft voices that a panelist leans in to hear, and voices so big and vivacious they bounce off the walls. Pitch perfect and off key.
They make the walk one by one to the darkened school auditorium, lit only by a single spotlight shining down on center stage — a space that for five minutes belongs to anyone brave enough to try — and a muted glow from tabletop lamps covered in blue cellophane which gives just enough light for the panel of judges to write their comments by.
This is where a high school musical is born.
Auditions held in the days leading up to winter break for Kentlake’s spring musical, ‘Shrek,’ unfolded in three parts over the course of a week.
The first day of auditions began with a tale of Dopey throwing sponges at Snow White from Kentlake teacher and director, Pam Cressey.
“She (Snow White) wasn’t even supposed to know I was alive,” Cressey said. “I was hiding in a barrel, throwing sponges at Snow White because I was bored.”
Cressey, who has led Kentlake drama for more than 10 years, told the story of her role as Dopey to break the ice and to demonstrate a monologue, but also to make an important point: every role matters and every role is assigned with purpose.
After going over the tentative rehearsal schedule, fees and general outline of the production the group of just under 50 students received their first challenge: to learn and perform a short dance.
Laughter and colliding teenagers ensued and an hour and a half later they took to the stage in groups of five or six and demonstrated what they learned.
Cressey explained that the judges weren’t looking so much for perfection, but the ability to keep time and a student’s ability to be taught as well as their personality on stage.
On day two students came to the darkened auditorium to perform their monologue and part of a song from ‘Shrek’ of their choosing.
The monologue assignment was to pick which fairytale character they are and why.
“You get five minutes of my time to sell me on your talent,” Cressey told the students.
Rapunzel, Ariel, Godzilla, the woodsman, and a witch were just a few of the characters who appeared in the Kentlake performing arts center.
The fourth day of auditions was for final callbacks. Which was all three parts combined.
The first part of callbacks consisted of more dancing practice followed by students called to read scenes together, trying out their acting and seeing how they fit in specific roles.
Unlike the second round of singing and monologues which were closed auditions with students performing only in front of the panel of judges, the callbacks were open and the students got to watch one another perform.
Last but not least, students got to sing part of one of a handful of songs from ‘Shrek.’
As the students walked out of Kentlake long after the rest of the school had gone home and the sun had set, they chattered excitedly about the show.
For Cressey, however the night was far from over. The rest of the evening would be spent going over all the notes from the panelists and considering different casting possibilities before making the final decisions and making the final casting announcement.
All of the students who auditioned were cast in roles this time, including 24 students who are new to the Kentlake drama program with this production.
From there the real work starts. During the winter break from school the cast is expected to memorize their lines and in January rehearsals begin in earnest. There are a lot of long days and even more work ahead, but as Cressey told the students on day one, there’s something about theater that keeps them coming back once they’ve had a taste.
“Those of you who are back are back because it’s addicting,” Cressey said.