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But with only an hour left until the audition,
there's no time to dwell on this silent
Arriving at Theatre 3, I'm greeted by
Improbable Fiction's production manager,
Mal Houston. I fill out a form asking for
personal specifics, including previous
theatre experience. Those after-school
drama classes seem even more feeble when
committed to paper.
I smile awkwardly for a casting photo
and then Mal explains the ubiquitous role
of production manager, which entails
everything from OH&S, to assisting the
director with casting, to managing the
"[Canberra Rep] Council at the beginning
of the year do a budget, and they allocate so
much money per show," he says. "It's your
job to make sure that each of the elements
[fit] the budget -- it could be the amount of
money available for set, costumes, hiring
specialist equipment for lighting and sound."
While the ACT government assists with
rent, maintenance and upkeep of Theatre 3,
funding largely comes from the public.
"Ticket sales are your major source," Mal
says. "Donations are very important to us,
we need more and more and more."
"But ticket sales, certainly," adds Rep
council member Sam Hannan-Morrow.
"It's what ultimately keeps us going as a
Sam is here today wearing his actor's hat,
and is filling out the personal particulars
form to try out for the roles of Arnold and
perhaps also Clem Pepp -- which worries me
Sam, 35, has been acting for well over a
decade, although he was "prone to putting
on impromptu shows" as a toddler.
A public servant by trade, he has appeared
in numerous Rep productions, including
its 2012 shows Pride and Prejudice and
Speaking in Tongues. Even so, the stage
veteran confesses he still gets nervous
before an audition.
"Nerves are a constant problem. When I
was auditioning for Pride and Prejudice, I
was literally shaking. But that can't change
what you're doing," he says. "Basically, for
me, you just ride the fear."
Any anxiety is well-concealed when Sam
strolls into the auditorium and confidently
takes the stage in front of director Corille
"Feeling a bit nerdy today?" Corille asks,
seated in the front row.
"Actually, I think I'm more interested in
Arnold," replies Sam. "I like the constant
thread he provides, particularly when
everybody else starts jumping off the deep
end in act two."
"Yes, it's a nice balance," Corille agrees,
spending a few minutes discussing Arnold's
motivations to assess Sam's grasp of the
Improbable Fiction marks Corille's 30th
anniversary as a Rep director. While friendly
and unintimidating, she leaves no question
as to what she wants from each character
-- and the auditioning actor -- with her
Sam's readings for both roles are
impressive, however, earning Corille's high
praise -- and a spot in tomorrow's group
Afterwards, I sit down for a debrief with
Sam and his partner, Heather Spong, a
seasoned Rep actor herself.
"I think one of the tricks for an audition
is to go in not too heavily rehearsed," Sam
explains. "Because if the director wants you
to do it a different way, you need to be in a
position to do what they want."
Heather, who has also earned a call back
for her audition today, agrees that flexibility
is crucial -- but warns against under-
"If the director wants the lines to be learnt,
then there's a lot of time of typing things out,
printing them off and putting them in spots
where you spend a lot of time -- like the back
of the toilet door," she says.
"With this [audition], it was 'be familiar
with' -- basically, every time you've got a
spare five or 10 minutes, you read either
the parts you're having to read, or the entire
Heather works full-time in the Rep office
during the week, fondly describing the
organisation as "an extended, crazy family"
-- and, in fact, met Sam while they were both
working on the Rep's production of Life x3
"We've had a lot of people who have
met here and have subsequently got
married," Heather says. "Later in the year
one of my friends from uni, she and her
partner didn't meet here, but they've been
so heavily involved in Rep they're actually
getting married here. We've had a couple
of weddings here. When old members die,
we've actually held wakes here, because it's
a family thing."
The time has come, then, for me to
attempt to join the family. I'm beckoned
back into the theatre, where Corille asks
how familiar I am with the play. I tell her the
truth. She does not seem impressed.
I take the stage, script in shaking hand,
and sit down opposite the designated line-
reader, Naoné Carrel. It's my first mistake.
"Your character is presenting his work to
the writers' group," Corille says. "So I think
you'd be better off standing up."
I comply, and take a deep breath before
commencing. Corille interrupts before I've
reached the end of the first page. I need
to stop shuffling my feet and project my
voice to the back of the room. Clem Pepp is
enjoying his moment in the spotlight, Corille
explains, and should be dominating the
"From the top," she instructs.
I try again. More interruptions. And again.
We reach the end of the extract. Corille asks
me to skip through to the interrogation
scene. This is not a good sign.
"'Instead of picking up those glasses, your
own glasses, you picked up these glasses --'"
"Stop. 'You picked up these glasses',"
Corille intones. "You have her on the spot,
right where you want her. You're turning the
screws and enjoying it."
I'm sweating. My mouth is going dry.
Christ, I've lost my place in the script.
"There," I continue after a long pause,
"you took off your reading glasses whilst you
attacked her --"
"Circle around behind Naoné," Corille
instructs. "You should be intimidating her,
relishing this moment."
"In short, you took the wrong glasses,
Miss Green --"
"Thank you, Douglas," Corille says. "We'll
let you know."
There it is. The euphemism of death. A
relieving moment for all involved.
It's this weeding process, of course, that
guarantees a passionate (and proficient)
performance by the Canberra Repertory
ensemble when Improbable Fiction opens
on November 22.
Such dedication has also kept the
Canberra Repertory Society running for 80
years -- with many more to come, no doubt.
Improbable Fiction runs at the Canberra Repertory
Theatre from November 22 to December 8.
A: Theatre 3, 3 Repertory Lane, Acton
P: 6247 4222 W: canberrarep.org.au
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