By Joe Szekeres
And what is ‘Next to Normal’?
Just ask local Durham Region community theatre actor, Shael Risman.
“Next to Normal’ is musical theatre, but it is more than that. It is a discussion and awareness about mental illness, and how important this story is in talking about this disease and giving people permission to laugh and cry and talk about it, and not shy away from it.” he says over the phone.
Risman will be making his directorial debut with the Broadway musical staged by the Whitby Courthouse Theatre at the Whitby Centennial Building. The play is opening November 2018.
‘Next to Normal’ is not your traditional style Broadway musical as it deals with the serious subject matter of mental illness, a far cry from the boy meets girl, boy falls in love with girl, happy ending. For Risman, this musical is a challenge for him and his dedicated production team. He hopes that anyone who has ever considered getting involved in a local community theatre play, either on stage or as crew, would consider auditioning for him or volunteering behind the scenes.
To answer why any interested people should consider auditioning for this musical or getting involved in backstage work, Shael further added that he has “a personal life long mission to enlighten, educate as well as entertain, and I take this very seriously.” Bravo!
This, my friends, is the reason why I have stayed involved in the local community theatre scene for over thirty years as an actor, director, crew member and writer. Each of us, from performer, to production team member and backstage crew, has an obligation to enlighten, to educate and to entertain our audiences every time a play is mounted, and we are to take this obligation seriously.
It is true the audition process is nerve wracking as an actor prepares for it in so many ways. What song should I select? Is it in my proper vocal range? How long should I practice it? Will there be an accompanist or am I to provide my own music? What if I don’t sing it well in front of the selection team? Yes, these are legitimate questions and yes, I’ve been there, Shael has been there, and music director Nick Denis has been there as well. Sometimes we do make a callback, sometimes we don’t. Sometimes it might boil down to us and another person, and the other individual receives the role. Yes, there is the let down if one is not cast. I remember these feelings, Shael and Nick also recognize these feelings as they too have been there and have been turned down.
But, it is the fact we have taken initiative and wanted to prove to ourselves that we will give it our best shot, try it and see what happens. Yes, it is the adrenaline rush, the excitement, the apprehension, this all goes hand in hand with the audition process. Is it worth all of this? Yes.
Working backstage, behind the scenes (costumes, set building, painting lighting etc) are all key areas where volunteers are needed. Sometimes, close friendships are made in volunteering either onstage or backstage. We are all linked and bonded by a common thread; the love of live theatre, performance, and sharing that love with local audiences. What better feeling is there than this?
I heartily encourage anyone who would like to get involved in a musical to consider auditioning for ‘Next to Normal’ or volunteer backstage to make the magic come alive. Where can you get further information about this production? Visit their website for further information on what you need to prepare. Auditions will be held April 22, 23 and 24, 2018 at the Whitby Courthouse Theatre, 416 Centre Street South. For further information or questions, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.