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Geneva High School Students Audition For Fall Play: 'Laughing Stock'

We go behind the scenes to see what is really going on in the actors' heads as they head into their audition.

Oscar Wilde said he considered theater "the most immediate way in which a human being can share with another the sense of what it is to be a human being." The fine arts program at Geneva Community High School hopes to live up to Wilde's vision of theater as students begin to dive into a new fall production, Charles Morey's Laughing Stock. The story follows a small failing theater company as they clamor to stay afloat and try to run three shows—all in the same weekend.

The auditioning process is generally simple—the director, Batavia native Carrie Schafer, runs an auditioning process through cold reads, where she calls the actors in groups of six or more to run one scene, each actor playing a particular role and reading straight out of the script. Although the auditioning process is easy to follow, the actors, no matter how experienced or gifted they are in the craft, still have to fight their own nerves as they head into their first audition of the season.

"It's pretty nerve-wracking," said senior Becca Grischow, 17. "This show in particular has a pretty small cast." None of the upperclassmen get any sort of special treatment, as the cast only requires 16 people—a quota that can only be filled with the best crop of actors has to offer. Throughout auditions, it is evident that the show seeks out as eclectic of a cast as possible. 

"It's really scary to be auditioning," Grischow said. “There’s no promise of a role just because of seniority or how many shows you've been in here."

Schafer, however, prepared her students well, as she allowed everyone who inquired about the show to read the script and posted character descriptions outside of the auditorium for production hopefuls to see. This not only prepped the actors well, but helped move the audition process along more quickly.

"They are a lot more organized this year, definitely," said senior Elise Watson, 17. "All of actors got to sit outside of the auditorium with their scripts, allowing them to perfect their auditions, which I thought was awesome. The director is also really prompt with the results, too, which helps a lot."

The auditions aren't all easy, however. "In a way, these auditions are very different from others I've done," said senior Nick Bianchina, 17, "She broke us up into groups, but didn't tell us what roles we were going to perform until the actual audition. I don't know necessarily which role I'd be preparing for because she (Schafer) assigns them all herself." 

Indeed, some the actors quiver with fright as their names are called to face the hot, bright lights of the Geneva High School auditorium, which recently had a fresh new crop of seats installed and has even more renovations coming later in the fall. 

Unfortunately, the journey has to end for a lot of the candidates early on. Rejection is hard for anyone to deal with, as the cast list can be as harrowing as the fast-approaching headlights of a pickup truck. Senior Cole Downey, 17, gives advice to those who fear having to undergo the painful process of rejection.

"Look, worst case scenario, you go through an audition and end up meeting some of the most fantastic group of people you've ever encountered—whether you make it or not," Downey said, "These people, whether they're your family, friends, or scene partners, will always have your back and love you no matter what."

Laughing Stock is expecting to run later in the fall, at 7:30 p.m. from Nov. 9 to Nov. 11 in the Geneva High School auditorium.

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