Auditions

5 Years Later: In Shadow’s Shadow; 9/11, Neil Gaiman, and me.

Five years ago, I wrote this piece about 9/11 and how it affected me. I think this year it is once again fitting to post as this year saw the release of Starz’s adaptation of Gaiman’s classic.

So without further ado, I give you my blog IN SHADOW’S SHADOW; 9/11, NEIL GAIMAN AND ME.

After the re-posting of this blog, I’ll embed a special video that fits the piece.


In the days before September 11, 2001 my family had much to celebrate. The adoption of my sister was finalized, we attended a wedding of a cousin in Colorado, and got to spend lots of time with family. During that trip I made it a point to make sure we stopped at a bookstore. I have always been kind of a book nut, so no one was surprised on that Sunday afternoon, September 9, when I walked out with two brand new books, an anniversary copy of William Goldman’s The Princess Bride and a newer book that I had recently read a review of called American Gods. I was familiar with the author, Neil Gaiman, but not versed in his writings. This was to be my initial exposure.

On Monday, the 10th, I read Goldman’s book and fell in love with Buttercup and Wesley all over again. The Princess Bride is an American classic that never fails to spark my imagination. I probably watched the movie that evening, although I can’t remember for sure, but that is usually par for the course for me, read a book and if it’s available watch the movie. I know I did some prep work for auditions at Colby Community College the next day. They were doing the play Heaven Can Wait. If you don’t know that story, it’s about a boxer who dies before his time and is sent back into the body of a dying millionaire. He finds love and his world is changed.

I woke up Tuesday morning, September 11, and didn’t turn on the television. I’m a TV junkie, so this was a little weird for me. I didn’t turn on the radio, I didn’t have the internet in my little studio apartment, so there was no doing that. What I did do was pick up American Gods and begin to read.

American Gods is a “desert island” book for me. It’s a book I find challenging and inspiring and a true classic. It tells the story of a man, Shadow, who is released from prison a week early due to his wife’s untimely death. On his trip home, he finds himself being pursued and followed by a strange, older fella named Mr. Wednesday. Mr. Wednesday offers Shadow a job as his bodyguard. With really nothing left to live for, Shadow goes along for the ride. Along the way, while his zombie wife follows him and warns him, he discovers that the world he knew, isn’t what it seems.

American Gods is about the death of one world pushing against the on coming push of a new world. it’s about gods, myth, and magic. It’s about technology and its hold over us today. It’s about change. It’s about being lost in a world that is changing itself around us, reshaping itself, molding itself into something new and scary.

I read this book, all day, never once did my TV click on or did I tune in the radio. This would be betraying Shadow, and Mr. Wednesday, and Mr. Nancy, and Mr. Gaiman. I set, in a complete media blackout, while the world around me changed in a moment.

I went to auditions that night, which had been cancelled, and that’s when I found out, at 7pm CST, I found out what had happened. I, like everyone else, was in shock. Everything made sense now. The leaked words through thin plaster walls, dividing me from my neighbors, that “it looked like something out of Independence Day.” The lack of cars on the streets, the lack of activity anywhere. The fact that the radio station I worked for at that time, was airing the Presidents speech, when they hardly ever did things like that.

I felt like Shadow, lost in the shadows, not knowing what was going on. Lost, confused, shocked. I could take you to one of my “thinking spots” I went to that night. The place my friends Shane, Lacy, and Becca found me at. I can take you to the parking lot where the news was first delivered to me. I could show you the apartment we all went to and watched CNN, and Fox News, and Headline News, and CNBC and every other channel that was airing news. I could take you to the small Baptist church I went to and prayed. And even though I’m not a Baptist, it seemed like the thing to do.

I remember pouring over my Bible, looking for answers that didn’t come easily. Of drawing conclusions that probably weren’t there. The world around me had changed and I was fighting that change. I wanted to stay locked in a small bubble, in Shadow’s shadow, where maybe things weren’t safe but I couldn’t get hurt. Where I was forced to think, but not put thoughts into action.

Good literature forces us to think and to act. A life changing moment causes us to act and to think. For me those two worlds collided as a tower fell in New York City.

How has the world changed in 11 years? We’re a much more global society then we were then. As high speed and wireless internet has been developed along with cheaper, faster, more mobile computers and smartphones, more people are “online”. Information is passed along, thanks to social media sites, as they happen. In 2001, there was no global Facebook or Twitter. There were no smart phones and instant Instagram uploads. No YouTube. No Netflix. That’s life on a global, technological scale. What has happened to YOU personally in the last 11 years?

At the time, Shane, Lacy, and Becca were my best friends. My only friends. The 4 of us were almost inseparable. We went to church together, we went out to eat together, we were always at one another’s houses. We were hungry for a fresh spiritual awakening. And in the years that followed, we did grew up. They all three are married now, to wonderful, godly people. Becca has two beautiful daughters. Lacy quit her long time job and moved to a small town when she got married. Shane just bought a house. I floated from job to job working in various media jobs (radio and newspaper) and hospitality fields (hotel and restaurant). Last year, I lost my job and decided to go back to college. I rediscovered my love of acting and theater. I’ve been privileged to travel over the world. I’ve made new friends and reacquainted myself with some old ones. I’ve had a play published. I’m trying to make this writing/acting thing work for me while I juggle a job and schooling.

In many ways I’m in a similar place to where I was 11 years ago. Then I had just moved back to my home town and made some new friends and sparked an old friendship. Today I’m in a different town with probably as many friends, some new and some old. I didn’t act in Heaven Can Wait in the fall of 2001, I dropped out for personal reasons. I really wanted to do the fall musical here,  Curtains, but I didn’t get cast. That’s life though. In 2001 I was a scared 24 year old kid. Scared, not that terrorists had attacked us, but scared of change and what the meant. Now I’m a 35 year old man, and while I’m still scared of change, and I think we all are, I no longer fight change, I embrace it. And that, I think, would make Shadow proud.


Thanks for taking the time to read that. I know it’s different then what I normally and nominally blog about. But I couldn’t pass up the chance to reblog it.

Now, I’d like to present to you my short monologue, WARNING SHOTS, as performed by Jocelyn Goodwin.

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Warning Shots: A short monologue for young actors

What is this! Two blog posts in one week. What is this madness?

Well it’s been a productive week so far, in fact there may be another blog coming this week as well. You’ll just have to wait around and see won’t you?

Now, to get to the point of today’s posting. A couple of years ago, I saw an opportunity to write a short piece inspired by the American Civil War for a production in Washington DC. In response, I wrote Warning Shots. It is a dramatized retelling of the two attacks on Lawrence, KS before and during the Civil War; the first by “Border Ruffians” (pro-slavery supporters) the second by Confederate leader William Quantrill. In this monologuWare, a young girl named Aella (which means “whirlwind” in Greek and was the name of an Amazon warrior in Greek mythology) witnesses these attacks and tells her story and what she learned.

Warning Shots was performed originally by the EMU Theater company in Lawrence, KS in November of 2015 to great response. Since then, it has kind of sat on my shelf. But I recently asked the daughter of a friend to perform it for a recording. I then “sweetened”the recording and present it to you now.

Warning Shots performed by Jocelyn Goodwin, directed by William J Goodwin, produced and mixed by Everett Robert.

If you would like a copy of Warning Shots you can find it on my Scripts page, at New Play Exchange, or feel free to contact me directly. I am offering this script, FOR FREE to students, schools, and community theaters.

The Friday Free For All: The Audition Process

I’m still looking for a better name for my Friday posting then “The Friday Free For All” because I’m not giving anything away for free but my mind and posts.

And speaking of sharing my mind and thoughts, I was accused today in a British Lit class of “being too deep” obviously this girl hasn’t read any of my plays.

So until something better comes along, welcome to The Friday Free For All, where I will be discussing a play or musical I’ve seen or read, discussing the writing process, or going into thoughts about the art and craft of theater. Kind of whatever is on my mind regarding theater.

The Audition Process and Education

Twelve years removed from the first time I went to college, I recently went back to study English and Secondary Education. The purpose is to be, obviously, a teacher of English and Drama. I bring this up because my college recently held auditons for the Kander and Ebb musical Curtains, a fun musical set in the world of theater in the 1950s. And for the first time in nearly two decades of being involved in the theater, I wasn’t cast.

I understand not being cast, every show has limited parts and not every actor is suited for every role. It is obviously difficult for a woman to be cast in The Reduced Shakespeare Company’s The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged) or David Mamet’s Glengarry Glen Ross, since there are no parts for women or for a man to audition for Steel Magnolias since there are no parts for men. A show like Simon’s The Odd Couple only has a couple of female roles and a handful of male roles, there is no place to “create roles” for more actors, no matter how talented they are. Same with Jason Robert Brown’s The Last Five Years or the Jones/Schmidt musical I Do! I Do!, both of which has a cast of two (one male, one female) and no room for expansion.

My point to this is, the reason I wasn’t cast, wasn’t because I was wrong for any roles or that I gave a bad audition, in fact in both instances it was the exact opposite. I wasn’t cast because “we decided to cast people that we’ve worked with from the music department”.

Hey, I understand, not a problem. Rep theaters are like that. Close knit communties where you work with the same people over and over again. Community theaters are like that as well. My issue with this is, if that is what you are doing, then don’t call it an “Open Audition”. Or if you do call it that, be prepared to expand your ensemble or cast people you weren’t expecting too.

As a writer/director, I’ve written shows where I’ve precast someone before pen ever touched paper (or finger to keyboard), but in those instances I’ve never held “open auditions”, I’ve gone to that actor and said “hey I’ve got a role for you, are you interested?” and we move from there. But I’ve also seen what happens when a young person takes a leap of faith and auditions for a show for the first time and they nail it. The first show I ever did in college was The Fantasticks (a show I’ve been in love with ever since), our Mortimer had never acted before and was brilliant. A shining star in a production with lots of shining stars. It was also a show that, due to it’s limited cast size, we created an ensemble for. And everyone that auditioned and accepted the role, was involved in. I can only imagine the frustration, embarrassment, lack of self worth attitude that a young artist might experience after not getting cast (especially when the statement “everyone will get cast” is made from an instructor/director) in a school production (whether that be in grade school, middle school, high school, or college). I had some of those feelings after getting cut and I’ve been doing this for over 20 years in a variety of roles. That’s why I try and keep the casts in the shows I write flexible so you can work in as many or as few “extra characters” as needed. In Allie In Wonderland, they are Playing Cards and CookieMen. In The Absolutely Real Story of Tom Sawyer as told by Becky Thatcher, they are just extra kids with lines (in fact the character of Mary in Tom Sawyer was written thanks to a young actor wanting to join our company about a week or two after rehearsals had started. My co-director/producer, an English teacher and grade school principal, couldn’t say no and I had to write more lines. The actor was amazing and perfect in the role and I can’t imagine the show without her).

I’m not suggesting we coddle actors during their education and give out roles or create roles where they aren’t there. As I’ve said above, there are plays wth male only casts and plays with female only casts. And some actors just aren’t right for roles. But far too often I’ve seen people with little or no experience fall deeply, madly in love with theater because they were “given” a part or without prior experience.

Directors, when you hold open auditions or are preparing your season, keep that in mind. My suggestion, depending on different factors (ages, type of theater [i.e. community, educational, rep, professional], gender), is to work up a variety of different shows for your season. Do some that are more “exclusive” then others and do some that are very open to everyone. But if you are doing a large cast, open audition musical in which an ensemble can be worked in, work it in and be ready to be surprised by who comes out.