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Open Auditions Blog

A POV from the panel: Northern Stage's open auditions

Edward Cole, the new Artistic Director of Alphabetti Theatre, reflects on his time spent at Northern Stage’s open auditions.



Last month, as the summer sun finally arrived in Newcastle, a group of local directors, agents, producers and theatre makers were invited by Natalie Ibu to spend an entire weekend in a cool, dark theatre – well away from the warm weather – to watch some magnificent local actors offer their monologues for a set of open auditions at Northern Stage.

I felt very fortunate to be invited to join the panel in my capacity as the incoming Artistic Director at Alphabetti Theatre, where I started work at the beginning of June. Since being founded by Ali Pritchard over a decade ago, Alphabetti has rightly earned its place as a cornerstone of the North East (and national) fringe theatre scene, and it is the privilege of a lifetime to work at such a well-renowned, supportive theatre, in the city I love and call home.

One of the principal responsibilities for any Artistic Director is to develop a detailed knowledge of the people working in their region, and to ensure that local freelance creatives are given opportunities to introduce themselves, start conversations, and work. Open auditions provide the perfect chance for actors to say hello and show what they can do, while directors can broaden their database of local talent, and keep people in mind for future projects. Win-win. As such, I didn’t think twice about ditching the suncream and settling in at Stage 2 to see what our fantastic region has to offer – and I wasn’t disappointed.

Auditioning takes bravery. Standing in front of a room of strangers (or colleagues) and bearing your soul, spilling your guts or trying to summon a few laughs is enough to make most people run a mile. But as we all know, actors are not ‘most people’. Time and again, as one auditionee would leave the stage and head back out into the sun, the panel would turn to each other and smile, nod or raise an eyebrow in a way that said, ‘another belter’. The quality of performances we saw was quite incredible.

And then there were the stories. Most memorable was the gown-wearing belle of the ball who ducked out of her end of year prom still wearing her Disney Princess-esque dress, only to stun us with a monologue, before gathering her things and dashing back to the dancefloor. There was the humble gentleman who had no idea that he had even been submitted to audition, as his wife had done so secretly on his behalf, encouraging him to reignite his passion for acting. And special mention must also go to the first timers – those who gave us the honour of witnessing their first ever audition. Debuts were seen from the young and the young at heart, and every single one impressed.

Newcastle is a city clearly bursting at the seams with creativity and theatrical enthusiasm. I can only thank Natalie and Northern Stage for organising these auditions, and for putting so much emphasis on opportunity and development through the brilliant Scaling Up programme. But laying on opportunities is only half the job, and such initiatives would be nothing without the people who step forward, sign up and have a go. Over the weekend we saw a total of 90 incredible actors, and thanks are due to every single one for their bravery and enthusiasm. I’d also like to extend the thanks of the whole panel to all those who applied but were unsuccessful, this time, with almost 400 people throwing their hat into the ring.

I have always believed that the North East is home to a vibrant, thriving, diverse theatre scene. Supporting and developing that scene has been a passion of mine for years and is what led me to my new job at Alphabetti. These open auditions were a perfect reminder of the vast wealth of creativity we have in this region, and I can’t wait to see what the future has in store for everyone involved.

Edward Cole