On Friday evening, a line of about 10 actors filed onto the empty stage at UNLV’s intimate Paul Harris Theatre. They sat in a row of plain chairs and then one by one stood to deliver two-minute monologues and, in some gutsy cases, a snippet of a capella song. Watching—and judging—from the audience was a collection of prominent Las Vegas producers and casting directors. When finished, the 10 brave souls filed out and 10 new ones filed in to repeat the process over the course of two days.
For non-actors, Las Vegas Theatre Alliance’s second-annual community-wide auditions sound like an anxiety dream; the only thing missing is looking down and realizing you’re not wearing any pants. For the local theater community, these auditions are a crucial step in the scene’s evolution and growth.
“It’s hard to make a living as an actor [in Las Vegas],” says Mindy Woodhead, executive director of Las Vegas Theater Alliance. “There’s a lot of work for singers, dancers and acrobats, but to use language to tell stories is not our most popular form of theater. We have a thriving nonprofit arts scene, but it needs to pick up momentum.”
Woodhead says that the local theater scene is splintered into islands of talent. And because it’s so diffuse, talented actors miss out on opportunities and eventually relocate to cities where work is more abundant. Last year, Woodhead launched the annual community-wide audition event to solve the problem. “The goal is twofold: to support producers and make sure actors have enough work.”
The combined auditions included community, university and for-profit theater, along with voice-over, film and television work. The effort brought together 33 casting professionals, nearly 100 actors and 25 volunteers, with sponsorship from VegasAuditions.com and Sunrise Coffee.
Perhaps the most unique casting director was Brigid Kelly, coordinator for the standardized patient acting program at Touro University. She was looking for actors to help train doctors and nurses. It’s a paid position, essential for performers looking to scrape together a living in Las Vegas. “You can make money and give back to humanity,” Kelly says.
Last year, Jamie Carvelli auditioned and ended up getting signed with a casting agency that led to paid commercial work. “It was really fun and nerve-wracking,” she says. “And I got a lot of opportunity from it.” This year, Carvelli was back, but in the opposite role. She sat in the audience representing both Cockroach Theatre (as casting director) and A Public Fit Theatre Company (doing promotions).
Carvelli says the community-wide audition really boosts the theater community. “It helps us as actors be seen, [and] on the other end as casting directors, it helps us find talent we didn’t know existed.”