Wheaton Drama's "Bad Seed" Director Discusses Auditions
Wheaton Drama, Inc. (WDI) will present the thriller Bad Seed as the third show of their 2011-2012 season.
Adapted by Maxwell Anderson from the novel by William March, Bad Seed delves beneath the surface of what appears to be a perfect family. When there is a tragic accident on a school outing, Christine Penmark begins to question her own history and the true nature of her daughter Rhoda.
In advance of the Bad Seed November 6 and 7 auditions, Wheaton Drama publicity discussed the show with director Jeni Dees.
WDI: Why were you interested in directing Bad Seed?
JD: I am attracted to dark pieces. I love being shocked, angered or saddened by a piece of theatre. I want to be moved, and I enjoy that experience. Although this is an older piece and has been a famous movie and fodder for campy stage versions for years, I have never read the book or seen the movie. I read the script as part of the WDI play reading committee and loved it! I see it as a nostalgia-noir type of piece that is scary, not campy.
WDI: What is your vision for the show?
JD: I want to be true to the suspense and horror of the piece. I want audiences to know that their theatre experience will be akin to a Hitchcock movie: you know it is not real, but it still freaks you out and scares you anyway! I have been working with my production staff since June planning the design. The lighting and sound will set the eerie tone, the set will look like the perfect little home and the costumes will be straight out of 1955. All we need now are the actors to bring it to life!
WDI: How do you approach auditions?
JD: I am completely split down the middle in that I am half actor, half director. I think the advantage of having acting experience is that when you are director, you understand where the actors are coming from. I know the nerves that can attack during an audition…and the inner voice that keeps telling you to stop it! I like to do cold readings for my auditions. That means everyone is on an even playing field. I like to keep my auditions loose. That quiet, stiff, intense aura that can invade an audition just sucks the creativity out of the room!
WDI: Would you recommend that auditioners watch the movie version of Bad Seed?
JD: The movie is one interpretation of the Bad Seed story and characters. As a director, I have my own interpretation, and I want the actors to feel open to making the characters their own and not audition with a recreation of the movie. I believe that if you are truly interested in a script, you should read it before auditioning. I want to see bold choices during auditions and I live by one of the lessons I learned from improv: nothing is wrong! That being said, I want to see bold choices that make sense for the character.
WDI: The Bad Seed audition notice states, “The director strongly suggests that all actors read the script prior to auditioning. It is essential that the parents/guardians of the young ladies auditioning for Rhoda also be familiar with the script prior to the audition.” Where can auditioners find the script?
JD: Information on the script can be found at the publisher’s website: http://www.dramatists.com/cgi-bin/db/single.asp?key=1701. If you do not wish to purchase the script, your local library may have a copy, or may be able to order it for you from another library.
WDI: Why is so important for parents/guardians to be familiar with the script?
JD: Rhoda is a neat, quaint, pretty little girl on the outside, but she is a sociopath on the inside. This character carries a ton of the show on her shoulders. The actress cast as Rhoda must have the chops to play multiple levels for an extended period of time. The show is a big commitment for the actress and her parents. Anybody familiar with the story knows that Rhoda does very unpleasant things. This could make some parents uncomfortable, so I want people to know what the character is like before the audition.
WDI: Any other comments on Rhoda?
JD: I love working with all ages, so I am excited to have a young lady in such a big and challenging role. The character of Rhoda has many sides that you see as the show progresses. There is the sweet little daddy’s girl, the angry, jealous student, the shrewd, calculating killer, and so much more! This should be a dream role for a young lady. It is so different from what kids’ roles usually are – this sure isn’t Annie!
WDI: Once the show is cast, what is your directing process?
JD: I really love directing. As an actor’s director, I approach the rehearsal as the most important part of the process. We work hard and take a lot of time exploring the characters. I like working together as a group to create the final piece. I believe that if you have a great process, you will end up with a great product. I also always approach every show I direct as it being an ensemble piece. Maybe there are one or two characters with more lines, but I don’t believe in “leads” and “supporting”. I believe that everyone is equally important and I want to make sure everyone has his or her chance to shine. The author has written Bad Seed as such a gift to all the actors. Each character is interesting and has his or her special moment. This is one of those shows that there really isn’t a bad role!
WDI: You became involved with Wheaton Drama when cast as Eunice in A Streetcar Named Desire. What is your theatre background?
JD: I have two degrees from Southern Illinois University, Carbondale. I have a B.A. in Theatre – Acting and Directing, and one in Radio and Television – Performance. I was a full-time on-air personality for WCIL for three years before moving to the Chicago area to attend Second City. I graduated from the Second City Conservatory where I studied under Don Dipollo and Martin De Matt, along with Mick Napier, Norm Holly and Ann Libera. After graduating, I was cast at Comedy Sportz in Chicago. I performed and toured with Comedy Sportz for several years. I have performed throughout Chicagoland doing improv and theatre. I started directing after I left Comedy Sportz.
WDI: What are some of your favorite directing pieces?
JD: Talk Radio, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Hellcab, Smoke Scenes, and a rock and roll styled Romeo and Juliet. I have also taught acting classes and private coached for young adults.
Bad Seed auditions are at 1pm on Sunday, November 6 for the role of Rhoda. Auditions for adults will be at 7pm on Sunday, November 6 and Monday, November 7. Auditions and performances are at Playhouse 111, 111 N. Hale Street in downtown Wheaton. Callbacks for girls and adults will be at 7pm on Tuesday, November 8 at the College of DuPage.
An audition notice that includes character descriptions is available at http://www.wheatondrama.org. All Bad Seed roles are open and newcomers are welcomed.
Performances of Bad Seed are January 27 through February 19, 2012. Shows are Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays at 8pm and Sundays at 3pm. Bad Seed is licensed by Dramatists Play Service, Inc.
Wheaton Drama’s 2011-2012 season also includes On Golden Pond (11/18-12/11), Black Comedy (3/23-4/15), and Dirty Rotten Scoundrels (5/25-6/17).
For show tickets and information, please visit http://www.wheatondrama.org, or call 630-260-1820.
Article by Jo-Ann Ledger for Wheaton Drama publicity. Contact: email@example.com