October 21, 2021

Hopefuls shine at CRT audition

JoeMcIntyre/staff photographer

Cassidy Halpin of Cortland dances during auditions for CRT Saturday.

Saturday marked day two of auditions for hundreds of actors traveling from all across the country to try out for three plays residents will see at Cortland Repertory Theatre this summer.

From Friday to Sunday, CRT Producing Artistic Director Kerby Thompson was looking for people to cast in his play, “Appointment with Death.”

Meanwhile, director Bert Bernardi, from New Haven, Connecticut and Mark Reynolds from New York City cast for their musicals “La Cage Aux Folles” and “Footloose,” respectively.

Thompson said this is the second year in which 3-days worth of auditions have been held at CRT, noting the theater coordinated its casting with that of the Merry-Go-Round Playhouse in Auburn and the Hanger Theater in Ithaca.

All of this meant the lobby of the Cortland Repertory Theater was filled with young talent from across the country, hoping to land a role.“It benefits everybody,” Thompson said.

”There’s a lot of people who come … from North Carolina, Ohio (and) one girl flew in from Colorado. We’re seeing more people and better people. It’s been very busy.”

In addition to the sheer number of people from which the directors have to select, the actors coming before the panel are far from amateurs.

Many have been performing for years, which can make casting much more difficult.

Bernardi, who has been coming to Cortland for over 10 years, said the fun part about casting is when he goes in knowing exactly what he’s looking for but ends up being blown away by a performance from someone he did not expect it from.

“That’s just sort of a fun moment as a director when you can just be open to what you see,” he said. “I think every director in an open audition wants everyone to be great, we want them to wow us.”

All morning, Thompson and the other directors had seen over 130 people audition for acting and singing roles.

By 4 p.m., Bernardi and Reynolds were looking for dancers for their musicals. It was sure be a test of the abilities of all 30 people who auditioned. The dancers would only have about a half hour to learn and perfect the steps to a dance routine from “Footloose” choreographer Matt Couvillon reviewed with them for the very first time.

Virginia native Grant Paylor, 20, said Saturday he came to Cortland by way of Elon University in North Carolina, where all of his theater friends highly recommended he try out at the Cortland Repertory Theatre.

“I’ve had a couple (friends) work here and they really love it,” he said.

“It’s been really welcoming and really warm. They want you to succeed which is really cool and sometimes rare.”
Of course, not everyone who participated in the callback was from outside the area.

Cortland natives Cassidy Halpin, 19, and Bailey Kote, 18, were among the people looking to land a spot in the theater’s summer productions.

After callbacks, both said they have had the privilege to work at the theater during last year’s production of “A Chorus Line.”

Saturday’s callbacks were a bit more of a challenge, they said, but they found the atmosphere to be just as welcoming.
“It’s a lot different, but everyone is still just as supportive and nice,” Kote said. “I love it.”

“There was definitely challenging moments, but those are always what inspire me to keep going and to keep working hard,” Halpin said.

“I like to dance and smile and have fun and that’s what this whole combination was about.”