St. John’s is filthy with theatre, with performance troupes of every style and experience level. If you’re looking to get into local theatre, the first step here (which is the first step in breaking into any new scene) is showing up.
Every actor needs an audience, and even if dramatic acting’s not your thing, then maybe musical, comedy or dinner theatre. Make a vacation out of it, and hit up Rising Tide in Trinity and the Gros Morne Theatre Festival on the west coast.
Most local thespians say to audition for everything that’s open and build contacts through that, while gaining experience. You don’t necessarily need Grenfell BFA cred to audition, and there are other ways to polish your acting chops.
“Get involved in as much as you can — choirs, dance, public speaking,” says Maggie Keiley, casting director and owner of Casting by Maggie, a local casting firm. “Anything like that will give you confidence and skills and facilitate connections with other people in the arts community.”
“It is a lot of work to prep for an audition but even if you do not get the roles you audition for, it is valuable experience.”
We’re in the midst of the summer theatre season, but there are productions being staged year-round, so it’s a great time to scout the production company that’s right for you. Throughout the month of August, Perchance Theatre at Cupids will feature mainstage productions of Twelfth Night, directed by artistic director Danielle Irvine, as well as Romeo & Juliet, directed by guest director Michael Waller. Shows run at 2pm and 7pm, Thursdays through Sundays. Check perchancetheatre.com for details.
Shakespeare by the Sea usually has open auditions in April or May. MUN’s Diploma in Performance and Communications Media classes (acting, directing) also hold open auditions for their one-scene and one-act shows, and you don’t need to be a student to snag a role.
If live theatre’s not your thing, there’s always Newfoundland’s film and TV scene. Keiley posts many opportunities on castingbymaggie.com and the Casting by Maggie Facebook page. Your cousin/roommate/coworker who was in the background of that episode of Republic of Doyle probably got the gig through Casting By Maggie.
The site features auditions and casting calls for speaking parts and background acting in productions happening locally, including photo shoots and voice-over gigs. Keiley also keeps a database of individuals (registration is free) who want to be notified when there’s a casting call for something specific (kids or pets, for example).
Beyond those first steps, if you’ve seriously been bitten by the acting bug, there are various schools to study theatre, including courses at MUN (mentioned above) and the Bachelor of Fine Arts at Grenfell.
“If you want to base yourself in NL and be a full time actor, learn to write and produce your own material, as well … creating roles that suit you rather than trying to fit into the roles that are offered,” says Keiley.