It was raining men at auditions for this year’s freshman drama production. Jan Lauderdale, adjunct drama professor, was surprised when 12 men showed up to audition for “Sarah, Plain and Tall.” Lauderdale rejoiced at the turnout, finding parts for every one of them.
Having enough men for drama productions has been an issue in John Brown University’s past. Two years ago, Lauderdale was forced to switch from her planned “Arsenic and Old Lace” to a different show with an all female cast, “Steel Magnolias,” when only one male came to auditions.
When selecting a show takes so much time, having to find a new one on short notice can be devastating.
“It’s the biggest part of what I do, definitely the most time consuming,” says Lauderdale. For the freshman show, the amount of male parts greatly influences her selection process. She looks for plays that have six or less males with some flexibility. For “Sarah, Plain and Tall,” a minimum of five guys was needed, but Lauderdale was able to place all 12 freshmen guys in the show, which will be preformed for two weekends in September and October.
Lauderdale attributed the high male turnout to her hard work and new method in spreading the word about auditions.
“I was more proactive about getting the word out, and that paid off,” she said.
In the past, she relied on previous cast members to encourageparticipation by incoming freshman. This method brought in two relatives this fall.
This was the first year Lauderdale signed up students at ERP and followed up with emails about audition times.
Freshman Connor Gooderl, who will play the part of Ephraim, spoke with Lauderdale when he came for a visit.
“I love the camaraderie of being part of the cast. It’s almost like a family,” Gooderl said.
The increase in communication brought growth to the drama department as well: four new freshmen, three women and one man, declared drama minors this fall, an amazing addition to the former lone drama minor.
Lauderdale’s response to the growth of the drama department was that “it’s blossoming because I have finally found the best way to get the word out.”
The hardest part of casting is deciding on callbacks, Lauderdale said.
“I don’t like to turn anybody away. I have a lot of talent that turns up,” she said.
She makes her selections based on chemistry between actors. This play allowed her to keep all the males that showed up, since one actor could have played quite a few parts.
The freshman production was created five years ago to eliminate competition for actors between the musical and the play, but musical director, Donna Rollene, did not have the same male turnout as Lauderdale at her auditions in the spring. Her reaction was “utter disappointment” since she has “never had that happen so drastically.”
Rollene reevaluated over the summer and switched her choice to “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown,” which has a smaller cast and gives her flexibility to have a male or female Snoopy.