by Jen Martin
“How do I join?” – I hear this question fairly often about Carrollwood Players. For some reason, community theaters sometimes seem to have an air of exclusivity and mystery when it comes to their players. I’d like to take this opportunity to dispel a few myths while telling the story of how I came to be a “Carrollwood Player.”
I hadn’t done very much theater before I moved back to Tampa a few years ago, but I knew I wanted to keep doing it. I had to do some research about the local community theaters before going to auditions, so in the fall of 2008, I summoned up my courage and headed over to see The Mousetrap at Carrollwood Players. I remember thinking about how intimate the space was and how close I was to the actors. I also remember thinking it was a first-rate production. The cast was excellent, as were the costumes. But what really knocked my socks off was that set! It was exquisite and far beyond what I thought community theater was capable of. I decided that Carrollwood Players had incredible production quality and I wanted to “join”.
I was ready, primed, and excited about finding a place that invested so much love into its shows. Plus, it was close to my house, which is a great bonus. The next step was finding an audition. Finding them was easy; a quick internet search revealed auditions….for plays. Plays? Ugh, I wanted a musical! I waited. And waited. And waited. For several years.
Then, in the summer of 2011, there was an audition listing for a Holiday Musical at Carrollwood Players. Even though I was confused about the show’s premise, I knew it was a chance to sing at a theater I admired. I prepared a short song, ratcheted up my courage and ventured in on a Sunday evening in August.
My heart was pounding as I pulled into the parking lot. “This place has The Players. These are serious actors. Why didn’t I volunteer as crew a few shows ago to get a foot in the door? I bet this place is super clique-y. I have only been in a handful of shows. I bet that’s not enough!” My head was swimming as I walked in the door.
Auditioning was very straightforward. I filled out a form with my basic info. and acting history. No need for a headshot or resume (that was a huge relief for a newbie like me.) The director, Tiger Von Pagel, gave us a speech about what the show was going to require and how the evening would go. I was calming down, especially when she made her own husband audition. It was a small gesture, but it was professional and alleviated a lot of my worries. I had some nerves, but I made it through. A few days later Tiger called me and offered me a part.
The Holiday Revue wasn’t a traditional musical, but it got me in the door. After that show, I started auditioning for the plays as well. Much to my delight, in September of 2013, Carrollwood Players came back to musicals with Nunsense. That show’s success heralded a new beginning of sorts for Carrollwood, with a decision to attempt at least one musical per season. I know from personal experience that putting on a musical will get more actors to audition, and some might even stay for the plays, like I did.
Since “joining” in 2011, I’ve been involved in at least ten productions at Carrollwood Players and am now on the Board of Directors. One of the things I love the most about this theater is that, even with my level of involvement, I still have to audition. I still get nervous, and I still worry about getting a call back, because casting isn’t based on who you know.
When I see a scared new face at a Sunday evening audition, I try to reach out, because I remember so well the daunting feeling of trying to “join”. I remember how much it took to walk through that door for the first time, and how much a friendly smile and professional process made it so much easier. Looking back, walking through that door was a pivotal moment in my life; I had no idea what I was getting into, but I’m so glad I came and tried to “join” on that Sunday in August. And I hope you will, too!