‘Pan’ auditions draw kids of all ages

Published 9:11 pm Saturday, January 10, 2009

Hundreds of children and adults lined the halls of the Suffolk Center for Cultural Arts on Saturday.

Sitting on the floor and leaning against walls, people of all ages murmured among themselves, practiced songs, read scripts and wrung their hands as they anticipated their turn.

In a remote rehearsal room down the hall, groups of four filed in to audition for the center’s production of “Peter Pan.” Christmas carols, hymns, patriotic songs and show tunes were belted by vivacious adults and whispered by shy, nervous children.

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Director Michael Bollinger applauded each person, encouraging them through timidity and mistakes.

“We’ll stay as long as people show up,” Bollinger said. Auditions were scheduled from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., but more than 100 people already had shown up before noon. Auditions also will be held Monday from 6 to 8 p.m.

“Peter Pan” will be the first full-scale, homegrown production at the Suffolk Center for Cultural Arts. The beloved musical about the boy who refused to grow up will have four performances at the center, March 13-15.

Cynthia DeWitt, who hopes to be a pirate in the production, came to audition because she identifies with Peter, she said.

“This performance is the weekend before my 50th birthday,” she said. “Peter Pan is about not wanting to grow up, and I don’t want to grow up!” she said.

Most children who came out to the auditions were just looking for fun.

“I thought it would be fun to do,” said Rhys Franklin, 11.

Others, however, see “Peter Pan” as their steppingstone to bigger and better things.

“Here’s the time to let the whole city of Suffolk know they have a star!” said 15-year-old Levon Linton, a King’s Fork High School student.

Bollinger, the former director of the cultural arts center, said he hopes to cast equal numbers of males and females, even though the play has traditionally had mostly male actors. He has hired a professional actor for the role of Captain Hook, but all other roles are open to be filled by the auditions, he said.

Shannon Greene, a 15-year-old Lakeland sophomore, said she’s been in school plays, but wanted the chance to be in a larger-scale production.

“I really like to act,” she said. Shannon wasn’t looking for any part in particular, and even said she’d like to work backstage if she doesn’t make the cast.

Abby Putnam, 14, said she loves to act, but rarely gets the chance.

“This is the first thing that’s actually been in the area,” she said.

Most people auditioning were from the Hampton Roads area, Bollinger said, but some came from surrounding counties and even North Carolina. He will cast local actors as much as possible, he said.

People who want to audition on Monday should be above the age of 8, arrive at 6 p.m., and bring a personal photo. They also should come prepared to sing 16 bars of a song, a cappella or with the center’s pianist. People who audition should be prepared to commit to rehearsals Jan. 17 through March 12, two to four nights a week and weekends, as well as the performance dates. Most roles also require the cast members to provide their own costumes. Costume guidelines will be provided. The estimated cost of the costumes is $30-$60.

For more information, call 923-0003, ext. 3027.