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Arsenic and Old Lace

Auditions for “Arsenics and Old Lace” by Joseph Kesselring:

WHEN: Saturday, January 15: 1-4 PM and Sunday, January 16: 6-9 PM

You need attend only one of these two days.

Callbacks (if needed) Tuesday, January 18: 7-10 PM

WHERE: Village Theatre Guild of Glen Ellyn, located at the corner of Park Blvd. and Butterfield Road.

YOU MUST BE FULLY VACCINATED against the COVID-19 virus to audition for this play. Proof of full vaccination against COVID-19 is required for any participation at Village Theatre Guild and may be validated with a copy of your vaccination card or the card itself.  Masks are required at all times while waiting to read and may be removed while reading. All VTG staff are fully vaccinated. VTG has instituted many protocols to address mitigation efforts against the spread of the COVID-19 virus. We have improved the air filtration in our space, enhanced cleaning procedures, and have made hand sanitizers available throughout the theatre.

Synopsis: A clever combination of the farcical and the macabre, centered on two elderly sisters who are famous for their numerous acts of charity. Unfortunately, however, their charity includes poisoning lonely wayfarers. The two women are assisted in their crimes by their nephew who believes he is Teddy Roosevelt. Matters get complicated when a second nephew — a theater critic — discovers the murders and a third nephew appears, having just escaped from a mental institution.

ROLES/CHARACTER DESCRIPTIONS:

3 women, 11 men (All roles unpaid.)

Auditions will consist of cold readings from the script.

ROLE CONSIDERATIONS: The director plans to cast as traditionally as possible and minding the time-period the play is set in as well (1940s). Ages noted below are suggested and if an actor can play the part, they will be considered. Additionally, the parts noted with physicality need to be able to BE PHYSICAL in the role both acting and minor fight choreography. Depending on audition turn out, we may consider a female for some of the male roles.

A huge challenge for every actor performing in this show will be for him or her to effectively make the role his or her own. Show differentiation from not only others’ past takes on the roles, but also great clarity between you and your fellow actors’ portrayals of the parts

ROLES/CHARACTER DESCRIPTIONS:

WOMEN

Abby Brewster (Female 50-70 years old or able to play age) A darling lady, and the very model of Victorian charm and grace, who poisons elderly gentlemen, with her sister as an act of charity. She and her sister Martha seem to be the absolute embodiment of the values and polite society of a bygone age. Both ladies are happy, healthy, lucid, and spry. The Aunt to Teddy, Jonathan, and Mortimer.

The actor wishing to secure the role of Abby Brewster must have a truly impressive knowledge of garnet rings, especially those of the English variety. They seem to be the absolute embodiment of the values and polite society of a bygone age. Of the two sisters, Abby is clearly the more dominant. As such, the actor who reads for this role must have an understanding of her dominance.

Martha Brewster (Female 50-70 years old or able to play age) Very sweet, but more submissive than Abby. Martha still is a strong woman She does have a backbone, so don’t portray her as a weakling. She and her sister have lived together for many, many years. Their personalities and pecking order around each other have been firmly rooted for eons. Many of Martha’s qualities are mirrored in her sister. Always wears a high collar. The Aunt to Teddy, Jonathan, and Mortimer. The goal here is to show distinction from her sister and attack the role with truth but without stereotypes.

And those who take on the roles of Abby and Martha Brewster have the greatest challenge of all in creating unique, distinct interpretations. Yes, these wonderful older ladies have some very similar physical, verbal, emotional, psychological, and other traits. Still, GO FURTHER. Show how they are different. Show how they are their own person. And don’t obsess exclusively over the moral pointed out earlier. Dominance and submission are not the exclusive game to be had in shaping the personalities of the Brewster sisters. What’s more, and this applies to all actors in the show, don’t just use your dialogue. Show your sense of Abby every bit if not more when she is silent as well as when she is speaking. Do not play a stereotypical old woman as you read for Abby. This is the mark of a novice performer. Neither should you to play the part as if she’s 16. There’s absolutely room to make use of a character voice. In fact, the roles of both aunts demand one. However, remember that both Abby and Martha are happy, healthy, lucid, and spry. Show these characters with some vitality. Something else to keep in mind, both aunts have AWESOME one-liners that will just send shockwaves of laughter through the audience. Find them. They’re there, and your understanding of how they should be delivered will make or break your ability to secure this role for yourself in audition.

Elaine Harper (Female 25-40 years old or able to play age) An attractive girl, daughter of Rev. Dr. Harper, and Mortimer’s fiancée. Yet, she really doesn’t play well the role of a minister’s daughter. She is surprisingly wise in the ways of the world for a minister’s daughter. She is a little bit wily, sassy, and absolutely sharp. We witness Elaine progress from casual happiness, to utter bliss, to twisted confusion, to stark fear, to godsend relief, and back to casual happiness again.
She’s a deceptively interesting character. She is refinement mingled with the realities of a life that’s been lived a bit beyond what might be expected given her upbringing. The actor seeking this role will show genuine zest and spunk. Truly, this role will be a challenge to perfect. The actor who seeks to take on Elaine must show tremendous versatility in audition. Sell every moment of Elaine. Practice transitions, and show why Mortimer is willing to settle down with this gal.

ROLES/CHARACTER DESCRIPTIONS:

MEN

Mortimer Brewster (Male 30-50 years old or able to play age) Nephew of Abby and Martha, brother to both Teddy and Jonathan Brewster. He’s very likable and is in love with and engaged to Elaine Harper. A good-hearted cynic who is about to have his world turned upside down. PHYSICAL ROLE.

His day job is writing theatre reviews of the latest dregs premiering on Broadway and thereabouts. While you may find this potential line of work interesting, Mort hates it. His original position with the paper had him covering real estate, “which he actually knew something about.” At any rate, he’s also a novice writer of nonfiction. In a nutshell, he’s an exceptionally intelligent guy who doesn’t have proper outlet for his talents. As a result, he finds himself fuming with criticism for all things both in and outside his work life. Even so, he is a likable guy, and should be played as such. His care and affection for his dear aunts are immediately evident in the opening encounters he has with them. He’s also deeply in love with Elaine Harper, a neighbor of his aunts. She’s an exceptionally rare find for him, and he’s quickly realized that she’s the one who he cannot allow to slip away. Some of Mort’s natural intellect slips out in a few of his opening lines. However, his real talents are revealed as he frantically thinks on his feet in order to preserve the best possible outcome for his beloved aunts once he realizes the full extent of their shenanigans. This selfless dedication to his family should exist as further evidence of his genuine decency. The actor who seeks this role must be comfortable to utterly let go from day one of the rehearsal process. Yes, the play requires an extremely strong ensemble. However, Mortimer controls the show. If Mortimer is weak, the show will not work. As such, we need to see absolute, raw energy in audition. As soon as the first body is discovered, Mortimer must be electrified. He carries that energy all the way through the duration of the show, with the possible exceptions of when he is tied up and when he departs with Elaine at the close of Act 3. In the audition show your understanding of the role. Mortimer must be played with an apt understanding of physical comedy, perfection of timing in dialog delivery, likability in presence, overemphasis in presentation, and an ability to display agility in navigating the rapidly changing circumstances of each scene.

Teddy Brewster (40-60 years old or able to Play age) Very likable, kindhearted brother to Mortimer and Jonathan, Nephew of Abby and Martha Brewster, Teddy is a man who believes that he is the 26th President of the United States, Theodore Roosevelt. Extreme dedication and energy are necessary while charging up a flight of stairs and screaming “CHARGE!” PHYSICAL ROLE.
Seriously, this is of paramount important to the role. Teddy is a very likable fellow. Showing the audience when he’s not Teddy is just as important. Try to find moments when the real Teddy Brewster shines through. He’s a wonderful acting opportunity. Show us what you can do.

Jonathan Brewster (40-60 years old or able to play age) Nephew of Abby and Martha Brewster, brother to Teddy and Mortimer. Jonathan is a psychopath who has numerous murders to his credit and no scruples whatsoever. He is creepy and a very shady kind of guy. He’s a killer, who loves his business and he’s got an unbelievably short temper. As a child, he practiced his penchant for inflicting inhumane suffering on others with his brother Mortimer. He’s not predictable, and he’s certainly far from in-control of his emotions. He’s the antagonist, and he does an amazing job at it. Keep in mind that he’s been through numerous plastic surgeries to alter his appearance. The actor who seeks this role will display a truly menacing presence in audition. Truthfully, this guy doesn’t have a single line of dialog written that is intended to illicit laughter. Anyway, he really is a very fun role to take on, and he provides a pretty interesting acting challenge. Clearly, he harbors a very deep-seeded animosity for Mortimer. We can speculate that this aggression developed out of the jealousy he held for the affection shown to Teddy and especially to Mortimer by their parents and, presumably, the greater family in general. The actor seeking this role should present him as severely sedate and looming in one instant, and wildly aggressive and animalistic in the next. He is one who is in control in most circumstances. When he cannot gain control, he does not become a pussy cat, but he definitely evades the scene rapidly. Show some creativity in audition.

ROLES/CHARACTER DESCRIPTIONS:

MEN

Dr. Einstein (45-55 years old or able to play age) A German plastic surgeon, with an accent to prove it. Right hand to Jonathan, Dr. Einstein is mousey and submissive to him, but that doesn’t mean that he doesn’t know how to control him or at least how to attempt to control him. Einstein should be viewed as a good guy whose life has gone bad. The audience truly must sympathize with this guy. With somewhat of a ratty appearance, his face wears the benevolent smirk of a man who lives in a pleasant haze of alcohol. There is something about him that suggests the unfrocked priest. Now, take and do with these notes as you will in audition. However, keep in mind that Einstein should not be played overly intoxicated. The actor who seeks this role should also be able to display a thoroughly proficient ability to nail a German accent as well. This really is important.

The Reverend Dr. Harper (50-70 years old or able to play age) (Cameo) We only see Elaine Harper’s father in the opening scene; a Doctor of Divinity, and the minister to the church next door to the Brewster house. The Brewster sisters have seen many ministers come and go over the years, but they seem to be particularly fond of Dr. Harper and vice versa. The actor portraying Dr. Harper should display a sense of polish, refinement, and mild-mannered sensitivity towards others. Still, he’s no pushover. He is not in favor of Mortimer and Elaine’s relationship. He displays an inexhaustible sense of kindness for the Brewster sisters, but his affection for them has suffered a bit in recent months as his daughter has begun dating their nephew Mortimer. He feels very much at ease giving voice to his concerns for his daughter and her relationship with the Brewsters’ nephew.

Officer Brophy (25-45 years old or able to play age) (Cameo) The first police officer we meet in the show, Brophy is a thoroughly likable sort of fellow. Is making his rounds collecting Christmas toys for the needy. Some PHYSICAL work.

Officer Klein (25-45 years old or able to play age) (Cameo) A flatfoot Brooklyn officer who makes his rounds with Officer Brophy collecting Christmas toys.

ROLES/CHARACTER DESCRIPTIONS:

MEN

Officer O’Hara (any age) ( Cameo) He is the quintessential example of an Irish-American police officer: Full of life, good natured and played big. Well intentioned, O’Hara really doesn’t mean to come across as annoying as he does.
Clearly, given much of the dialog that’s offered, we know he’s on very good terms with the aunts. We can probably believe that he’s one of the closest members of the police force who has gotten to know them. The actor seeking this role needs to plainly display the nagging, persistent drive that’s kindled within him once he discovers that Mortimer is a famous dramatic critic. O’Hara also requires a fairly believable portrayal of heavy intoxication. It’s possible to go too far with this, and it’s certainly possible to come across totally inappropriately. Try to find some balance.

Mr. Gibbs (55-80 years old or able to play age) (Cameo) An elderly quiet gentleman who wishes to rent a room from the Brewster sisters; and nearly falls victim to the sisters’ “charity”. He is a little gruff, but he warms up fairly quickly upon being offered a treat he hasn’t had since he was a child. He also has an opportunity to display stark fear once Mortimer frantically chases him from the clutches of his aunts. Again, it’s really a nice part. It offers some challenges.

Lieutenant Rooney (50’s years old or able to play age) (Cameo) The man in charge at the local police precinct. Very early in the show we gain a pretty strong understanding of the caliber of men he has to manage under his watch. As such, he has very little patience for blunder and mistakes, most of which he deems inexcusable. He needs to run a pretty tight ship. He is loud, decisive, and clearly in-charge of every situation in which he finds himself. The actor who seeks this role will be able to display a strong, commanding presence.

Mr. Witherspoon (50-60s years old or able to play age) (Cameo) The superintendent of Happy Dale Sanitarium. Very mild mannered and kind. He should be played with a gentle, reserved dynamic. He’s a bit advanced in years, and he’s certainly seen it all with regards to human behavior. As such, very little catches him off-guard.

SIDES to download

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Rooney Mortimer Side
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Teddy Abby Side
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Mortimer Elaine Side
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OHara Mortimer Side
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Dr Harper Abby Side
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Martha Witherspoon Side
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Einstein Jonathan Side
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Gibbs Abby Side
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Brophy Klein Side