Megan Lucas is directing Defying Gravity by Jane Anderson (Madmen, Olive Kitteridge) for Masque Theatre. This blog series covers her journey in bringing the script to life.
When the Teacher in Space program was announced, 11,000 teachers applied in the hope of fulfilling their space-flight dreams. NASA eventually whittled it down to two; Christa McAuliffe and back up Barbara Morgan. The two grew very close during training, as is evident in training footage and the heartbreaking video of Barbara watching the fateful flight. After the disaster, Barbara returned to teaching, and was an occasional ambassador for NASA. 12 years later, she rejoined NASA full time, this time as a bonafide Astronaut. Eventually she flew as a Mission Specialist on the Shuttle Endeavour in 2007, helping to build the International Space Station. In the end, a teacher did make it to space.
Thankfully I’ve not 11,000 actors coming to audition, but a lot of people seem to have shown an interest in trying out for a part. On the one hand, I’m really touched that people have faith in me, and that they seem really excited about the show (or at least the prospect of dressing up as an astronaut), on the other hand, I’m dreading it.
I should explain. Auditioning is a nerve-wracking experience, and I’ve been on both sides of it. As an actor, I’ve found it terrifying, particularly when it’s in front of directors that you are good friends with. Other times I’ve been alongside the director; the pressure was off, I could advise, but the decision wasn’t mine, and crucially, I wasn’t the one who would have to say no. In this case, I’ve only 7 roles to hand out, which should result in my having to say no a lot, often to my friends. It’s not a task I’m looking forward to.
It is, however, a nice problem to have, and I can’t complain. I should be able to pick from the very best Masque has to offer, whether that be old faces or new. I talked before of the technical elements of the show, and the standards I’m hoping to reach with them. I want the quality of the acting to surpass these standards. Fortunately, Masque has the people within its ranks that can meet my aspirations, and I’m always excited about the prospect of discovering someone new to extend our talent pool further.
At the time of writing, I’ve held one of the two audition sessions, leaving both myself and those attending in something of a holding pattern until the main audition occurs and the decision-making can begin. It did, however, provide me with a significant moment in this journey. In order to really get under the skin of the text, I’ve read the script countless times. Finally, I could see them being performed by a group of actors. It suddenly felt real for me and is one of my highlights so far.
Of course, an audition is not necessarily going to match the vision in my head, although it’s great if it does. It doesn’t matter though; it’s about demonstrating that they have the tools to help realise my vision, and whether or not they are a good fit for the character and those they interact with. Ultimately I want the people auditioning for me to feel comfortable and relaxed. I’m willing them on to do the best they can. I want the auditionees to ensure that I have an extremely tough decision to make.
Once this decision has been made I will have my cast, and then things can really get going. The read-through will happen, costumes (including that astronaut suit!) can be sourced, and soon the start of the rehearsal process. It also inevitably means that there will be a group of disappointed actors without a part, but as Barbara Morgan would discover, there will always be other opportunities in the future. Don’t worry about your horizons. Someday (you won’t even know it) they will disappear.
Megan Lucas is a stage manager, lighting & sound designer and technician, set and prop maker and designer, director, playwright and occasional actor. Defying Gravity takes to the Playhouse Theatre stage from Tue 16 – Sat 20 Oct at 7.30pm. Tickets will be on sale soon.