NEW YORK -- More than 3000 would-be stars mobbed open-call auditions July 12 in New York for the Broadway musical hit Rent.
"I was expecting a lot of people, but didn't really believe it until I saw it with my own eyes" marveled Richard Kornberg, press rep for the Tony Award-winning musical. The line of would-be Renters snaked a quarter-mile down Broadway in the East Village, where the musical is set. The actors began queuing up at 1 AM July 12, and the line stayed long even though the casting directors resorted to seeing 15 actors at a time and eliminating most just by looking at them.
Playbill On-Line was there, and came back with the following vignettes:
* An ad in Back Stage magazine had beckoned "raw" rock/pop/gospel singers "who truly have the quality of street life." Hopefuls waited outside Musical Theatre Works Studios at 440 Lafayette Street, not too far in location from the Alphabet City setting of the show. They carried guitars, finger pianos, banjos, flutes, drums, and more. They brought chairs and water and cigarettes. Some were sleeping, some were sitting, some were jumping up and down apparently trying to "get loose." Looks and styles ranged from men with daisies behind their ears and women with long stringy hair and halter tops, to woven braids and dreadlocks, to blue nail polish, pierced everything and tattoos.
* Susan Walker, of New York City, said she had arrived on line at 6:15 AM and was told that the first person had gotten on line at 1 AM. Before she could utter another word, she was ushered into the building with fifteen to twenty other people, on her way to a two-tiered audition process; the first based on looks, the second based on sound. * A memo was passed down the line from the casting directors, encouraging people to "hang" despite the wait, while warning them that they would not sing if the casting directors did not think they looked right for the show. It also reiterated that absolutely no show tunes would be heard. Everyone was encouraged to leave their head shots and resumes just in case something came up in the future.
* After telling the screeners what kind of music they were going to sing, actors were either sent home or ushered on into one of three audition rooms, one set aside specifically for Actors' Equity Association members. Those who made it to the singing stage were videotaped.
* David Tenney, a freelance musician dressed in a T-shirt and jeans, came from Marcerville, NJ, to audition. "I'm goin' for whatever," he said when asked what role he was interested in. "I figure ensemble. I'm just doin' the audition and if they find a place for me. I'm looking for a change in my schedule."
* It started to rain about 11:30 AM, and the entire line huddled closer to the building, except for a man with a guitar sat on the ground playing a song.
* Rent cast member Rodney Hicks (Paul) sat at a table outside the audition rooms, managing the flow of auditioners, calling out audition numbers, making sure only equity actors were going into studio G. He said he agreed to help out to give auditioners "someone to talk to, and not feel intimidated." He advised one auditioner to "just feel it."
* Amy Champ, 24, who moved to NY from California, said she loves the show, which she described as "so today, so real." She said she was auditioning for the role of Maureen with her own song, accompanied by a thumb piano she had bought in Tanzania.
* Linda Kobylinski, a psychiatric counselor from Philadelphia, said she hadn't seen the show but had read and heard about it. "Jonathan Larson's story really touched me," she said, referring to the show's composer/librettist who died just before the show opened. Kobylinski said she planned to audition with Barbara Streisand's "Woman in the Moon."
* Michael Leonardjams, about 30, said he was the assistant editor of a small newspaper, with aspirations of becoming a performance artist.
* Tara Angeloni, of New Jersey had passed the first stage, and bursting with excitement waiting for a song audition. Her biggest previous role was Evita at a small theater in Missouri.
* Two young women in their early 20's were sitting dejectedly in a stairwell. They had gotten in line at 6 AM but didn't make the first cut, based only on their looks. "Five hours of waiting for only five seconds," one muttered.
* Casting director Bernard Telsey said he was pleased with the turnout, diversity-wise, but wished he could get more than the usual white/black auditioners. "I wish we could still reach out more to the multicultural community," he said.
* Two people stood near the front door of the audition hall holding a banner that read "Down with Rent Slavery. Squatters rights for all!"
Real-life East Village squatter John Potak, 28, who had arrived with his banner and his co-holder, Summer Fannin, at 2 AM, said, "We're not wrong for not paying rent, but the system is wrong for making people pay rent."
* Those who were unable to attend may send resume, photo and tape to Attention RENT, Bernard Telsey Casting, 145 W. 28 St., Suite 12F, NYC, 10001.