Friday, September 2, 2016

Nick Whittaker Discusses Life at the Barn

   If you saw a show in our 2015-2016 season then you are probably familiar with Nick Whittaker. Nick transferred to Eastern last year to pursue a degree in Theatre Arts and Musical Theatre. He made a splash on the Quirk stage last season by appearing as Seymour in Little Shop of Horrors, Gilbert in Anne of Green Gables and Stanley Stubbers in One Man, Two Guvnors! After a successful year at EMU Nick decided to tackle the all too familiar experience for anyone pursuing a career in musical theatre...summer stock.
   After attending a cattle call audition for numerous summer stock theatre companies Nick went to a callback, filled out an application and after two months found out that he would be spending his summer in beautiful Augusta Michigan at the historic Barn Theatre. 
   The Barn Theatre is one of the oldest and most recognized summer stock theatre companies in Michigan. Summer stock theaters hire a group of actors to form a company for the summer and that company of actors rehearses numerous shows and performs them in rep that summer. The Barn also has an apprenticeship program where summer stock actors learn various other skills such as set building, props, lighting and more on shows that they aren't performing in. While at The Barn actors can earn points toward membership into the Actors' Equity Association and work alongside Equity actors in various productions. 
   Now that you know a little bit about The Barn here's the inside scoop from someone who's worked there! 

Q. How did you get hired at The Barn? 
A. "I was hired at the Barn through auditions, callbacks, and an application. I personally auditioned at the North Central Regional auditions, a type of unified auditions that brings together actors with professional theatre companies hiring for summer, year-round, or both. As I am in school still, I only auditioned for summer. Although I had callbacks with other companies as well, I was most intrigued by the Barn because of their fantastic season as well as the history and legacy that it holds. After my auditions, I filled out the rather lengthy application and was offered a contract in about two months." 

Q. What shows are in their season this summer? 
A. "The shows this season are Avenue Q, Buyer and Cellar, Guys and Dolls, Jesus Christ Superstar, The Little Mermaid, The Rocky Horror Show, Singin' in the Rain, and Red, White, and Tuna."

Q. What shows are you performing in? 
A. "I will be performing in five shows total this summer. I was/will be involved in the others on the props team but will not be performing because those shows utilize only Equity performers. In Guys and Dolls, I was Society Max/Con Man/ Havana Bartender. In Jesus Christ Superstar, I was Peter. In The Little Mermaid, I am playing Jetsam. In The Rocky Horror Show, I am a Transylvanian. I will be performing in Singin' in the Rain, but do not know my role yet. The last show of the season I will be doing my props duties but not performing, as it is a two man show." 

Q. What is your favorite show that you've done this summer?
A. "So far, Jesus Christ Superstar was my favorite to perform. I enjoyed the show so much because of course, I've loved the rock opera for many years but it was also a very fulfilling role to play. A show discussing such a ubiquitous and well-known figure like Jesus Christ was a thrill and a challenge because the audience already comes in knowing most of the story so the actor must find ways to bring new facets of the story and the characters to life."

Q. How would you describe a typical work day at The Barn?
A. "Working at the Barn is no small feat, to say the least. Despite lunch and dinner breaks (that are often spent rehearsing the cabaret show that follows each main stage show), the work day every day is typically from 9:30 am to about 12:30 am. The work is intense, the hours are long, and days off are not plentiful. The days can vary but a typical day would start with our meeting, we then break to work areas which is props for me, then get called to rehearsal for the next show throughout the day, lunch/bar show rehearsal next, then back to work areas/rehearsal, dinner, then show assignment which rotates (I've done bar, parking, and ushering), and then get ready and perform the current show at night. After the show is the bar show which features the apprentice company. The bar show changes with each show and is comprised of all genres of music from pop/rock to standard Musical Theatre. After the bar show is done, then you are released to go home."

Q. What do you like most about working at The Barn?
A.  "As I've said, the schedule is very unforgiving and many times I get exhausted and frustrated. However, at the end of the day I feel very fulfilled by being a working actor that gets to perform constantly; it really is a ton of fun. My favorite part is actually the bar show because I get to perform many different styles of music performance which always proves to be thrilling."

Q. What has been your least favorite part about working there?  
A. "My least favorite part is the hours/every other Monday off (for the most part) schedule. It is utterly exhausting but proves to be pretty necessary for how many shows are being put up in this short summer season."

Q. What are some of the differences between doing shows at The Barn and doing shows at EMU? 
A. "There are many many differences between here and EMU, the most significant difference being the rehearsal process. The process is much quicker with the entire rehearsal and tech being within two weeks or less. Another difference is that for EMU, there are auditions for each show with callbacks whereas here, we auditioned to get in and at the beginning of the summer when we got here and then everything was cast (for the most part). As is typical of professional theatre, the expectations are very high, like the expectation that once something is learned musically or blocked, it will be memorized completely the next time it is ran. There are many more but those are the ones that come to the mind at the moment."


Q. What are some skills that you will take away from your experience performing at The Barn?
A.  I hoped to learn what it's like in the professional theatre world and although there are some things here that may differ from other professional theatres, I have really gotten a grasp of it. I came into it not knowing how I was going to be able to digest all of this information so quickly and perform it. I didn't think it would be possible to be performing two different shows (main stage and bar) while rehearsing two others at the same time. However, I acclimated fairly quickly because I focused intently and also had no choice not to. A lot of my experience here has given me proof that, despite whether I get frequent work as an actor or not, I have it in me to work hard and make it in this crazy business.

Thank you for the interview Nick!! We're so glad you had a great time this summer and we can't wait to have you back in the fall! For more information on The Barn Theatre visit: http://barntheatreschool.org/

For more information on our upcoming season visit: www.emich.edu/emutheatre 
 


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