Friday night, Jeff Baldwin will be opening Chicago, the play he's directing at Owen Theatre in Conroe, but early the next morning he'll be back out on the grounds of the Texas Renaissance Festival, looking for talent to staff his cast of roving street characters this fall.
For the past 19 years, Baldwin has been entertainment director for Ren Fest, and that's after a previous 20 years in all sorts of jobs from face painting when he was 16 ("I was terrible") to pretty much anything that goes into creating the fantasy land that lasts for weeks. He still does the graphics for Ren Fest.
Last weekend he hosted one set of auditions; this weekend another. From the video you can see examples of what would-be Renaissance stars can expect: theater exercises like the impulse circle (faster, faster) and the remember-my-name.
"An impulse circle is a theater exercise that really will show you the difference between an introverted and extroverted person, a person who likes to be big and have people notice them as opposed to a person who's timid and at a park that has 3,500 people on a day," Baldwin says.
"The street characters' jobs are to meet and greet the patrons who come in the gate and interact with them, and we want them to have the patrons ultimately remember their characters' names. It's also a tool to see how they work on the stage, how they react in front of a crowd," Baldwin says.
And while Baldwin enthusiastically welcomes all the cos-players who come to the festival each year dressed in Renaissance finery or in tune to the theme of the week ("We had a fleet of fairies."), that's not who he's looking to hire.
"Cos-players a lot of times aren't worried about the audience; they're worried about their experience. And that's not a bad thing. We invite those cos-players to come out; we'll show them a great time. Our job is to entertain the guests, not entertain ourselves."
He remembers fondly one applicant with an expansive belly who flipped up his shirt during the remember-my-name segment and wrote it on his stomach with a tube of lipstick.
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"That's the kind of talent we're looking for. People who want to be noticed, who want to take center stage."
Auditions for Saturday, May 14, 2016:
Morning session 8:30 to 9 a.m. check-in
Afternoon session 12:30 to 1 p.m. check-in
Comfortable clothes (no costumes) for street performers. Stage acts should dress out.
Scheduled appointment required. Call 1-800-458-3435 Monday to Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. or email firstname.lastname@example.org.