Sunday, 05 January 2020 17:43

Richmond Community Theatre sees large turnout for 'Anne of Green Gables' audition

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Richmond Community Theatre Director Merrie Dawkins watches on as Mia Franco and Savannah Hooks audition for "Anne of Green Gables." Richmond Community Theatre Director Merrie Dawkins watches on as Mia Franco and Savannah Hooks audition for "Anne of Green Gables." Matt Harrelson

ROCKINGHAM — After two nights of auditions on Thursday and Friday, more than 40 people stopped by the Richmond Community Theatre to try out for the second show of its 43rd year: "Anne of Green Gables."

According to Theatre Director Merrie Dawkins, the play is based on the novel that was written in the 20th century by author Lucy Maud Montgomery.

"The heroine of the story is Anne. She's an orphan, and she gets adopted," said Dawkins. "She has red freckles and red hair, but she's always felt different. It's kind of a coming of age story, her experiences in growing up. She has a very vivid imagination. It's a really fun book."

One of the little interesting sidebars of the story, Dawkins said, is when the book was first published, writer Mark Twain was so taken with the charm of Montgomery's novel that when he read it the first time, he literally ran to endorse it.

"In 'Anne of Green Gables,' you will find the dearest and most moving and delightful girl since the immortal Alice from 'Alice in Wonderland,'" said Twain.

The book was listed on the New York Times Best Seller List for quite some time, Dawkins added. According to the Times, the novel sold 19,000 copies in its first five months.

As far as auditions, Dawkins said close to 40 participants came Thursday with a majority of those returning on Friday for more time on stage.

"Some people only got to read once because we had so many people," she said. "I wanted them to feel like they could have more stage time if they wanted it, so I offered them the opportunity to come back. We had 10 new people on Friday."

For the play, Dawkins and her two assistant directors — Crystal Coen and Alison Franco — were looking specifically for teenagers and people in their 40s and 50s.

"... the others could be anywhere from mid 20s to mid 30s," said Dawkins.

With so many people auditioning for the play, the director explained that it can become difficult to narrow down the right actor for the right part. However, there was just as much quality as quantity, according to Dawkins.

"I want people to know this. Richmond County is loaded with talented people, and we've only had 12 roles to fill, and you've got over 40 people auditioning," she said. "It's very rewarding, and it's great because that's one of the largest groups of people coming to audition for a play in quite some time.

"You have to really stop and think: If you have four or five people and they can all play that role, you have to be able to narrow it down because you can't have all those people playing the same role."

With Richmond Community Theatre being one of the five oldest continuously running community theaters in North Carolina, this isn't the first time residents have had  the opportunity to view "Anne of Green Gables." The theatre previously performed the play in the spring of 1998.

Now that auditions have wrapped, Dawkins, Coen and Franco will convene over the weekend to discuss who should play what part, and let those people know on Sunday, Dawkins said.

The director wasn't expecting big numbers in turnout for just the auditions, as she's already seeing people making reservations on the theatre's website, www.richmondcommunitytheatre.org.

Those interested in going the online route for tickets, can visit the site, click on the Anne of Green Gables tab and follow to Vendini, which offers the seating chart and further ticket information.

Those wanting to go the more conventional way can call the theatre at 910-997-3765 and make a reservation "probably starting within the next week or so," Dawkins said. The box office will open up closer to showtime. Times and dates will be announced at a later point.

"It is a really beautiful story," Dawkins said when asked why people should go see it. "A lot of people are familiar with it. Disney made a whole series out of it, they have a series on Netflix, they have a series on PBS ... It's fun and it's going to be absolutely loaded with talented people.

"I can already tell you by the people that came and auditioned that it's filled with talented people. It's well worth coming out to see. I expect a full house every night."