It was an auspicious year for live theater in Central Texas. In 1965, the Old Central Players faded away, to be replaced by the new Temple Civic Theatre. That same year saw the Broadway premiere of Neil Simon’s “The Odd Couple,” and on the West Coast, the birth of John Monteverde.
These three facts converged Saturday afternoon as Monteverde, the new director at TCT, held open auditions for “The Odd Couple” in the theater’s thrust stage auditorium.
“I wasn’t sure we were going to get anybody,” Monteverde said, surveying the nine hopefuls waiting to read from the script. For the last 20 years TCT try-outs have been scheduled on evenings; the 2 p.m. time was an attempt to accommodate actors who aren’t able to line up a nighttime appointment. “This is a nice surprise — not everybody can make evening auditions — but we still kept a 7 p.m. date for tomorrow.”
Open auditions, Monteverde’s departure from TCT’s tradition of closed
auditions, allow all hopefuls to observe each actor’s reading onstage. “It’s helpful to watch others,” the director said. “You can get ideas for your portrayal from my suggestions to the other actors, too,” he told the potential cast.
The original “Odd Couple” plot tells the story of compulsive neat freak Felix Ungar, thrown out of his home by his wife, moving in with buddy Oscar Madison — a carefree, happy but messy slob. Inevitable conflict ensues and when Oscar evicts his best friend he soon realizes that Felix has had a positive effect on him.
TCT’s production won’t stray from its ’60s roots, Monteverde said.
“We’re using the original 1965 script, no cuts, celebrating that ‘Mad Men’ era. We’ll play up the period aspect: music of Sinatra and Henry Mancini, the quaint way people used to dress up for dinner.” And even though the play is “a classic American comedy,” Monteverde notes what he describes as an “underlying melancholy — a big transition from married life. The loneliness and inability to cope without a wife; and Felix threatens suicide all of the first act.”
Six male and two female roles, ranging in age from 20-60, will be cast and the auditionees pored over their scripts and waited to be called by the director. Tom Lathen, a recent transplant from Yakima, Wash., was eager to read his part. “It’s a fun audition,” he said. “Even though I might be too old for (the role of) Oscar.”
Seventeen-year-old Shannon O’Donnell, a newbie, traveled to TCT from her home in Troy. “This is my first audition ever,” she said. “I was surprised that I was the only girl here, but I like the whole process.”
Aspiring to play one of the Pidgeon sisters, O’Donnell read her lines with a proper British accent as Monteverde suggested different approaches to the character.
Michael Morris, a TCT veteran, also works at Temple College as a technical director. “I’m from Seaton and have done 11 or 12 shows here at TCT. I like the whole audition process — as an actor, you have to do it to stay sharp.”
Monteverde has definite ideas about the TCT production: “I want to pay a tribute to that kind of classic era of great American comedy. So much of the plot revolves around the awkward ways in which guys develop friendships.
“It is really one of the all-time great American comedies.”