Elden Street Looks for Stars

Elden Street Looks for Stars

Actors Audition for 'Love ...'

Victor Yager sits in the "lobby," which is about as wide as an average hallway, of the Industrial Strength Theatre located in the back part of an industrial park in Herndon and fills out the required paperwork. He begins chuckling to himself.

The Reston resident is no stranger to the stage, but something about the questionnaire for potential cast members of "Love! Valour! Compassion!" amuses him.

Is it the required dancing?

"I've done some musicals. I've worked with people from the Kiev and American ballet companies," he said.

Is it that the play calls for some nudity?

"Elden Street, being a small, black-box theater, I'm sure they will let people know going in and they won't be shocked," he said.

So whatever is so amusing, Yager is keeping to himself.

Soon after, he is ushered next door before a dance choreographer to see if he has enough coordination and balance for a small dance sequence. The play includes a scene where the characters do a number from "Swan Lake." After that, he goes before the director to deliver a two-minute monologue.

OVER THE WEEKEND, the Elden Street Players held auditions in search of seven men to fill the cast of "Love! Valour! Compassion!" the company's March production. The play, written by Terrence McNally, is the story of eight gay men — one cast member will play twins— and the ups and downs of their friendship over the course of a summer.

Director Christopher Dykton specifically wanted to bring the play to Herndon and did not consider submitting it anywhere else.

"There are two things, as a director, you look for. A good piece you feel passionate about and second, getting to do it in the right place," Dykton said. "Elden Street is known for edgier pieces. I pitched it here because I knew they would take it seriously."

Dykton, himself gay, said the play allows people to see gay men in a full range of emotions, which is not typical of other works. He said while the play is a serious drama, it still makes you laugh. And even though the characters are gay, that is not the essence of the work.

"I know its a gay-themed piece, but what it really is about is friends," the Arlington resident said. "The richness in having people you love and who love you.

"It is edgy. It is risky," Dykton said. "Male nudity often times does raise more eyebrows. But the nudity is there because that is how McNally wrote it. It's more symbolic."

Dykton said that the theme of the play is getting back to nature and basics, and peeling away everything else — a theme, he said, that is as old as Shakespeare.

"WE HAVE AN AUDIENCE base that is looking for challenging pieces," said Richard Klare, president of Elden Street Players. "We have done plays with gay characters before … it's a part of life.

"We look for value of the script, the story. And this play has won awards," he said. "We tend not to do other theater pieces everyone else is doing."

Nudity is also something the Players has taken on before, Klare said. The company has staged productions of "Hair" and "The Prime of Miss Jean Brody" among others. Klare said the company lets audience members know beforehand when a play contains materials that could be offensive and avoids using adult language and nudity just for shock value.

Over the years, the theater company has attracted actors from all over the Washington D.C.-metropolitan area and has surprised out-of-town visitors will their bold production choices, said Klare.

"The play we're doing now, "Streamers" has two guys from Washington D.C. We've had people from Winchester, Clinton, Md., and Woodbridge," Klare said. "We do theater pieces people want to do."

Joan Lada, who will be serving as stage manager for "Love!" was drawn to the production because she has enjoyed working with Dykton before on other plays. She has also worked on productions at the Industrial Strength Theatre before, something that Dykton has never done.

"I'm familiar with the play, but had never read it until Chris gave it to me," Lada, a Reston resident, said. "I often work on shows I know nothing about."

Yager said he came to the auditions because he had seen the play performed at a studio theater and at the time he was drawn to the emotion of it.

As for Dykton, a half hour before the auditions were scheduled to begin, he just wanted people to show up.

"A perfect audition for me is to get a lot of auditioners. It's frustrating as a director not having the capacity to choose the right people," Dykton said. "I may end up crying at the end, because I don't have enough people."

A half hour into the auditions, six people had appeared, looking for a part.

Auditions were scheduled for Saturday and Sunday, with call backs this Tuesday. Rehearsal for the play is set to begin in about three weeks. Opening night is slated for March 21.