MORRO BAY — By the Sea Productions, Morro Bay’s own theatre company is currently casting for several upcoming shows. Janice Peters invited me to a casting session for a readers theatre play, ‘Seven,’ based on the true stories of seven women from different countries who overcame abuse and violence to make a difference for other women. “It’s a very powerful play, and the stories are sometimes horrifying, but uplifting, too, due to the strength and determination of these women,” Peters, who is directing this show, said.
Readers theatre productions do not require the performers to memorize lines. They hold their scripts and may read from a lectern, or move around the stage on a minimal set. Readers shows have become very popular locally, as they give directors a chance to present plays that have provocative content or would be too expensive or difficult to produce in a small venue with a limited budget.
They are also easier to cast due to the minimal time commitment. Because memorization is not required, there are usually only 5-10 rehearsals, and 2-4 performances on a single weekend.
‘Seven’ however, does present casting challenges because of the ethnic diversity of the women being portrayed. “I’ve tried to mount this show in other venues, and been told it would be too difficult to cast,” Peters said. “But I decided the message of this play is so strong, it won’t matter who is speaking it. So I posted audition notices in the newspapers and on bulletin boards and called the local school drama departments and asked friends to spread the word to their friends, and I’m thrilled to say, I found an ethnically diverse cast. These women and their stories will definitely touch your hearts.”
I never before auditioned for a reader’s theatre, but I knew I could read well. I was also particularly interested in these women’s stories. I asked to read the part of Farida Azizi of Afghanistan having had an Afghan woman student live with me in 2008 and learned about her country, its culture and religion.
Farida Azizi is an Afghan advocate for peace and women’s rights. Azizi is a founding member of the Corporation for Peace and Unity in Afghanistan and is a member of the Afghan Women’s Network.
Janice also asked me to read for the part of Mu Sochua of Cambodia. Mu Sochua is a Cambodian politician and rights activist.
Both these women overcame exceptional trials in their young lives to eventually become a force for peace and justice in their countries. These are just two of the women portrayed in this play. Others are Hafsat Abiola of Nigeria, Annabella De Leon of Guatemala, Inez McCormack of Northern Ireland, Mukhtar Mai of Pakistan, and Marina Pisklakova-Parker of Russia.
Casting community theatre productions is always a concern, and directors often choose their plays based on the available talent pool. Since there is little or no pay offered, beyond an occasional minimal mileage stipend, directors are dependent on volunteers willing to devote their evenings and weekends to a production. On the plus side, it’s a lot of fun being part of creating a show and you make a lot of new friends.
‘Seven’ will be performed May 26-28 in the parish hall at St. Peter’s By the Sea Episcopal Church, 545 Shasta Ave., in Morro Bay. Friday and Saturday evening performances are at 7 p.m. and the Sunday matinee is at 3 p.m. Tickets are $10. For reservations, call 805-776-3287. Please note that ‘Seven’ has mature content and is not suitable for children.