“Audition Piece” by Gerry Mandel: The Genesis of the Play


Ten plays selected for reading out of forty submitted.
Four plays read chosen for full production.
Mandel’s “Audition Piece” made both cuts!

Gerry Mandel
Gerry Mandel, playwright


I started writing this play about a year ago. It began as a result of a comment made by a friend named Harry. We are part of a group called Readers of the Purple Page. We read or act unusual or radio plays, such as “Under Milkwood” and “Spoon River Anthology” for small audiences. We had just completed a weekend of “Spoon River” and were talking about what to do next.

Harry said, “Gerry, why don’t you write a play?” Easier said than done, right?

“About what?” I said.

He had the answer. “About some actors who are auditioning for roles in a play or movie. Call it Audition Piece.’”

That’s how it started and that’s what the play is called. I sketched out some characters, which was easy. I used the members of our Readers group as models, built some back stories around them, and proceeded to put them into a situation. In this case, they were over-the-hill actors (and one playwright with writers block) in Florida, trying out for a couple of roles in a movie to be shot there.

I love the theater, I love movies, I’ve been through a lot of casting sessions during my time as producer and creative director for ad agencies. Most of those sessions took place in L.A. or NYC. But I figured those two cities were too expected. Florida was a wonderful place to find actors who no longer— -or never could—make it in the major markets.

I had the first act finished in a couple of months, dividing my time between that and some short stories I was developing. After several months of it just sitting there, Harry asked, “What about that play?”

Our group got together and read through it. hey liked it; I liked what I heard, and promised them to finish it. I revised the first act based on what I heard and their comments, changed some of the back stories, and proceeded on to act two.

In October of 2007 I got them together again for a reading. It was funny. We all laughed. It felt right. Someone then e-mailed me about a playwriting competition sponsored by First Run Theatre. Why not? So I cleaned up some of the dialogue, wrote a tougher ending (my original was too sweet and pleasant, too tidy a wrap-up, which is my nature) and sent it in.

The deadline was the end of November 2007. I got a call in January 2008 that “Audition Piece” had been picked for a reading, one of ten out of forty submitted. The reading was early February ‘08, and the following week I was told that it was one of four chosen for full production.

The next step, casting, was up to the director. I was there strictly as an observer. I kept holding my breath until I knew the right people could become the characters I first began to breathe life into a year ago.

(see post below for dates and location)

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