Writer finds himself as part of cast of ‘Frost/Nixon’

Columnist

Last weekend, auditions for the Wichita Community Theatre’s upcoming production of Peter Morgan’s “Frost/Nixon” were held at the Wilner commons, despite the auditorium currently going through renovation.

The play centers around the title characters of British journalist David Frost’s revealing interviews he made with former President Richard Nixon, notably his involvement in the Watergate scandal that caused him to be the only president to ever resign from office.

Usually, auditions for these productions are held at the Wichita Community Theatre Workshop on North Fountain Street, but the time conflicts between the auditions and their current production of “Moonlight and Magnolias” made the switch of venue, where hopeful actors, including myself, managed to stop by to read for the Tony Award Best Play nominee.

Those who auditioned were asked to prepare a short one to two minute dramatic monologue, along with reading short scenes from the script. Scenes with David Frost included one where he romances the female lead character, along with a pivotal scene where he exposes that Nixon was quite aware of the Watergate scandal that he first denied. Scenes featuring the secondary characters were utilized for those who made up a majority of the cast, including Nixon and Frost’s staff members.

Being a historical drama, the characters in the piece were much easier to grasp. One of the actors who auditioned for Nixon nailed his trademark voice and was knowledgeable about how to not make the character slip into parody. Another actor, who was ultimately cast, bore a striking resemblance to Nixon, something audiences will find really remarkable.

While it’s easy for an actor to do a British accent or portray a TV personality, it can be difficult to meld both of those qualities into a convincing performance. I experienced just that when I read for the part of David Frost, but with a little help from the show’s director, Paula Makar, we managed to find something that worked.

Makar was also helpful in explaining details in the script, like references to the works of author George Eliot and other character motivations in order to get the best out of the actors.

Final callbacks were held on Tuesday evening with the final casting decision announced later in the week. Mostly my readings consisted of the character of Jack Brennan, Nixon’s chief of staff. As it turned out, I wasn’t cast as any of the major players, but I did secure a part in the “ensemble” with four other actors to serve as an understudy for the part of Brennan.

This will be my first stage credit, which I am very pleased to be a part of, as it will provide a rare opportunity for myself to display my acting abilities and I can already tell that it will be a pleasure to work with people who are crafted in the field of theater. “Frost/Nixon” open Sept. 12 and runs until Sept. 16.