BURLINGTON — Acting is a tough gig. You’re feeling the rush of being on stage in front of an audience one night and looking for work the next day. But there are always new opportunities in the field and AspenDream Productions is, well, as the company’s name proclaims, making the dreams of actors come true on a continuing basis. The company stages highly popular and en vogue murder mystery and comedy wedding dinner theater shows and is looking for actors.
AspenDream Productions, based in Burlington, will hold open auditions (by appointment only) for its upcoming season on Sunday, March 29 and Monday, March 30 at Valley Fitness Gym in Canton, and is looking for “Strong comedic performers” from Connecticut, 18-years-old and above, with “improv experience “a plus.” A New York dialect, an ability to learn lines and rehearse a role within three intensive rehearsals is necessary. The company is also seeking strong singers, and also employs stage managers, “dramaturgs,” and production personnel. Performers must have reliable transportation.
AspenDream Productions is staging a production that revolves around “Don” Franco, a mob boss, his “goons” and family members. Actors do not have to be Italian or Italian-American but everyone works or is related to Don Franco in one capacity or another. The company is looking for male and female character actors 18 to 80, “femme fatales” 21 to 55, and leading male actors 45-plus. The theaters are scripted, interactive performances with some improvisation. Every actor hired plays multiple roles.
Rehearsals are normally on Sunday afternoons and are a three-day process within three weeks of a particular show. Shows are booked all over Connecticut and the New England area throughout the year. The company travels as far south as New York City, into Springfield, Massachusetts and Rhode Island.
“Environmental theater is arguably one of the most difficult genres to perform successfully,” according to Janice Luise, executive director of AspenDream Productions. “I’ve been studying it for over two decades.” She said AspenDream Production shows are “nothing short of remarkable and so are our artists.” She added, “We want folks that work as a team and can engage the audience as part of the comedy. This is constant entertainment. We have music, a DJ, and even choreographed dancing.” She explained that “many directors are producing murder mystery shows with no microphones and two to four actors. Ours is a professional production with anywhere from 10 to 15 actors. We know what we are doing.”
At the auditions there is an interview committee made up of Barbara Doczy of Middletown, Jenney Rivard of Middletown, Kayla Kusy of Naugatuck, and Kelly D’Amato of New Britain. Luise called the four women “astute actors” and all help with the team at AspenDream Productions. “Jim Murkette at Valley Fitness Gym has kindly allowed us the use of one of his rooms for the auditions.”
AspenDream Productions’ Regional Theater Company has performed in over 72 cities in New England for the past 21 years and in front of over 20,000 “guests,” raising over one million dollars for charities and fundraisers throughout Connecticut alone. The company holds intermittent auditions throughout the year and usually one large audition annually.
“Our artists must have extensive theatrical experience,” said Luise. “Most of our artists have been with AspenDream Productions for 10 or more years. Many copycat companies that you find on the web do not require that their actors have theatrical experience. Other comedy wedding and mystery dinner groups that show up in your web search are not local. They rehearse once or twice or even the same day as the show, and then show up at the event and do the best they can. That’s not what we do. I have had extensive training myself.” Luise has a four-year degree in theater from the University of Connecticut and studied directing at Yale.
AspenDream Productions’ dinner theaters can “absolutely” jump start aspiring actors’ and singers’ careers, said Luise. “Actors have to start building their resume and network. AspenDream is the perfect place to begin doing this. Because we do work all over New England, you never know who you will meet — especially celebrities. We’ve even done shows in celebrity homes.” All roles are paid based upon performances, and meals are provided for performers. The company does not provide housing or transportation.
The AspenDream has over 30 artists that rotate shows with the troupe. Actors can invite casting directors to shows. “Frankly, that’s what I did when I was an actor and I built a resume full of commercial work,” said Luise. She is a member of Stage Directors and Choreographers Society, the League of Professional Theatre Women, and the Dramatist Guild of America.
As for the dinner theaters themselves, Luise opined, “Most people don’t know what to expect when they come. But they love immersing themselves in the story line of Don Franco and his family and by the end of the night they don’t want to go home. Our shows have been known to be sold out three months in advance. Especially our Halloween and holiday shows. That’s why we now have five different murder mysteries and a comedy wedding show based upon `Uncle Franco’ and his family. We have performances that fit the Halloween, holiday, and New Year’s Eve seasons.”
Audience members are treated as guests by Uncle Franco and his crew through interactive, improvisational comedy. “It’s the most exciting, funniest, and inventive experience ever,” said Luise. “With a cast of actors in pivotal positions and within the audience as well, every performance stirs up all types of mayhem and fun that’s unique for every show.”
The dinner theaters have been staged in Litchfield County to benefit Charlotte Hungerford Hospital and St. Francis Church, among others explained Luise, “but every year it is different. We just did a show on March 6 in Branford for 450 guests. The audience ranges from those in their 20s into their 80s.”
Visit www. aspendream productions.com for more information.