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Actors have 90-seconds to wow artistic directors, producers at Unified Auditions

Sarah Jeen Francois, her brown locs pulled back in a ponytail, performed a few warm-up exercises before her audition Tuesday at the Southwest Art Center.

She counted each tooth with the tip of her tongue. She practiced deep breathing.

On the drive over, TK Habtemariam, 25, calmed his nerves by listening to “Cranes in the Sky” by Solange and “Distraction” by Kehlani .

Both actors were getting in the zone before auditions at the Atlanta Unified Auditions, an annual event that brings together casting directors, producers and hundreds of actors hoping to land a place in Georgia theater.

“I’m anxious, but I’m trying to use up all that energy,” said Habtemariam, who majored in theater at Columbus State University and has acted in other plays and musicals. “I’m just looking to get more experience.”

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Atlanta Unified Auditions, organized by the nonprofit C4 Atlanta, is one of the key audition events and job fairs for those interested in acting roles and backstage positions in theater. The event goes back more than 15 years, but this is the second year it’s been managed by C4 Atlanta.

C4 Atlanta Executive Director Jessyca Holland said more than 500 people applied for spots and more than 250 were selected. Auditions consisted of two short, contrasting monologues or one monologue and part of a song. The time limit is 90 seconds.

“There’s a real, real interest in seeing new talent,” she said. “This allows auditors to see a large number of actors at one time.”

Time is short and - at times- unforgiving. There’s little time for an attack of nerves or a mistake.

“It’s a little amount of time to wow someone,” she said. 

Francois agrees.

“You have to figure out where your sweet spot is,” she said. She went through about 30 monologues before settling on two. Still, she was anxious. “The hair on my neck is standing up now.”

Parker Ciliax, 23, of Decatur, has been performing since he was eight years old. In his junior year of high school, he discovered that acting was something he wanted to pursue as career.

“I’m nervous, but that comes with the territory,” he said. “You have to prove your worth and hopefully someone will take notice of you.”

Casting and artistic directors and producers representing more than 30 theaters and companies, the majority from Georgia, attended the event.

“It’s huge for me because it’s the kick off of casting season,” said Clifton L. Guterman, associate artistic director at the Theatrical Outfit.

“The actors are coming with material that they choose and this is their chance to make a good impression. Hopefully, they get a call-back from us to audition for our shows. It’s taken very seriously and it’s gotten more and more selective over the years. “

Jody Feldman,  a producer and casting director at the Alliance Theatre,  views the auditions as the “beginning of a relationship. It’s not as though you’re going to cast your season from these, but you’re going to meet new people. People you’re going to be interested in...It’s a great foot in the door and for us to get to know an actor better.”

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