Wanted: cast of characters
Mutton and Mead Festival holds auditions
Stephanie Kvum of Northampton auditions for the fourth annual Mutton and Mead Medieval Festival Saturday in the Montague Grange Hall.
When Seana Lamothe of Florence said she was nervous for her audition, Jimmie Brule donned a goofy hat he keeps around to put actors at ease during auditions for the fourth annual Mutton and Mead festival at the Montague Grange Hall Saturday. Recorder/David Rainville
MONTAGUE — “How do you like the idea of wielding a huge sword?”
It’s not a question you’d expect at a typical job interview, but David Agro wasn’t screening people for typical jobs.
Agro and others went through a slew of applicants for positions like evil henchman, washer wench and executioner as they held auditions for the fourth-annual Mutton and Mead Medieval Festival.
It’s based on the Robin Hood mythos, and each year is its own unique retelling of the clash between the Prince of Thieves and the Sheriff of Nottingham.
The festival is not your average piece of theater. At the moment, it doesn’t even have a script.
“Unlike most plays, where the parts are written and they fill them in with actors, here, what we do with the story depends on who we get,” said Jimmie Brule, fight choreographer for the festival. “If someone is really strong (in a part), we might be inspired to write a story based on that character.”
As soon as people walked out of the audition room, the brainstorming began. Brule and Agro, along with Karen Webb, Michelle Chaikin and Pam Smith, tossed around ideas after each prospective performer’s audition.
“Maybe she could be the henchwoman who puts the tavern in jeopardy,” Agro said after Stephanie Kvam of Northampton tried out.
“Or she could be the one who saves the tavern from peril,” countered Brule.
Kvam is one of many who have performed at the festival before.
“I was Isabella Scrubrite, one of the washing wenches in the shire, last year,” said Kvam. “Being in the cast was so much fun.”
Each actor prepared a monologue for the audition and Kvam’s was a scene from “Shakespeare’s Star Wars,” which is, well, pretty much what it sounds like: an interstellar space drama with Early Modern English dialogue.
While she was happy being a washer wench last year, Kvam is looking forward to exploring more sinister roles and her Darth Vader monologue showed that she’s got some of the dark side in her.
While the actors know full-well that Robin Hood is the clear hero of the tale and his band of merry men triumph in the end, a lot of them still want to pledge their allegiance to the evil sheriff.
“I like the evil,” said Tiffany Davis of Sunderland, who auditioned Saturday for her first festival.
Her monologue was that of the poisoned-apple-wielding evil queen from “Sleeping Beauty.”
The panel was impressed, both by her words and the forboding way she delivered them.
“She could be someone Robin Hood robbed in the crusades, and has come to the Shire to seek revenge,” Agro suggested.
While some folks auditioned for their first roles at the festival, most who came were return actors. No matter how well they did last year, each had to audition all over again.
“I was Robin Hood for the last three years, and I hope to return as Robin this year,” said Chris Rose. “I have to audition like everyone else, though.”
Rose greeted those auditioning Saturday at the Montague Grange Hall and periodically got up to run lines with them when they needed a male character for dialogue.
While Rose started as a lead, others are working their way there.
“In a couple of years, I think Kris could make a run for sheriff (of Nottingham),” said Brule, after Kris Allen of Chicopee tried out.
Allen played the evil captain of the guard for the last two years, his first foray into acting. The audition panel agreed that his skills have grown since his first festival.
It’s often said that there are no small parts in theater, but the Mutton and Mead organizers say it’s especially true for the festival.
“Some people have said that it’s the non-scripted, secondary roles that they remember the most about the festival,” said Rose.
While they may not have a big part to play in the over-arching plot, roles like orphans, servants, and wenches of various occupations bring a lot to the festival. They interact with passersby, perform improvised scenes, and add to the feeling of being immersed in the fictional Shire.
Some of them put a lot of thought into what could be considered ancillary characters.
“I’m a washer wench, but she’s a fascinating washer wench,” said Seana Lamothe of Florence.
“Her character is based on a lie — a cover,” she explained. “As a woman in medieval times, she needs to get married. She’s open to the possibility of having to like someone or marrying for money. She’s still certain that someone will come and take her away from this place, though.”
She may just reach out to you and ask you to be her Prince Charming.
If you missed the weekend’s auditions, there’s still a chance to get involved.
Volunteers are needed, and organizers are still looking for extras. If all roles aren’t filled soon, Agro said another round of auditions will be held in coming weeks.
To find out more about the festival, or to volunteer, go to www.muttonandmead.com.
You can reach David Rainville at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 413-772-0261, ext. 279