Behind the Curtain

A Reflection on Acting, Auditioning, and a Life in Theatre
Behind the Curtain

Opening of the Curtain

Theatre dates all the way back to the Ancient Greeks in 6th Century B.C.E., and from then has evolved into the magical experience it is today. For me, theatre has been around for a long time as well: I’ve participating ever since I was in kindergarten. I was engulfed in the magic and wonder of creating something so fake that it became real. Though I was only an elf in our kindergarten and first grade Christmas show, I was taken over. Even though it was a filler role, it was to that little boy back then something that he wanted to do: to reach out to that weave of music and sing right along with everyone else no matter what I sounded like (which wasn’t that good back then). I didn’t care how I sounded, though, as I still sang daily. I loved to sing at mass, in the car, in my room, and of course in the shower. I didn’t care where I was, I just wanted to sing and act everywhere I could. After a while, it stuck, which was quite surprising as most children have random phases when they are younger. We just try to gather and experience as much as we can since we don’t know what we like or want to do in life.

So, I tried to get involved in theatre and started singing as much as I possibly could. My older sister, Carly Henry, went to the same grade school as me (St. Margaret Mary, a K-8th Catholic grade school), but she was four years above me. She was my role model and she was in our school’s elementary church choir, Supernova, which was for third to sixth graders. At the time, to be in that choir was my dream, but sadly, I was only in the first grade. Since I was in first grade, I did the first-grade school musical “Toys Jr.” and I was cast as a member of the dance ensemble, which means I was a stuffed bear. I remember going into my director’s room, Mrs. Moth, and was just fascinated by learning rhythm with my partner and just flowing all over the classroom floor.

Though I didn’t know it at the time, the dance ensemble did not get to sing as much in that musical, and I still remember crying for about 10 minutes after hearing that devastating news. All I wanted was to sing. To this day, I love being in the ensemble and made a vow to only do musicals instead of straight shows (plays with no music). I have been told that I am limiting myself as an actor by not doing them, but to me I am doing this for that little kid who only wanted to sing, act, and only occasionally, dance.

Overture – Elementary

Even though I was in the kindergarten and first grade musicals, I do not consider that my start of my “career”. To me, it started in the third grade when I auditioned for my first year of Supernova. I luckily got in the church choir and was ecstatic to be a part of something so magical, and secretly I wanted to just go on the choir’s yearly trip to the mall during Christmas time to sing Christmas carols. I was in that choir for all four years and had the best time of my life singing, but there was always something a little different about me compared to the other boys. In the choir ,I hardly ever sang with the men unless the song was going to be performed for a group of people or was a song when it was all the females sang one part and all the males sang another, and even then, sometimes I was still with the females. My voice just wasn’t on the pitch of a male, so I was obliged to sing with the females, and this still happens sometimes today. I have sung in many musicals where I am a counter tenor (the highest singing male) to backstage as an alto 1 or soprano 2 (a lower singing female range and the second highest female range, respectively).

Thankfully, through Supernova, I was able to land a role in the summer fifth and sixth grade musical “Sleeping Beauty”. I was cast as the head goon goblin, Fumpfel, and spent weeks of my summer doing the musical. We performed it seven times, and I was so happy to have my first (in my mind) real musical. This was my start in St. Margaret Mary’s theatre program, and I will forever be grateful for my director, Mrs. Moth, for seeing the talent in me and supporting me through every audition, callback, and production. She still comes to all of my performances, as well as the performances of the other theatre kids from St. Margaret Mary.

This was my start in St. Margaret Mary’s theatre program, and I will forever be grateful for my director, Mrs. Moth, for seeing the talent in me and supporting me through every audition, callback, and production.

— Dylan Henry

ACT ONE – Saint Margaret Mary

St. Margaret Mary was where I got my start in their summer fifth and sixth grade musical “Sleeping Beauty”, but there were two more musical productions I was a part of there: “Honk! Jr.” and Fiddler on the Roof Jr.” “Honk! Jr.”, the fall sixth grade musical, was my first middle school musical, and I took much pride in being cast as the one and only Turkey. Though before any actor could be cast, they all had to go through the audition process, which makes or breaks actors. The audition process is something a lot of actors fear and love in theatre, and is essential for the directors. The Turkey also just happened to be the oldest character, which I found to be a repeating pattern in the roles I have been cast in. We spent about ten weeks prepping for this musical, and, for a middle school production, the process was quite demanding. We were dancing until we got it right and would start over anytime any of us got anything wrong. I remember singing, still with the girls, around our director’s phone in our PAC as she was playing the piano of her phone to help us match the notes. To others it was funny and weird, but to us it was our job and duty to make sure we perfected this as much as we possibly could and finally go out there on stage and sing and dance to create this magical world of theatre.

The second middle school musical I was in was “Fiddler on the Roof Jr,” which I can remember vividly to this day as being so magical and real for me. I auditioned for this musical in the spring and was simply happy to be in it no matter what I got. I ended up being cast as the Rabbi, which again was the oldest character in the play. It was a very immersive experience and there were so many things that just were not expected. During the dream scene, we had an actress that had a huge dress to cover up the stairs she was standing on which were being wheeled all over stage. I had huge cymbals during the song that added so much noise and effect that everyone always remembered the scene. We had people flipping over tables, chairs, and at the end of act one we had these pillows filled with feathers that soldiers would hit around, and the feathers would fly everywhere. Of course, sadly, our intermission was filled with brooms and people putting feathers in hats we could use the vacuum only once.

Entr’acte – My First High School Audition

When I first got to high school in 2022, I was a little scared to do theatre. I remember, like they do every year, over the intercom calling anyone interested in the theatre department to go to the auditorium. When I walked out of my advising, I remember other kids laughing at me while walking past like it was shameful to be a part of theatre program, to be a theatre kid. I knew I wasn’t going to the fall production as it was a straight show, and I wanted to get well-adjusted first to high school before I made any after school commitments. My dad, however, never ceased to say, “Are you doing a sport?” and I always responded with “Theatre is my sport”.

So finally, when November of 2022 rolled around, it was time for me to audition for my first ever high school musical, “Dirty Rotten Scoundrels.” It was a lot of pressure. I was super nervous as I had never done a high school musical before, let alone a Trinity High School musical, which I heard from other people was an extremely strict, professional theatre with their director, Ms. Kate Reedy. I remember scheduling my audition for the last day possible at about 4 p.m., singing quietly with my sheet music in the cafeteria, and finally showing up to my audition 15 minutes early. There, I would meet two of my theatre friends, Ryan Shinkle, who played Jacqueline de Bellefort in Trinity’s most recent production, “Murder on the Nile.” I also met Nolan Williams, who played William Ferguson in “Murder on the Nile”. I had only just met Ryan, but she gave me the best pep-talk I could have ever needed, which is something I love about theatre: Most of the people you meet in theatre are the nicest people you will ever meet, and it’s rare in the audition process for someone to be mean to you.

Most of the people you meet in theatre are the nicest people you will ever meet, and it’s rare in the audition process for someone to be mean to you.

— Dylan Henry

After Ryan’s pep-talk, I finally went into the auditorium where I would meet my director, Kate Reedy, and musical director, Mr. Zehnder. I sang for them “Anywhere But Here” from “Honeymoon in Vegas – The Musical” which, in my opinion, I didn’t nail as much as I thought I was going to, but that was most likely because I was nervous. After I sang my song, Mr. Zehnder tested my range, which to his surprise was remarkably high and exceptionally low, which for my normal talking voice, for anyone who has heard it, wasn’t what he was expecting. I left there feeling better than I did before, wished Ryan and Nolan to break a leg and cried for about 30 minutes, which is normal.

After I left, I waited for the next day to do the most dreadful thing ever: the dance call. There are generally three ways people classify themselves in theatre: an actor, a singer, or a dancer. I would say I’m an actor and a singer, not even close to being a dancer, so I was not looking forward to this at all. A dance call is when you go in for about two to four hours and right then and there. they want you to learn a few dances. Mind you, it doesn’t need to be perfect, but it’s difficult to just go in and just learn new dances in such a brief time.

Then, in the next week, there were the callbacks which I don’t mainly remember, but I do remember not preparing at all because I had no idea what to expect. Big mistake. We sang songs from “Dirty Rotten Scoundrels” which I had no idea the rhythm, tone, or tempo of the songs, which made it even more difficult for me. But nonetheless, with Trinity’s no male cut process, I got Desk Clerk/Ensemble, which I was thankful for. Then as soon as January came around, I spent the next eight-nine weeks in such a process I would never forget. I would go to rehearsal straight after school and it was something. I learned new vocab, dances, songs, and blocking cues until they were, in Ms. Reedy’s eyes, perfect. I had to learn multiple parts and sing Tenor and Alto 1, meaning I had to show up for some of the girl’s practices and all the regular ones I was called for. About halfway through our rehearsal schedule, I was cast as an understudy for the croupier role which built more on to my plate. I could go to practices that last as little as three hours to drop night which, for me, was from 2 p.m. to 3:45 a.m. which was 13 hours and 45 minutes.

So, for only a featured ensemble role, I was doing a bunch, but I still didn’t even compare the leads and all the lines they had to learn. Finally, we had a SHOW and performed it ten times, each of which had their own little hiccups, from people falling downstairs, people forgetting cues, dresses ripping, to shea lounge chair legs breaking right before intermission, which Mrs. Reedy thankful fixed during intermission. It was a great experience.

ACT TWO – My first Lead

After my freshman year and “Dirty Rotten Scoundrels,” I again was finding myself in August not knowing if I was going to do theatre, but then I got a text from one of my friends at Sacred Heart, Allison O’Bryan, desperate for me to sign up for their fall musical, “Hello, Dolly!”. Without me knowing what the musical was, who the characters were, or even what I was getting myself into or why Allison was so desperate, I immediately signed up on the sign-up genius four days before auditions. Sacred Heart’s auditions were a little different to prep for than Trinity’s as they gave you certain songs and you just had to pick which one you liked and sing it for them. While figuring out which song I wanted to sing for them, I was looking at the sign ups to see if I knew anyone else auditioning and now, I knew why Allison was so desperate, there was only two other males auditioning. I was shocked at how little men were signed up, but luckily, I knew one of the males auditioning as they were a grade school friend, Quinn Hall.

I texted Quinn frantically telling him that I was doing the play with him, and we were overjoyed. There are only two songs for the males in this show: “Put on your Sunday Clothes” and “It takes a Woman”. Quinn and the other male were both singing “Put on you Sunday Clothes”, so naturally I was inclined to give the director, Mrs. Vanegas, variety, so I practiced and sang “It takes a Woman”.

The thing is, the song “It takes a Woman” was a bass song, the lowest singing male, and at the time I didn’t think I could sing bass. I was so scared, but I persevered through the audition and was feeling alright about it. Then again came the dreaded dance call where I, during my group’s turn, tripped on my other foot, falling HARD and  just didn’t do the dance correctly at all. Because they only had three males, I got a call back for two of the main lead men and got the bass lead, Horace Vandergelder of Yonkers New York. “Hello, Dolly” did impose a little bit of a conflict for me though as their rehearsals were at 6 p.m. instead of right after school so it was inconvenient for me, and my mother, but we made it work.

The one thing I wasn’t prepared for was that Horace was out of my range for the time, and he didn’t fit my personality or any characteristic of me at all. Like if there was someone who could be the opposite of me, it would be Horace Vandergelder. For others like Anna Schmitt, Sophie Sheridan in Assumption’s production of Mamma Mia!, she says, “If I get a role that is the exact opposite of who I am I find it extremely exciting! It gives me a chance to push my boundaries and act to the best of my ability.”  I didn’t like being him, but I did like being a lead for once. “Hello, Dolly!” seemed to fly by even though it was about two months of work, and the friends I made there made it all the more memorable.

Curtain Call

The last thing for now in my theatre “career” was the audition process for “The Music Man,” coming to Trinity High School. This was my most prepared for and favorite audition process I have ever been, through, and I was just simply happy with how it turned out. Prepping for the audition process was easier than ever, as I knew what I could do and was supposed to do. First, like always, I needed to prep a song for the singing part of the audition, and I chose “An English Teacher” from “Bye Bye Birdie,” which was an Alto 2 song. Despite being cut short, I felt really good about. Then, for me, I knew there was little to no way I could prep for the dance call with my level of experience, but for others like Claire Sexton, a talented dancer, she said to prep for dance call, “I take technique classes and prior to the actual call, I stretch.” The dance call was really hard, as always, as we learned two new dances: one with a lot of pivot, and the other with high kicks.

Then after that there were four days of call backs, and like a blessing, I was called back on all four days. For me, like many people, at this time I listened to the soundtrack of “The Music Man” and tried to get a feel for the rhythm. Joey Paulin, a fellow sophomore actor at Trinity, said, “To prepare for auditions and callbacks, I try to understand the show’s meaning and storyline. I do this by watching the movie of the show or researching characters. This helps in callbacks with knowing what is happening in scenes, as well as what emotions are supposed to be displayed in the scenes.” These are great ways of preparing and knowing this helped me go into the callbacks more prepared than ever, reading lines in the way the characters would and sing songs in the proper fashion and rhythm.
On the fourth day of call backs, it was a dance call back, which, in my previous shows, I never was called back for. I was so excited, as I knew this meant I would be lifting people and learning an actual dance. I was overwhelmed and overjoyed. This was to me so fun, new, and exciting.

After that, the cast list came out and I was cast as Olin Britt, the bass quartet member, and I can’t wait to start practicing for this musical in the spring with all my new friends and hopefully new capabilities. Check out “The Music Man” when it comes to Trinity on March 6, 2024, running through March 17, 2024.

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