As the Players Centre gets closer to opening a new complex in Lakewood Ranch, it is expanding its outdoor shows.
Editor's note: Jay Heater's article incorrectly stated the role Daniel Pelissier said he earned in a "Kiss Me Kate" audition. The correct role is Hortensio.
Sarasota actor Daniel Pelissier stood on the new outdoor stage Jan. 17 at Jiggs Landing Outpost, his back turned toward Director Donna DeFant and Assistant Director Patti McCauley.
DeFant and McCauley were hosting auditions for Edgar Lee Masters' “Spoon River Anthology,” a 1915 collection of poems that narrate the epitaphs of the residents of a fictional Illinois town. The two directors were looking for about 13 actors to fill roles in the play they will present beginning in late February on that same stage.
Facing the water at the county preserve, Pelissier was just himself, a 38-year-old receptionist at Hair Alchemy in Sarasota. But with a little shudder of his head and a quick twist back toward the directors, he became someone else. The story, set in a cemetery, is about deceased members of the community coming to life to narrate their epitaphs.
DeFant and McCauley listened intently as Pelissier recited his monologue. Then DeFant told him to do it again, this time from the diaphragm.
He did so, then headed to the parking lot after being told he would be contacted if he got the part.
Pelissier was asked if he had any advice for East County residents who are interested in auditioning for a role offered by The Players, who have planned to build a $30 million theater complex at Waterside Place of Lakewood Ranch.
"My best advice would be to just do it," Pelissier said. "When I did my first one, in September, 2011 for Kiss Me Kate (a Players' presentation), I didn't know how to dance and I had a lot going on in my life. My friend kept saying I was chicken. I figured I would just go and fall on my life. But I walked out with the role of Hortensio."
Pelissier since had earned roles both on stage and in film, often getting paid for this work. He said he likes acting on stage the best.
"When you do live theater, you are living the story from beginning to end," he said. "The audience gives you energy."
While Pelissier has ambitions of playing bigger roles, The Players offers opportunities for those who just dreamed of being part of a community theater production for fun, to those with bigger ambitions.
With the new theater complex estimated to be three years from opening, DeFant said The Players will be doing more outdoor shows all over Sarasota and Manatee counties. Jiggs Landing has become a perfect site with its serene and beautiful backdrop along with the small, outdoor stage just finished being built by Manatee County.
The hope is for a series of shows at the venue.
"We're very excited about doing something here," DeFant said. "We are taking community theater back to its roots. No microphones, no sets, no lights. This will be a way to get your feet wet."
DeFant was hoping to see new faces, but all those who auditioned at Jiggs Landing were actors who have performed with The Players in the past. She hopes “Spoon River Anthology,” — which will be held Feb. 27-28 and March 6-7 at Jiggs Landing (tickets are $20 for adults and $14 for students) — convinces those in attendance to give community theater a chance, or to tell their friends about it.
Like Pelissier, she encourages those interested to just do it.
"We just encourage them," she said. "Auditions always are nerve-racking. Just come, and take a deep breath. These are safe places, not negative places. We want to develop new talent. We want to get people involved."