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Actresses audition for new Pa. play

April 20, 2003|by BONNIE HELLUM BRECHBILL

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - When the call went out for "Four strong actresses in their 20s needed to portray modern versions of legendary movie actresses Bette Davis, Joan Crawford, Dorothy Lamour and Natalie Wood," 10 young women from the Tri-State area responded.

Saturday, the women waited quietly in a hallway of the Cumberland Valley School of Music building on the campus of Wilson College for their turn to audition.

In the next room, Jenny Kreyl, Mike Shoeman and Kelly Dell listened intently as the actresses read lines from the play "Crystal Weeds."

The first play written by Kreyl, "Crystal Weeds" will premiere in Chambersburg in July and be produced in Philadelphia this fall.

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Kreyl is the playwright, director and co-producer; Shoeman, her husband, is co-producer and acting coach; and Dell, of York, Pa., is stage manager. Kreyl, of Jenkintown, Pa., and Dell attended Temple University together.

"These are wonderful people," Kreyl said of the actresses she had auditioned. "It's going to be difficult to choose. We have two strong candidates for every part."

"It's a challenging acting piece," Shoeman said.

After the individual auditions, actresses were called in two at a time to do line readings.

Krista Bruno of Chambersburg and Laura Sweeney of McConnellsburg, Pa., read the parts of Bette Davis and Joan Crawford.

As the hopefuls stood with scripts in hand, Kreyl explained the real-life relationship between the famous actresses.

"There's tension between them, almost hatred," she said. "But I need to see levels. There are moments when they actually get along."

"Be in the moment; play off of each other," Shoeman said.

In a scene with a completely different tone, Natalie Hultman of Chambersburg and Ann Davis of Greencastle, Pa., read from the opening of Act 2, portraying best friends.

"Relax. Listen to each other," Shoeman coached. "Appreciate what each other is doing. The play is about relationships. We're looking for how you connect."

Hultman, 25, has worked in film and television, including a guest spot on the NBC series "Ed." She plays a girl named Aria in an independent film about Three Mile Island, "Steam Cloud Rising," and has done commercials for WJAL. She went to the School for Film and Television in New York.

Bruno, 28, has appeared in many community theater productions in Chambersburg and San Francisco, and in college theater at Pennsylvania State University's main campus.

"My one claim to fame was playing Mary Elizabeth in 'A Love Divided,' " by St. Thomas (Pa.) playwright Marcus Steinour, she said.

Kreyl and Shoeman also run summer drama workshops for the music school.

Kreyl said her play is "a little risqu for Chambersburg, but we need to expand."

The production of "Crystal Weeds" is made possible by a grant from the Pennsylvania Partners in the Arts. For more information, see the play's Web site at www.crystalweeds.com

Performances will be Saturday, July 26, at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday, July 27, at 2 p.m. in Warfield Hall on the campus of Wilson College on U.S. 11 north of Chambersburg.

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