Actors vie for chance to bungle 'the Bard's' best material

Fifteen young men milled around the Malloy Hall lobby, stomachs full of butterflies and limbs full of nervous energy. Passers by would not have noticed, however. They would have seen a group of college boys looking for room 112, filling out paperwork and clowning around. These guys are actors, after all.

This was auditions for "The Complete Works of William Shakespeare, Abridged," held Wednesday, Oct. 12 on the Fort Hays State University campus, after having been rescheduled.

"The first audition was scheduled at kind of a bad time. Our most recent show was still running and lots of other things were happening around campus. We only had three guys show up," said Bruce Bardwell, the show's director and assistant professor of communication studies.

Competition was stiff the second time around. Only three roles are available for the production. They must be filled by young men with a strong sense of humor off-stage.

"They get to use their own personalities so it's very important that they themselves are humorous," said Bardwell. "The characters are so much the guy in the role that they will even have the same name."

Humor was in abundance on Wednesday evening. While most of the auditioners were there because of their love of theatre, Peabody freshman Aaron Yoder's stated reason was different.

"Maybe 'Saturday Night Live' will discover me," he said as he walked in.

Yoder hammed it up during his read-through with Aaron Davis, Hutchinson senior, and Shane Pelzel, Larned freshman.

Davis, who came with Yoder, was there because, "I was in theatre when I went to Adams State College and wanted to continue doing it here."

"With our power combined, it would be awesome," they said.
Pelzel hopes to continue his theatre career at FHSU. Just recently he finished a run as Bobby in "Cabaret."

Other FHSU theatre veterans were on hand, John Simmonds, McDonald sophomore and Joseph Galante, Mesa, AZ, senior, among them. But having experience didn't equate to being calm.

"Are you kidding? Of course I'm nervous! I've been looking forward to this show ever since I heard we were doing it. It's supposed to be really funny," said Simmonds.

The script was a huge draw for those auditioning. Most of them cited it as one of the biggest reasons for auditioning.
"I love this piece," said Jeff Leiker, Hays freshman. "I've been a huge fan since I saw it performed at a forensics competition in high school."

"I have a love for theatre," said Leiker, who brought his girlfriend along for moral support. "And I was bored."

As the actors bumbled and chuckled their way through the script, trying to remember which part they were reading, mispronouncing words and trying to follow stage directions, Bardwell watched each trio thoughtfully, looking for three character types.

"One character will play the larger male roles; be a real he-man type. One is -- not effeminate, but plays the more feminine roles. He'll act as if he's not willing to do it, though. The third is more a narrator. He's kind of bookwormish," he said.

All three parts "must be filled with guys who are innately funny. You can't force that," said Bardwell. "I'm looking at how they play with the pieces they were given."

The actors themselves are either very modest or truly don't consider themselves comedians.

"I don't know. I guess I'm funny. People tell me that sometimes," said Brandon Nichols, Wauneta, NE, senior. Nichols played several small roles in last season's production of "To Kill a Mockingbird."

Pelzel also was hesitant to call himself funny.

"I've never really thought about it. I don't consider myself to be funny." He conceded, however, "I've been told that I am, but I don't go out of my way to be."

Regardless of whether the actors consider themselves funny, Bardwell has some tough decisions ahead.

"It's going to be very difficult to choose, there was a good selection," he said. "I'm keeping my mind open because I want three different personalities and looks. They definitely gave me that tonight."

"The Complete Works of Shakespeare, Abridged" will run March 9-12, 2006, in Felten-Start Theatre in Malloy Hall on the FHSU campus. Shows begin at 8 p.m. on Thursday, Friday and Saturday and at 2:30 p.m. on Sunday.

Tickets are $8 for FHSU students and $10 for non-students.
For more information or to purchase tickets contact Tara Neitzel, ticket booth manager, at (785) 628-4225 or

Students who auditioned are listed below by hometown.

Cunningham: Mario Lazoya, junior
Dodge City: Adam McElwain, junior
Hays: Jeff Leiker, freshman
Hutchinson: Aaron Davis, senior
Larned: Shane Pelzel, freshman
Leoti: Tyler Hughes, freshman
McDonald: John Simmonds, sophomore
Peabody: Aaron Yoder, freshman
Plainville: Chris Peavy, senior
Salina: Jared Hulstine, senior
Topeka: Darin Challacombe, graduate student
Trousdale: Kevin Wood, sophomore
Ulysses: Jarrett Henson, freshman
Mesa, AZ: Joseph Galante, senior
Wauneta, NE: Brandon Nichols, sophomore

Back to Index

Office of University Relations   |  600 Park Street   |  Hays, KS  67601-4099
(785) 628-4206   |   Fax (785) 628-4152
Kent Steward, Director   |  |  Kurt Beyers, Assistant Director   |