SONG AND DANCE: Claire Oirschot has won a role in a Theatre Whakatane production after four years of auditioning and lots of work behind the scenes.

PERSEVERANCE has paid off for Claire van Oirschot who has finally won a theatre production stage role after years of unsuccessful auditions.

Claire, who has Asperger’s syndrome, says it has taken many auditions over four years to get the “call back” she has long waited for, and it’s news she is still finding hard to believe.

“Getting rejected always hurts. It breaks my heart,” says Claire. “I cry for days.” But this time round, things for Claire are different, and any tears shed have been tears of joy. “I just feel great.”

Winning a stage role in Theatre Whakatane’s upcoming production of The Sound of Music follows many years of behind the scene voluntary roles for Claire who says she has loved to sing and dance for as long as she can remember, and who developed a love of theatre after moving to Whakatane a decade ago.

“I went to see a lot of productions here and realised I really wanted to be part of them.”

Not finding success with auditions, Claire became involved with Theatre Whakatane in a voluntary role, helping where she could to stage the company’s productions, an activity she says she loves, and has continued for several years.

“It’s like being part of a big family and I really love theatre.” But her elusive quest for an onstage role continued.

“I’d practised and practised for the Mamma Mia auditions but I didn’t get it,” she says, adding that when attending the show as part of the audience, something she did several times, she would dance along with the rest of the audience, but get all the moves right.

“People must have wondered how I knew.”
Claire has always loved to sing and dance, doing ballet and modern dance as a child, and more recently, hip-hop. “I find it hard to learn a dance routine though, I have to practise a lot. And it’s hard to get all the notes right when I sing. I’m not great at it.”

A PROBLEM LIKE MARIA: The role of one of the nuns in The Sound of Music is one Claire auditioned for. She didn’t get the role but does have two speaking roles.

But following Claire’s recent audition for Theatre Whakatane’s next production, The Sound of Music, the aspiring performer was brought news she has long yearned to hear.

“I must have knocked their socks off at that audition,” she says. “The director said I’d done such a good job and he offered me two speaking roles, a maid and a villager.” Despite having auditioned for a singing role as a nun – a role she says she now realises wouldn’t have worked because she finds it difficult to stand still for long – the success of finally landing a role in a show has left Claire feeling ecstatic.

“I’ve been trying for years,” says Claire who has also auditioned for shows such as NZ Idol.

With rehearsals for The Sound of Music due to get under way shortly, Claire says she is dearly hoping the experience goes well. “I really need this to be a good experience.”
With Asperger’s syndrome typically making it difficult for sufferers to read body language, or gauge appropriate social response, Claire says what she describes as her “unintentional insensitivity” often causes problems and has cost her many friends in the past.

“I’ve got foot in mouth disease,” she laughs. “I tend to say the wrong thing at the wrong time and somehow I just seem to piss people off.”

She says she never means to upset anyone. “I feel terrible when it happens because I never mean to be unkind. It’s just that when I’m really happy or mad or sad, I tend to blurt things out without thinking about it.

“I think it would be great if there could be a kind of go-to person through the rehearsals so if anyone has a problem with me, they can talk to someone and that person could explain to me what had happened. I really want this to be a positive experience for everyone.”

With rehearsals due to begin, close on the heels of the wrap-up of Mamma Mia – Theatre Whakatane’s most successful production ever – there’s just three months now until the famed Von Trapp musical opens on stage at the Little Theatre.

No doubt Claire will be ready for it. After years of her roles behind the scenes, she’ll finally be on the side of the stage she’s dreamed of.

The Sound of Music is scheduled to run September 11-28. Tickets will be available through iTicket.