Arts, Dining & Entertainment

‘Listen Up Project’ announces auditions for teen musical

Teen outreach program looks for VT teens aged 13-19 to star in a new musical written by and based on the lives of their peers, to rehearse and tour this summer

It’s been over a year since Listen Up Project producer Bess O’Brien originally scheduled in-person auditions on March 14-15, 2020, for a musical production that was supposed to tour the state in the fall of that year. Only a few days before the first scheduled day of auditions, the team was busy making plans, plans which quickly ground to a halt as Covid-19 forced them to postpone the auditions, and then eventually, the tour itself.

Now, with hundreds of Vermonters being vaccinated daily and a return to normalcy on the horizon, the Listen Up Project is gearing up to finally tour the state with a musical written by and for Vermont teenagers. But first, they need to find the cast who will represent teens across the state on stage.

O’Brien notes that she wants to get kids of all types involved in the project to represent the diversity of Vermont. “Even if you have never been in a play before, if you love to perform or always wanted to, sign up! All bodies, all genders, all cultures, and all identities are welcomed and encouraged!”

“We want to cast a wide net,” said director Isaac Eddy. “We want young people from every corner of the state and from all walks of life. Even if you don’t think of yourself as a ‘theatre kid,’ I would really encourage you to come audition for this show.”

Because the threat of Covid-19 is still far from over, the team will not be doing auditions in person, but rather via uploads to its website. Teen actors aged 13–19 are encouraged to upload a video no longer than two minutes with a monologue and a song. The song can be of any genre and the monologue can be any spoken word piece from a play, film, TV show, poem, rap or original work. Teens may also choose to upload video of themselves dancing. Details and the link to upload are available at

“Every facet of my life has been changed by my experience working with the Voices Project,”  said Annalise Shelmandine, who played and inspired the character of Vita in O’Brien’s similarly teen-penned 2004 musical. “I’m excited for a new generation of teens to get that same chance.” Shelmandine and fellow Voices cast member Shani Stoddard serve on the script review team for Listen Up. Stoddard, who earlier this year helmed Listen Up’s Black Voices of Vermont project, will also choreograph the dances in this production.

The performers chosen will rehearse throughout the month of July and tour the state from August 4–15.

To minimize the risk of Covid-19 transmission, the producers, directors and cast members will stay together at Lyndon Institute, Lyndonville during the rehearsal process. Although not all cast members will have the option of getting the Covid-19 vaccine, the producers hope that all performers and crew members who are eligible will get vaccinated.

Teens are also needed for behind-the-scenes jobs and pit musicians. More information can be found at

About the Listen Up Project

The Listen Up Project will produce an original musical inspired, created, and performed by Vermont teens that will go to the heart of current youth issues, including mental health, trauma, resilience, friendship, love, family, community, and issues that affect Vermont and the world.

The Listen Up Project launched in February 2019 with a six-month “listening phase,” where a team of professional facilitators created ways for teens to share their stories and ideas through workshops, writing prompts, social media platforms, submissions, group discussions, and individual interviews. Teens and adult mentors will use this material to create the show.

Bess O’Brien, award-winning filmmaker of “The Hungry Heart,” “Coming Home,” “All of Me and Ask Us Who We Are,” serves as directing producer. Mitch Barron, director of Centerpoint, is associate producer. Isaac Eddy, a theatre professor at NVU–Johnson, will direct. Nate Venet, a Burlington–area musician, will serve as music director. Shani Stoddard will choreograph.

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