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Balancing blood: Ensemble vs Auditions

Last year I posted a list of helpful hints of sorts to prepare folks for our auditions.

Still, one of the major things that continues to come back around is the idea that we really don’t cast outside our core, and that it might be a waste of time to show up since we may have already promised parts away to someone within the company.

First of all I suppose we have to define what “in the company” means. Jobsite has a body of 9 who artistically steward the company – myself and the 8 Artistic Associates, who are more generally referred to as “the board.” There is also the group of artists working with us on the mainstage and within side projects, which can be anywhere from 20 to 35 people roughly from season to season, that we refer to as “the ensemble.”

These two groups are both bypassed through the general round of “come do monologues” auditions and are eligible to go directly to callbacks based on who the individual directors would like to see.

Believe it or not, we do not work with back-alley deals on parts, and nor do we choose not to work with people outside of these groups for mainstage casting.

If we didn’t want to have the general auditions to see new, fresh faces – we wouldn’t have them.

We are loyal to our artists, we’re not trying to cover that up. We want to function as an artist’s company and we’d like one day to have an all-artist staff once we can afford to pay for those salaries.

Our mission statement speaks of creating an artistic home, of the collaboration of forms, and we are very much aiming for that. We realize this may appear off-putting for those coming in off the street. That it may look like a nepotistic system. That’s simply not the case in all honesty.

Some of our reasons for this system:

  • We want to nurture and support local talent. We place a premium on this. Even though we are not in the position to hire out of town, we want it engrained now that priority goes to those who’ve chosen to call this area home, and we want to help support and reward them for choosing to make this area more vibrant by their presence.
  • We want to create better work. As artists work together, grow together and establish a vocabulary together the potential for greatness increases. You can’t get that same level out of transiency, of starting over every production with new faces, by bringing people in who may or may not share the same values and vision you do. As an artist also has the freedom of an artistic home, their work is bound to improve on their own as well.
  • We want to create opportunity. We know we can’t right now pay our artists what they are worth, but we can provide them opportunity in the form of using our producing apparatus to help them with their own work as second stage efforts. We call these Job-side Projects. It may be a staged reading, or a one-person show or a minimally-mounted full production. We provide the space and most of the resources and the artist has the opportunity to do what they wish. As 2009 goes along we will have staged readings, a radio drama on WMNF, two different stand-up comedians testing new work, a NY-style cabaret piece launch and a night of shorts put together by local directors. All monies made on these nights goes directly back into the hands of the artist and thet get to have their work scene. This too will improve the quality of potential future mainstage work but also enriches the entire area and gives our artists another reason to stay here and to continue to experiment and refine.

So, yes, there is a lot of value in us working with an ensemble, and it’s a system that we support 100%, but that does not mean you can’t be cast coming in from the outside.

Every year we have those who leave the ensemble. Maybe they simply move out of area, maybe they have a baby or get a new job that’s more demanding of their time. Maybe they just decide they need a break. Every year we look to grow our level of talent, in addition to finding new faces who might be able to replace the old. And as I’ve said before – every year there are people who come in off the street and take great parts in shows.

We want the best people for all the parts. Simple as that.

Of course casting is a giant balancing act as I went on about in that previous blog, but every one of us who directs is always excited about the prospects of new blood and all that it brings.

So the two notions can marry – commitment to an ensemble as well as hosting open auditions.

So if you’re an actor out there reading this and are of the opinion that we just cast the same people over and over again, give our auditions a chance. We only ask that you come prepared and give it your all. Blow our doors off. We look forward to that actually.

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One thought on “Balancing blood: Ensemble vs Auditions

  1. I think it was 3 seasons ago that some outsider named Steve Garland walked in and got the choice role of Katurian in Pillowman.

    So outsiders can walk in and score big.

    Unless he was already secretly part of the Jobsite Illuminati.

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