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Thoughts on the casting process
With 5 of our 6 shows for 0809 now cast (and the last one not being cast until the beginning of November), I thought I’d post some thoughts on the whole process. I’m not sure if it’s helpful for actors or interesting to an audience member, but we’ll see where it goes.
- Reputation precedes the individual. Word travels fast in this business, even for things that happen outside the theater. Directors talk to other directors, particularly about actors they don’t know or don’t have current experience with. If you develop a reputation for any sort of bad behavior, it’s going to count against you. I believe that no amount of talent is worth dealing with certain behaviors. We’re looking for talented folks, but those who are also hard-working, easy to get along with and in it for the greater good (the work, the show, the company) and not just themselves. If it comes down to a great talent with an attitude or a lesser talent who can be worked with to get to the same results who is a true team player, I’ll go with the team player.
- We are not this big scary or cliquishly snobby private club. I know that is sometimes the perception, and I think it just might be easier for some folks to cling to that than to be open to the reality. Any group of any sort that does any kind of work has a core, however small, of people they can rely on. We’re no different. Specifically, we have fashioned ourselves as an artist-driven company. Our board of 9 are all theater professionals and we are surrounded by an ensemble of dedicated artists 20-30 strong depending on the year. So yes, we already have a body of talent to choose from, but we’re also looking to add to that group at all times. 11 actors on our mainstage this season had never worked with us before. Of course the more you work with anyone and they produce solid results the more likely you are to want to work with them again. Part of Jobsite’s mission is also to create an artistic home, and we’re trying to do just that for those who choose to put in the work for us. That will never stop us from being on the hunt for new blood.
- Please, for the love of the Gods and all that is holy, follow the instructions given. If a company asks for 2 1-minute pieces, prepare that. Not 1 5-minute piece or 2 3-minute pieces. If they ask for a contemporary and a classical piece, give it to them. 5 copies of a headshot and resume? Bring that. Most directors at an audition are very suspect of any actor who can’t even follow these simplest of instructions.
- Always assume when people ask for monologues that they want them to be memorized. If you want to be taken seriously, take it seriously. Try to choose material that not only shows off your strength, but your versatility.
- What they say about the audition beginning as soon as you arrive is true. If you’re rude to other people, folks take notice. If you harass the person helping coordinate the auditions, it will get back to the directors.
- The same Golden Rule about being nice to people applies here. Folks take notice when people start acting too aggressively competitive with each other or doing the stare-down/cold shoulder things. We like nice people who can get along in a group.
- Be patient with us. We do our best to not waste people’s time. That doesn’t mean though that things are always fast.
- Everyone at a callback is there for a reason. The director sees something in that person and considers them a possibility. There’s not much in it for us to call people back we have no intention of ever putting on stage. Nothing is finished until all offers are accepted and a public announcement is made.
- Follow instructions. If someone asks you to do something different, give that choice all you’ve got. If you’re allowed to watch others audition and the director is giving feedback to other actors reading for the part you are – pay attention, make adjustments. Knowing a person is directable is a key part of casting.
- Make bold choices, and commit to them. Don’t just stand their and read with a script over your face.
- Engage your scene partners. Be generous. Connect. It’s not just about you. Directors also notice a stage hog when they see one, and it’s not very attractive.
THE MIND OF A DIRECTOR
- We really and truly want everyone to do well. We want you to smoke it, to tear it up, to kill it.
- We want to put the absolute best cast together possible.
- It’s difficult to work in this fashion amongst friends, and it’s virtually impossible to work in this business for very long without making personal connections with those we work with. Be respectful of that. It’s not fair to try to leverage your friendship for a part. It might actually even blow up in your face.
- Similarly, don’t just assume a director is going to cast so-and-so over you because they’re friends. That said, see my note on the level of trust you build up with those actors you know. If you’re at the callback, you’re in the hunt. It’s on you to impress.
- Each part effects the other. There’s more to getting cast than just being good. It’s about how the director sees the part, what you bring that may fit that or change their mind, how you look/work with someone else. It’s an enormous puzzle. I’ve now heard from all of the auditions for this season and every director has said that they could have cast their show well at least 2 different ways.
- This work is typically the hardest part of putting a show together. I don’t expect a pity party about it, but directors deserve more sympathy than they ever really get.
- So you might not get the part, but the work you do in auditions is never wasted. Since we audition the summer prior to a season, there’s always the chance we might lose an actor to an out of area move, a family emergency, illness or even better-paying work (it’s happened). You never know when your phone might ring down the road. You might even find yourself getting a call for a totally different show based on an impression you made. You may also find yourself getting a personal invitation direct to callbacks the next time around. It’s also not unheard of for a director at another theater to call someone and ask for recommendations, where your name might just turn up.
- The more you get out and get your face seen the better. It goes back to that familiarity/comfort/trust thing. Get involved. Go to shows. Volunteer.
- Your reputation can also come back full circle here, if you don’t get cast and proceed to head to the nearest watering hole and rail against the show, the director, the company and anyone who ever like a show they ever produced – don’t be surprised if that word goes back to those you were talking about. It’s a small city and a smaller industry.
This year there was a great showing of new faces at auditions. Of those folks, 5 new faces have already been added to the ensemble. I’m looking forward to seeing even more of them at the Pericles callbacks.
We’re lucky to have so much talent in this area. It deserves to be shown off, nurtured and developed. This region also needs to dedicate more attention and resources to keeping this precious commodity here, and not continually draining out to places where an actor might be able to get more work, money or respect.
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