Casting

This is my final pre-written installment of the theatre education series for high school students. If you’d like more, please let me know.

Continuing the series on theatre education for high school students…

Casting a show can be fun, but there’s one potentially stressful part. For most school one-act festivals, you’re competing with several other directors for the same pool of actors. You probably won’t get everyone you want. You have to realize that going in.

As I said before, you need to consider alternative cast members before you meet with the other directors. That way, if one actor isn’t available, you have someone else in mind you’re comfortable with.

Here’s the tricky part here…Unless you’re doing a one-person show, no actor gets cast in a vacuum. You’re looking for talent in each individual actor, yes, but you also want to make sure these people have some chemistry with each other–that they look and feel right together.

For example, if your script calls for three girls who all need to be the same age and who appear together frequently, you might not want to cast one senior and two freshmen. Unless she looks as young as the freshmen, the senior might stand out in an awkward way. They might all be great individually, but something could look a little off when you put them together.

It’s easy to get so focused on each individual role that you forget about the larger picture.

Of course, you’re not going to get your ideal cast. You’ll have to make concessions, just as the other directors will make concessions that will work in your favor.

As you go into the meeting, decide which top choice you’re most willing to part with. It’s not a bad idea to go ahead and rank everyone. Then, when a conflict arises, you can be the first to offer a concession. “Okay, I’ll let you have Actor A, but I really want to hang onto Actor B here.”

Be aware: The actor you label as an absolute must-have could very well hold that same label on another director’s casting notes. In the end, only one of you can have that person (unless you want to go the double-casting route, which is only advisable if there are more parts than actors.)

Usually, when such a situation arises, the faculty advisor should act as the final arbiter (especially for high school productions). The teacher is most likely to favor the director who already made the most compromises with other roles. If you haven’t given up any actors yet, but your rival has given up two top choices, you’re probably not getting the person you want in this case.

So think strategically. It’s like a crazy, creative chess game. How much do you want each actor, and who are you willing to give up to get him/her in your show?

But remember: As you keep mixing and matching the roles, try to picture each set of actors together.

That’s something else to consider while watching the auditions: How well does each actor work with others?

When the dust settles and you finally have a cast, there will be further surprises in store–all kinds of surprises, possibly.

Auditions are not a science. Someone might audition well, but then it takes him several rehearsals to warm up to the part. Or, an actor might display brilliant skills in rehearsals that you never noticed when she auditioned, making her the absolute best for the role–despite the fact that she was your third choice.

In my first directing experience, through sheer dumb chance, I wound up casting two girls who had been lifelong best friends–which I had no idea about. That made for some rambunctious rehearsals, though quite fun.

So unless you cast all your best friends, you never know precisely what you’re going to get. But that’s part of what makes it all exciting.

In any case, never tell anyone that he or she was a second or third choice. Once they’re cast, then they’re all you have to work with. Make the most of them, and make sure you have fun.