So You Want to Put on a Show... (Part 5) - Casting
After the auditions are over, the real battle begins, as the directing team tries to figure out which actor belongs to which role. The team can be made up of any number of people - as few as one, if you have a really small show, and as many as the show can stand - I think the most on a community theatre show I’ve worked on was six people (though others have had more than that).
Casting is, in my opinion, the most important part of putting on a show. If you get the right people in the right parts, you’re well on your way to putting on a successful show. If you get the wrong person in the wrong part, you’re going to struggle.
What makes it especially tricky is that each part is different. Some have specific requirements in terms of voice, age or appearance - and some are open to interpretation. For example, in casting the leads for “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat,” you’re dealing with two parts - Joseph and the Narrator.
Unless you’re taking the show in an unusual direction, Joseph needs to be a youngish male who has a strong tenor voice. He should have a sympathetic, innocent look about him - the audience needs to be rooting for him from the moment they see him.
The Narrator is another story - the part can be played by a male or a female, the body type isn’t specific - the only requirement is that the actor has a strong voice and a sense of fun about them.
So there you go - two parts, two completely different requirements. And there are dozens of other parts in that show, each calling for different talents.
The directing team has to sift through the crowd of actors who auditioned and match them up with the parts available - and different directors may have different ideas about which actor is right for which part. That’s where negotiation and discussion comes in, as the team weighs the pros and cons of each decision. Sometimes it’s an amiable discussion, and sometimes it gets heated.
The best advice I can give to anyone in that decision-making position is: trust your gut instinct. Your first impression is often the right one. And if it’s any consolation, it’s all guesswork anyway - all you can do in some cases is cross your fingers and home for the best.
It’s also a stressful process for the actors, who must wait for the cast list to be posted. A good friend who spent time as a professional actor once told me that his feelings would get hurt when he wasn’t chosen for a part he knew he was right for - and then one day he realized that there was nothing personal in the decision of the directors - they were just going with the actor that they saw fitting the part.
That’s a tough lesson to learn, because no one likes rejection - but virtually no actor always gets the part they want. Some actors will refuse a part if it’s not the one they want, and that’s certainly their right - but most actors realize that being part of a show is the goal, and every show is a learning experience. It’s also important to remember that you may not like the part you got, but there are dozens of other actors out there who would gladly take your place.
So once the debate ends and the final list is posted, it’s time to move to the next level - rehearsals.