Have you ever seen a production and wondered to yourself…how did this person get any role, let alone the role they were selected for? It doesn’t take another director to sometimes recognize bad casting decisions as I think often times people believe it to be favoritism, sometimes known as precasting. But, in the defense of the actor who might only be having a bad show–difficulty finding rhythm, sickness, an unprepared understudy, etc.–that isn’t always the case. It does, however, take some director insight to understand the conundrum we are sometimes placed in during auditions where casting a show can be a blessing–especially if its a show where have a nonstandard vision for the production.
Questions to consider: is this all they, the potential actors auditioning, have to offer? Are they having a bad day, what if they do this during a performance night but never during rehearsals, is something going wrong now that is getting resolved later, is this really them…endless concerns that may never get an whole or complete answer until worrisome rehearsals where you see people fully develop into their characters. You might think to yourself, I wish I could just cast one of my friends–that you know they’d do a good job and, bonus, you could depend on them. What’s the harm in that? To some people, there are many ways this is harmful. Let me tell you the ways…
It isn’t a bad thing if you tell people in audition notices and at auditions that X role isn’t open because it has been filled previously. Also, it may not be a bad thing if you’ve provided every one with a fair opportunity to audition and they didn’t deliver. But that begs a very fair question–why didn’t the pre-casted come and participate in the same audition requirements with every one else? If for no other reason than to go through the time and effort of an audition and earn their role. To add on, what if the pre-casted didn’t want to be in the show but now feel obligated because you asked? Slam in some additional conflict–what if you never intended to cast any one except the previously corroborated with actor the entire time?
Personal opinion time: How unfair is that and how could any one do that to a group of actors possibly (of course metaphorically) dying for a chance at that role?
I like to believe that when I go into auditions for Forum in March 2019 (still very excited as I feel this is right around the corner) that I won’t pre cast based on who arrives, or that I won’t be bias against any who auditions. I have requested people who are atypical to roles to audition, but I like them because of characteristics I have seen on stage. Someone other than who I have asked and exhibits those qualities would certainly be put into the running for the role. Who knows what will really happen, but this is a hope of mine.
I am not closing a role from fresh faces auditioning, I want to see unlikely people inhabit unpredicted roles so that my audience is entertaining at the shenanigans on stage. I want to see typical people audition for roles they may have held before and have a passion for the production–maybe I’ll love what they bring to the table over what my atypical hopefuls show me. There’s no guarantee that what I want today is what I am going to want the day of auditions, my mind could change a million times between now and then–I can actually almost guarantee this will happen (much to the chagrin of my producer). I don’t want to get locked into one of my lovely friends, or favorites, when I could be taken away by the audition performance of a new actor.
Unbiased opinion: Complex shows require strong commitment and there is cause for concern that in a typical, community theatre rehearsal timeframe that it is not possible for an unprepared actor to establish, develop character and memorize lines, blocking (including choreography possibly, etc.).
Maybe I’m wrong for Forum, maybe I should lock in some favorites now so I have a guarantee the cast is filled out. Fortunately I couldn’t do that even if I wanted to, my theatre doesn’t allow precasting. Back filling by request when an actor drops out, sure–no problem. Pre filling a role is no bueno and grounds for dismissal. I kind of appreciate this restriction even if there are other guidelines that I don’t necessarily agree with, more to come on that in future posts. ‘Til next time.