I think there’s a certain mystery surrounding the task of casting a show.
Let me start by acknowledging that you might be one of those folks who goes in for an audition and, upon completing your tasks, simply puts it out of your mind. If you get the role, fantastic. If not, oh well.
Forgive me if I find this approach somewhat unattainable. Here is a more likely scenario:
As a hopeful actor you walk into the audition, read your lines, sing your song, and perhaps see a few others attempt the same. Then you leave. At that moment the gut-wrenching, soul-sucking waiting begins. You know the director said she wouldn’t be calling people until Friday, but it’s Wednesday night, you’re alone with a glass of merlot, and you’re freaking out! You agonize over the other actors you saw try out, comparing yourself to them in a myriad of ways. Maybe I should’ve tried that accent… Did I speak loudly enough? What if I’m too skinny? Fat? OId? Young? Why would they ever pick me? Maybe I could email and ask what they thought...no! That would look so desperate. Oh, I’m done for! I’ll never get the part!
And just when you calm yourself down, the cycle restarts.
Believe me, I know there’s a wide range of responses between these two, but as I see it these are the two ends of the spectrum. The reality is the director and assistant director have a very daunting task ahead of them following the audition process. Perhaps I can shed some light on the topic. Demystify it a bit, if you will.
In my mind there are three things directors look for and strongly consider when casting. These are aside from obvious factors such as age and gender of the character (though often that can be fluid as well.)
This is a technical issue that is very difficult to overlook when done poorly. If an actor is mumbling, talking quietly, or speaking with a lot of jarring stops it is hard to envision the person in the role. While good vocal quality and projection (filling the room with your voice) can be taught, it usually takes too much precious rehearsal time. Because of this, vocal quality is frequently a deciding factor in casting. Taking time to develop your reading skills and speaking voice could go a long way toward landing you a role.
When a director hands you a scene to read--whether you get a chance to rehearse it a bit or not--they expect to see you make a choice. Is the character tough? Kind? Loud? Sexy? Let the director see it. Make a decision and commit. Even if it ends up being the “wrong” choice, that’s okay. You showed initiative in choosing a direction to go while playing the scene. The worst thing you can do is simply stand there and read the words. We already know what it says, show us what you can do with it.
Stage presence is incredibly difficult to truly describe. It’s often said to be the “spark,” you almost don’t know what it is until you see it. When you do, though, boy you know it. Stage presence makes you want to watch the person even if they were just telling you how to make a paper mache balloon. They are interesting in their own right, without the frills of costumes, set pieces or props. When someone with strong stage presence walks in you know it immediately. It’s funny though, people who have this spark often don’t know it about themselves. If you tell them, they thank you but don’t quite seem to believe it. So if you don’t think you’ve got it, think again. You might be more intriguing than you realize.
Those are three of the things directors look for in auditions. There are many more, perhaps we’ll do another post on the subject someday. The bottom line is, casting is hard. You incredible, beautiful people make it so.
When 20+ children audition for a show with only four child-aged roles, well...that’s a powerful quandary wrapped in agony and surrounded by a magnificent blessing. All of them were so very talented and we could only pick four. If you have ever auditioned and not been cast, please consider this blog post your official thank you note. We at the Playhouse appreciate each and every one of you. It is our hope that you will continue to be part of our community of volunteers in whatever capacity you choose.
This has been “How to Get the Part...Maybe” because all of you are wonderful and make it incredibly difficult to decide. For that, we thank you.