Well, by now you’ve all seen the cast list and I can’t wait for scripts to be handed out on Saturday for our read thru and first rehearsal! Robin Hood is one of my favorite shows and I am beyond thrilled to be able to work on it again with our current group of NDW actors.
Speaking of our actors, they brought it to auditions. In fact, we had a really hard time casting the show because we have so much talent in our group! So what do you do, as a director, when you have to find parts for multiple actors who are talented enough to play just about any role? This is the challenge that faces us every time we cast a show, but this time around was really difficult for some reason.
For any casting session, the director’s job is not only to find the best actor for a particular role, but also the best combination of actors. At NDW, because everyone who auditions automatically gets a role, it’s also about finding a role that will help each actor shine. It’s quite the puzzle to put together. Sometimes we have to consider things other than pure talent, like do these two actors look like they could be a couple, or will these two actors work well together? Sometimes, it doesn’t matter, but sometimes, depending on the actors, it is something that we have to consider before we make any cast list official. Thinking this way also allows us to figure out what to do with actors who could play any role. It helps us narrow things down and find the best part for the actor and vice versa.
Let’s say you have 4 actors that could easily play any of the main roles (they can all sing, act, and dance). How do you figure out which actor to put in which role? If we were casting Bye Bye Birdie, for example, maybe all of our actresses could easily play Kim, Rosie, Ursula, and Mae Peterson. Maybe, even though they are all talented, a couple of them may look more mature than the other two. Those two would then be considered for Rosie and Mae Peterson and not Kim or Ursula. Let’s say that Conrad Birdie and Hugo Peabody have already been cast. Does one of the younger looking girls work better with those two actors? Does one of them look better standing next to the actor playing Hugo? If so, that actress could be best cast as Kim. For the two more mature actresses, which one would be better paired with the Albert Peterson actor? Rosie is his girlfriend and Mae his mother, so how the two actresses interact with this actor matters. Sometimes though, it comes down to a feeling. If you’re trying to cast a girlfriend or a mother, who of the two contending actresses seems like she would be best to lay a guilt trip on someone? Does one look more matronly than the other? All of these things, and more (like personality), need to be considered when casting.
Sometimes, when an actor could be considered for multiple roles you have to create multiple casts and figure out which one feels better in the end. Often in doing this, you find yourself playing musical chairs on paper: If Actor A plays Conrad Birdie, than Actress B will play Kim and Actress C will play Rosie. But if Actor D is playing Conrad, then Actress B would be Rosie and Actress C would play Kim. This is a much less complicated version of what we do during casting (and with over 70 actors).
One other thing we have to consider when casting is that NDW is a workshop. This means that we strive really hard to cast actors where they fit and not where they will fail. Sometimes this means that we cast an actor a certain way to help him or her grow. There have been many shows where we cast someone in a serious role, when in the past they’ve only done comedic roles, and vice versa. In fact, I remember the first time I worked on this show with NDW we cast Jane Raithel’s daughter (who was an 8th grader) in the role of Salome because she had just done a more serious role and we wanted to see her do something lighter – we knew she had a comedic side and we were right. (Quick disclaimer: Jane never took part in casting her own children and we didn’t have a choreographer that show, so it was just Cindy and I making that particular decision.)
I’d like to think that when the cast list goes up no one makes any judgments about their roles until the read thru, but I know that is not always the case. Even after the read thru, some actors think that because they only have lines in certain scenes, that means that those are the only scenes they are in. Not so! Back to my first point though, it’s hard to grasp your role when it isn’t one of the “main” characters. Robin Hood is a story that dates back to the middle ages and most people are familiar with certain characters (Robin Hood, Maid Marion, Little John, the Sheriff, for example) and think that if they are not playing one of these characters that they don’t matter. That is never the case. And in the case of Robin Hood, our play is just one interpretation of a story that has been retold several times over, so you really do have to wait until you get your script to see how characters you may not be familiar with fit into the story. There is so much going on in this play and I think you will all really enjoy it and be happy with your roles. Plus – we get to do fight choreography!
So, having said all that – I can’t wait to share this story with you on Saturday and start rehearsing.
See you all at 8:55 Saturday morning,