Well, by now I’m sure you’ve seen the cast list for Twinderella and are hopefully getting excited and looking forward to rehearsals starting. It’s important to remember that you won’t understand the full extent of your role until rehearsals start. Even during the read-thru next week, some of you might not realize how much you get to do during the show until you are actually doing scene work. So please, get excited, but if for some reason the cast list has had the opposite effect on you take heart – everyone will have a ton to do in this play. And remember: there are no small parts, just small actors (and no, that is not a reference to our 5th graders).
Every show I try to write a blog that explains the casting process, as it is somewhat mysterious to those who have never been on the other side of the table before. And every time I write this blog I talk about how much I love watching auditions – this is no different! But first, a real-life Debbi-auditions story:
So this past May I auditioned for Othello with the community theater group that I’ve worked with for over 10 years. Due to my summer schedule I put on the audition sheet that I would only do the show if offered the role of Emilia. Usually I don’t care who I play and am willing to take any role, but with a tight summer schedule I only wanted to commit to the rehearsal schedule if the role was worth it. For those unfamiliar, Emilia is the 2nd biggest female role. It is not in my nature to audition for the lead, and so Desdemona was not even on my radar.
In order to prepare for this audition I had to have a Shakespearian monologue ready to go. I had grand plans of learning something new, but found that with limited time I would have to go back to my standard monologue from A Taming of the Shrew. I worked on this monologue, not just to rememorize it, but to bring something new to it. I had faces that I was picturing while saying certain lines, associations that I was making to show particular emotions and I was really proud of myself.
I got to auditions, saw some friendly faces and then went in to the auditorium to audition for the director, producer, and stage manager/assistant director – all friends of mine (two of whom I had directed in the past). I said hello, got onstage and started to say the monologue. And then I realized that I was nervous. Really nervous. I did my best to stay on track, but I suddenly could not recall the faces I was supposed to be seeing or thinking of the things I was trying to think of and, although I didn’t forget the monologue, I was unable to bring to it all the emotions that I had been working so hard to muster.
And then I didn’t get the part… which was okay, and honestly, probably a good thing considering how busy I was. At first I was really bummed though. I thought about telling the director that I’d take any role – I just wanted to act and work with all my friends on this play. But I stuck to my guns and waited by my phone for the news. When the cast list was posted I saw that a friend got the role I had auditioned for and I was happy for her. I went to see the final performance of the play and it was wonderful. (It is possible that I would have gotten a smaller role had I been willing to take anything from the get-go, but there’s no way of knowing.)
The point of all of this is that everyone gets nervous, and you can’t always be perfect. However, we always ask that you do your best. When I realized I was nervous I didn’t stop. I kept going and I did my best to hold on to the emotions I had. When it was over I smiled, thanked my production staff friends and headed out of the room. I saved my disappointment until they couldn’t see my face. At Natick Drama Workshop though, things are much different.
First of all, everyone gets into the play, so you don’t have to be nervous about that. Second of all, you don’t have to prepare anything ahead of time, which means no memorization. And third, everyone has had the same level of preparation, meaning that no one has an advantage over anyone else. Additionally, because everyone is doing a cold reading (a monologue given at auditions for auditions), no one has the chance to do a ton of work, so you just do what you can do and make the best out of it that you can. (By work, I mean preparation.)
And that’s exactly what everyone did at NDW this past Saturday. And that is why I love auditions so much. It’s especially great to see how our returning actors have grown since the last show (talent wise, as well as in terms of height and confidence), but it’s also nice to see what our new cast members are going to be adding to this program.
And then, at 12:30, all of our actors get to relax and it becomes the staff’s turn to sweat. Casting can be fun, but it’s not always easy. It’s a puzzle, and this puzzle of 60 actors felt more like a 1000-piece puzzle at times. Why? Because everyone’s so talented! And we want to make sure that each role matches the actor. We don’t want to give anyone a role that they can’t handle. That being said, sometimes we give out roles that are a bit of a stretch, knowing that the actor can handle it.
The really tricky part is when you have several actors who can all play the same few parts. That’s when you have to really batten down the hatches to figure out how best to cast people. At that point, sometimes it ends up being about the actors around them. For example, if we were doing Bye Bye Birdie and had 3 actors who could easily play Conrad, Albert, and Hugo, sometimes you have to look at the other actors that have already been cast. Or sometimes, it comes down to something as simple as vocal range. I mean you can’t cast a bass as Randolph MacAfee – you know?
Okay, so going with this example you have actors A, B, and C who would all be equally fabulous as Conrad (the teenage heartthrob of a singer who has to kiss Kim on live tv), Albert (the lead and a romantic interest to Rosie), and Hugo (a love struck and jealous teenager, dating Kim). So what do you do? You’ve already talked about who has the most swagger, who is best at playing awkward, and who could most easily carry the show, but all 3 actors are pretty even in each category. So now, you look at the actresses playing Kim and Rosie and figure out if maybe Actor A works best with one of those actresses. Or maybe, one actor doesn’t seem ready to pretend to be in love onstage (I mean all of our actors are in middle school after all). If that’s the case then that actor might be better suited to be Conrad. But then again, the person playing Conrad has to be able to flirt with every girl on stage. (We really do try to look at every angle while casting.) Well, then, maybe that means that Actor C, who always seems to be comfortable around girls gets the part. If so, that means that the roles of Albert and Hugo could go with Actor A or B, which is somewhat more helpful.
Now the problem is that you have two actors vying for the lead and the (something like) 4th best male role in the show. If both actors are equally talented how do you decide who gets the lead and who doesn’t? Is it fair for one of those actors to have a smaller role, even though you know he could handle the lead? Well this is where the whole “no small roles, just small actors” thing comes into play. After all, a good actor can turn even the smallest ensemble role into a scene stealing opportunity. And realistically, both these roles are still good. Even if Hugo isn’t the lead, it’s a great part to have.
Okay so you’ve gone over everything over and over and over again. You look at the music to see if one actor would be able to better sing one of the roles. You look at the surrounding cast to figure out if one actor would work better with the Kim actress than the Rosie actress. You talk about the actors’ individual personalities and how they’ve taken direction in the past. You compare dancing (Albert does have to be the better dancer after all). Finally, you make a decision. You decide that Actor A will be Albert and Actor B will be Hugo. It’s not a reflection on Actor B that he didn’t get Albert, but rather a decision based on the whole picture. And in some cases, it’s possible that Actor B got the role of Hugo because he’s so good that the directors know that he’ll make the most of it.
Either way, this is when casting gets stressful. At the end of the day though, a beautiful cast has been assembled, with everyone getting a part that will allow them to shine. The wonderful thing about this program is that we really do put a lot of thought into casting. In adult theater, if you had 3 actors vying for 1 part, chances are 2 of them won’t get cast as all – even though all 3 are wonderful actors.
Having said all of that, I’m glad that the cast list is done and that it is up on the website. I can’t wait for our cast to assemble for our read-thru this coming Saturday. And I am very much looking forward to seeing all the work that our cast will be putting into this incredibly fun show. I love this show. I love the story, I love the music, and I love NDW. So let’s get this party started already!