Casting Tips from Theatre Teachers for Theatre Teachers
Many may think that casting is simple. You pick the best actors for the roles and everyone accepts the decision. If you have EVER tried to cast a play, especially in a High School or Middle School setting, you know that this is most definitely NOT the case. Whether you are casting your play right now or know you will be back at the casting table next season, we have tips, tricks, and plans from some seasoned Stage Partners theatre teachers and theatre teacher playwrights, Emily Hageman, Barry Weber, and Nina Mansfield. Whether you are establishing a new theatre program at your school, casting your 15th show, or holding auditions for the first time, these Before, During and After Audition steps are for you.
BEFORE THE AUDITION
When holding auditions, it’s important to make sure all of the students/actors auditioning have all of the information they need before the auditions to make this process an opportunity for success.
First and foremost, I want to make sure my student actors know the show dates and the days and times we will be rehearsing. I also like to give them as much information about the play as I can so that they can prepare for the audition. They should know if they are auditioning for a drama or a comedy. Ideally, they’ll be given detailed character breakdowns, and have an opportunity to read the script beforehand.
Auditions can be nerve-wracking for young actors, but we can help reduce the pressure by ensuring everyone knows what to expect in advance. I typically hold informational meetings about our productions for students and their families, and I also walk students through the process in “how to audition” workshops. Each student receives an audition information packet/FAQ with detailed notes about how auditions will go. (Having a take-home paper copy of these details is especially good for students who may have trouble remembering something important you said during a lecture.)
I expect my students to perform a monologue of their choosing, but I try to be as flexible as possible so that auditions are a relaxed and fun experience for all. My students are encouraged to memorize their monologue in advance, but memorization is not required or expected. (Remember that everyone is good at different things, and many talented performers may still struggle with memorizing a monologue on short notice.)
I provide my students with a packet of age-appropriate sample monologues to choose from, but I encourage them to perform an entirely different monologue if they find one that better suits them. Perhaps they may even want to write their own! The point is that they perform a monologue they enjoy and that they feel shows off their talents.
On a related note, I believe it’s important that all students who audition can be in the show in some meaningful capacity, provided they can agree to attend rehearsals and keep a positive attitude. When actors are secure in the knowledge that they will have a role, this too removes a lot of audition anxiety!
Casting is all about finding the right place for the right person. Directors know that sometimes you're in a situation where the pieces of the puzzle can only fit together a certain way–and while Jimmy would play an amazing lead, he would also be amazing in a secondary role that Timmy couldn't play, so Timmy gets the lead. Encourage students to support, love, and encourage each other. If we are not cohesive as a company, the cracks will show in our production.