Sunday, November 20, 2011

Blog Prompt 5: Reflecting on the Casting Process

Hello All,

Congrats on a job well done during auditions this week. I know its not always the easiest job to do, but there's always something to learn. I feel as if our class hasn't really tackled a major part of a director's process yet - that facet being self-reflection of the production. Documenting one's work and process allows you to see and/or remember how you got from Point A to Point B - or from casting to curtain call. Being conscious of your choices, issues, and troubleshooting is the best way to replicate a successful process between projects. It is also a big reason why Postmortem* exists within Hampshire Theater.

So for this week, I would like you to reflect upon your experience in casting. Use evidence from your script, your initial interests and wants from the scene you've chosen, and issues that arose during auditions. Mention your strengths and weaknesses during this process - what worked and what didn't, and what would you do differently next time.

This is something that I've found myself doing this week as well while casting my Div III thesis on "The Pillowman". I will post my own audition response to this. There is no need to make your response as long as mine, I just wanted to give you a working idea of what I mean to construct with this blog prompt.

*Postmortem occurs after a show is closed and the set is struck. It is an opportunity for all those who worked on a production to come together and talk about what worked and what didn't work about their process. At Hampshire, Theater Board also attends these meetings and takes notes on what is reported, documenting the process as a tool for other shows in the future to utilize.


  1. In casting Scene 5 from Raised in Captivity, I needed to cast a Bernadette and a
    Kip. Part of what I feel is important in this scene is that the characters who
    once were close have lost the ability to connect, so I was pleased to be able
    to cast two actors who happen to be roommates. I spoke to them about the play
    before auditions and both were very interested in it, so I had them read for
    the parts.

    Since there weren't many options for casting at auditions, I chose to stick with
    the two actors I had spoken with. I knew they would be available to me, and that
    I would not have to worry about building familiarity between them during
    rehearsals. I also felt they had honed in on the disconnect between Bernadette
    and Kip in the scene very quickly, so we could focus on other problems.

    But I think I should have done a better job advertising the audition. There were
    not many actors at the audition, and I didn't do myself any favors by not having
    more actors to see. I also could have gained a little more experience with the process.

  2. When casting for the second scene of raised in captivity, I was looking for actors who would be able to face the challenge of movement, which requires experience. Especially since the scene takes place in a therapist's office, it is a challenge to get up out of the seats. When the auditions left me with out actors, I turned to two friends of mine who have already acted. One has graduated Smith College and is a professional actress in the area. I cast her knowing she would be able to find moments where it would be appropriate to move, due to her previous experience. I also cast her because of her soft therapist-like voice. The other actor I chose was because of his similarity to the character. He is an actor friend of mine who is high functioning with Asperger's syndrome. This tends to cause emotional distance, which is exactly how I see Sebastian when he struggling with his emotions. This actor was very excited to play the role because of this similarity, which I hope will show in the final run!

    Once I found out that they were both interested and available for rehearsals, final workshop, and the showcase, I immediately finalized my casting for both of them. The fact that they are both experienced actors, made me feel comfortable with the very little time I have for rehearsals. This would also help with the directing/staging process I planned to have. I wanted to have the rehearsals begin with the actors first inclinations for the characters intentions and movements. Then I wanted to build my idea for the piece as a director from there, so that the process was a natural weaving of three people's ideas.

    I have kept an open mind about casting and would never take that back. It helped me a lot to be flexible. Without it I would be in a very different place right now. I wish I had been able to finalize my casting sooner, and that they would have been able to come to the auditions. If I could do this again, I would have posted Audition signs at the other four colleges. I also would have begun the auditioning process much earlier in the semester.

  3. When casting act 1 scene 2 of Raised in Captivity I was looking for a Hillary and a Sebastian. I wanted two actors who had a connection but at the same time seemed a little uncomfortable around each other. Zachary was able to bring a sense of being uncomfortable while still seeming to care about Hillary. Kim seemed right for Hillary because even though she made Hillary seem crazy, she wasn’t too crazy to be unlikable or unbelievable. One of the things I was really looking for was two actors with natural comedic timing because humor is a huge part of the scene I selected and I felt that Kim and Zachary both had that.

    I was very lucky in the casting process because I was able to find two actors who I felt would be great in the roles I needed to cast, but if I hadn’t I would have been in big trouble. One problem that I encountered relatively early on was that one of the actors I had planned to cast felt (understandably so) that she could really only be in one scene so I had to find someone else very quickly. In the future I want to try and find people earlier so that I don’t have to scramble to try and find people when the deadline is approaching.

    When casting I tried to stay open to different possibilities because I knew that it was going to be hard because we had so few actors and so many people. Next time I am definitely going to advertise the auditions a lot more than I did to make sure that there is a wide variety of people to choose from. I think that the more actors there are the better casting is going to go, just because there will be more options and you will be able to play around with different configurations of people which might help you to discover new things about your scene.

  4. The auditioning process was a lot more stressful than expected. When only two people show up and there is an entire classroom of people that need actors, competition becomes fierce. The audition process itself went well. Many students took it upon themselves to audition for the scenes to help out everyone else. Being on the other side of an audition was incredibly interesting. So many parts were delivered in so many drastically different ways. I saw angsty Bernadettes, frustrated, high-pitched Bernadettes and calm Bernadettes.
    I decided to direct Scene 5 after the directing process to make myself dependent on only two actors after this process. I chose Lucy as Bernadette and Alec as Kip. Lucy was not my first choice. I envisioned a hard, sassy Bernadette originally. However, my other actress fell through and I was able to work with Lucy instead. Lucy has a more childlike appeal that will be interesting to work with and develop on throughout the scene. She is also a fantastically talented comedian and has natural timing. Alec was chosen to be Kip in my scene. He has never acted before, however was naturally wonderful as Kip. He has a very reserved and dry delivery that work perfectly with Kip’s nonchalant artistic presence in the scene.

  5. When entering auditions for casting I was initially planning on casting for Raised in Captivity Act 1, Scene 8. So in my search I was looking for someone who was going to have strong emotional capacity to play Dylan/Roger, which I was lucky enough to find in Ben, as very few actors came. I then struggled with a few different people who would agree one day and then abandon the project the next as the blase arts community does. I feel as though in the future it is important that I give myself more notice concerning enough time to find actors. I understand that this was an extreme circumstance in which we needed actors very quickly but this sort of process is harder for me to wrap my head around than settling some of that business ahead of time. After confirming that Ben was going to be in my piece I continued to struggle until one actor over heard my sob story of the showcase being on the 5th and all the people who had dropped out and how much time I felt I didn't have, (as I told it to my friend at the bus stop) he then approached me and offered to be in my piece, this is how I found Sean. Typically I would not cast an actor without having seen their audition or acting background but this was a dire circumstance. At that point I gave up on trying to cast four actors (which is what I would need to cast Act 1, Scene 8), I had settled for the two that I had and went on a search for a new scene to do. I struggled to find a scene in Raised in Captivity in which there are simply two male characters, so I began to think outside the box for my direction. I decided to do Act 1, Scene 5, casting Sean as Kip and Ben as Bernadette. My direction is not to have Bernadette be a gay man in a relationship with kip, nor is it for the audience to perceive her as solely a woman, for this piece I am playing around with the idea of Bernadette being male bodied but personally female identified. I feel as though giving Bernadette this trait will help her to stand out in comparison to Kip far more than already written.

  6. Casting my scene for "The Yellow Boat" was a huge challenge for me because at the official auditions our class held only one person showed up to work in our scenes, and she later had to decline any invitation because of class conflicts, which meant I had to completely re-imagine what I found important in the scene.

    At first I threw out all of my standards and thought I just needed bodies and then I'd be fine. If I just got some people to fill out the rolls, no matter who, then I'd be able to work around whatever issues they had with the text or with the movements and put something on stage for the class. I was fully prepared to put up a scene I don't think I could have ever loved, but then I reread the script. I expanded what scene I wanted to beginning and end points that made more sense and narrowed down which characters were actually needed. There's stage direction involving the parents in my scene that I realized didn't need to be the parents, and in fact could be one of the Doctors, and thus the scene could be cut to only three characters. I was focused on the connection between Joy and Benjamin, and as long as that was maintained by two actors I trusted, I could put up a scene and be proud of it.

    Even after finding new passion in the text I was still wholly unprepared for casting it by myself. But as a stage manager for "The Pillowman" I eventually found myself looking at a huge number of actors, most of which I new from outside of theater. Seeing them work at a text completely opposite of "The Yellow Boat" connected to me that a few of them could pull off what I needed. Joy came in a friend of mine who I never knew acted, but I always knew was just too nice to be real, and Benjamin came in young man who I had always thought looked in his own little world that other people reach.

    I had been unbelievably anxious about this scene and the showcase ever since the auditions turned into a flop last Tuesday, but there's something invigorating about finding actors you trust and realizing that it was completely well placed because they all love the text, are already familiar with it, and excited as all get up to play with it on its feet. My group is still miles away from being where I wished we would be with as much time as we have left, but my second (or third at this point) wind has come and made me believe in myself again.

  7. Since I didn’t have actors at the official casting call, I held a separate audition after it. It was challenging to recruit my actors and find a time we could all meet. I initially wanted to cast a male actor as Father, but I do not have any male actors. To make it less complicated, I will have an all-female cast playing all of the roles. Going into auditions, I was looking for actors who could play and have child-like curiosity and also express the darker, serious parts of the script such as the doctors running tests and the parents telling Benjamin he has the HIV virus. For Benjamin, I was looking for an actor who was able and willing to express a wide range of emotion, from happiness and curiosity to pain. In my audition process I found an actor who did a great job expressing pain in one of the sides I prepared. This solidified my choice, although I knew going into the process that I had chosen this actor as one possibility in my mind. So I had an idea that this actor would work for the role of Benjamin before the audition, but their audition made it clear to me that it was a good choice. In terms of casting Mother, I had several good choices to pick from. It was a hard decision to make, but I eventually looked at voice, tone, and interactions with Father and Benjamin. There was some great ensemble work going on during auditions, although my game of WAH did not go as smoothly as I would have liked. Next time I will play an easier game to get going quickly. During warm-ups, we played the “Monster” game and there were a lot of fantastic voice and movement choices happening. There was a good group dynamic when we changed the game to everyone copying the person in the middle and interacting with other people. One thing I wished I had done was ask my actors if they had any food allergies or requirements before auditions because I brought cookies and pretzels only to find out that one of my actors has celiac disease. I think I should have also printed out more sides so that more actors could be reading the same side while waiting for their turn. Finally, I believe that I should have started on the process earlier in the semester. I worked hard to get a group together and do have 7 actors, so somehow it has worked out.

  8. My audition process was a mess. I didn't land any of the initial actors that I wanted and I had several of the drop out before we could even get started.

    The text was very supportive of my choices. But in the end I had to take what was there rather than be picky.

    Heartbroken and procrastinating is the way to go. Now for more important things on my plate. PRIORITIZING!


  9. Going into the auditions, I made a point to have low expectations for the turn out. This pessimism informed my perception of what I wanted from my scene. As I assumed I would have a lot of competition for the more "stand out" actors, I decided I wanted to direct a more "understated" scene. I left the audition with 50% of my cast, and only one role left to cast. I briefly had a Dylan cast, but I later found out he had a direct conflict with the final showcase, but luckily I found a replacement the next morning.
    Ultimately, I'm extremely happy with my cast. My actors fit my intended tone perfectly, and I think my intended tone fits the scene very well.

  10. I had not been optimistic going into the auditions, though in hindsight they worked out even worse than I had expected. The auditions themselves were a bit of a debacle for me; there were few enough actors total, even including our class, and out of those few were interested in doing The Yellow Boat. My later attempts to find actors outside the class also got me nowhere.

    In the end, casting came down to a lucky break - finding two actors (in the class and late in the process) who just happened to be willing and just happened to have the strong rapport I had wanted all along. Both were beyond satisfactory; my only regret is that I acquired them so late in the process.